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Clippings and Musings – Glazing – February 2017

It seems almost impossible to look at the news today and not find some political comment affecting the headlines and as for building, glazing and construction, it’s hard to know which topics to pick first. Whilst the industry will undoubtedly keep adapting to changes bought about by the uncharted waters of Brexit, it certainly must be causing a stir for companies with European Head Offices.

One of the more bizarre headlines to catch the eye recently however, related to the £250million space project that the UK is keen to grow and develop into an area of tourism by 2020. Perhaps with solar energy on the rise it will be something bigger to explore. Exciting though that may be there’s a tendency to say perhaps we should get things right here before spending huge amounts launching people into space, and just for pleasure….but let’s not get back into discussions regarding individual politician’s …or any of their policies so soon.

So, back here on earth, companies across the UK are looking at future pressures that might start over the next few weeks as Brexit talks, and the triggering of Article 50, threaten to decrease the value of the Pound once again, as higher costs and and an increase on the costs of imports into the UK will potentially be introduced.

According to research undertaken by the Federation of Master Builders, it was found that there had been a substantial increase in material costs, caused by a decrease in the value of the Pound since Brexit, with further plummets forecast by economists for the end of March once Article 50 is triggered.

That said, a number of British manufacturers and construction firms reported a positive shift at the end of last year which would seem to contradict those statistics. This was substantiated by official estimates that demonstrated the UK economy was the fastest growing leading industrial G7 country last year, putting it into a much stronger position than economists had previously suggested.

Likewise, the Office for National Statistics published figures which demonstrated the UK’s trade gap had narrowed at the end of last year with exports growing faster than imports.

On The Home Front

With housing associations and councils now able to apply for a share of a £7bn government fund to increase the supply of affordable homes, the Capital will soon benefit from the development of new building projects starting up. In a recent article, the failure to provide reasonably priced homes for key workers highlighted concerns regarding financial and career related “segregation” in the south-east at a huge potential cost.

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Yet moving away from London things seem to be booming with a planning application due to be presented in Liverpool for a new 48 storey tower on Old Hall Street. The Ovatus 2 tower will be located next to the 27-storey Ovatus 1 tower and could become the city’s tallest building in a joint venture between Prospect Capital and Wilcocks & Wilcocks. Construction on Ovatus 1 is due to begin in April 2017, though the Ovatus 2 must wait until 2018 for the current building to become vacant before building work can begin.

Further afield planning permission has been granted for the University of Glasgow’s £1Bn expansion project, which has been hailed one of the ‘largest educational expansions in the country’. An existing campus will be demolished before work can begin.

The first phase of the project will see approximately £430M spent over five years with the whole project creating up to 3,000 jobs. Included in the new building will be an Institute of Health and Wellbeing; the Adam Smith Business School; a learning and teaching hub; as well as an upgrade to the chemistry building and new performance areas for the College of Arts .

Also, in Kent and Essex, Gavin Barwell, the Housing and Planning Minister recently visited three sites in a bid to recognise the efforts to resolve housing market issues.

Medway claims to be “leading the way” with this visit following the publication of the housing white paper and the government’s desire to deliver a housing market that works for everyone.

There are four measures incorporated into the White Paper, which include planning more homes in the right places, building homes that are needed, diversifying the market and helping people now.

As part of the visit, Mr Barwell opened 32 new affordable homes in Gillingham that comprised of one and two bedroom bungalows for social rent. It is believed that the £8.5M development is one of the largest council-built, energy efficient bungalow sites in the UK.

Retaining Our Heritage

At the other end of the spectrum when it comes to planning, the simple farm building can prove a ‘red tape’ nightmare as there can be huge restrictions for builders and architects when looking to make conversions or renovations.

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Whilst most builders will look to retain an authentic or traditional appearance, converting redundant buildings could still prove tricky if the site has not been carefully checked out. If the humble barn has been classed as part of a heritage site then architects, owners and developers will have to consider ways to retain the distinctive appearance and the historic fabric of a building.

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In the long run of course, this is a huge selling point which can enhance its importance as well as its value. Whilst design and materials such as energy efficient glazing and bifold doors will undoubtedly add to the modernisation programme of such properties, as an added bonus, it also means that something which has been representative of the country’s landscape for decades can continue to be valued and maintained as a historic building.

With Ecobuild being one of the first of the big shows to kick off Show Season this Spring, it will be interesting to see how the political and economic changes are perceived and what could be the next big things to affect this market sector. Taking place from 07 – 09 March at Excel in London, the theme is regeneration, so a walk in the aisles will hopefully be very inspiring.

Helen Duval
2017

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