Category: Industries

The Actual Cost Of Hiring A Skip

Skip Hire Costs

What’s The REAL Cost Of Hiring A Skip?

If you’re planning on hiring a skip and you’re working to a budget, you need to bear in mind that the rental fees charged by the skip hire companies themselves are not the only cost involved.

According to statistics from the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and the National Federation of Builders, the construction industry in the United Kingdom utilises 400 million tonnes of material, produces 100 million tonnes of waste and sends 25 million tonnes to landfill per annum. That’s a lot of waste! And this has major financial implications for construction sites…

When hiring a skip, the rental itself is often considered the main cost but there are in fact many other hidden costs which are often overlooked. The following infographic, courtesy of Reconomy, helps break down these costs and offers ideas about ways to reduce them by managing waste more efficiently:

 

Improve waste management to reduce skip costs

 

By optimising the use of materials and making more efficient use of skip space, not only can project costs can be lowered, but the amount of waste going to landfill can also be reduced. In other words, greater efficiency and a smaller carbon footprint…crucial in today’s economy and environmental landscape. Shockingly, KPMG’s Global Construction Survey of 2015 discovered that only 31% of construction projects managed to be completed within 10% of budget. Meanwhile, according to a survey carried out by the Federation of Master Builders, 65% of construction companies expect the costs of materials to go up over the next six months.

By developing a track record for keeping waste management costs low and productivity high, these risks can be minimised, construction firms can gain a considerable edge in an increasingly competitive market.

James Foster, CEO of North East Lincolnshire waste management company Skip Hire Grimsby, had this to say:

“Aside from all the industrial jobs we cater for, a lot of the orders we receive are from folks at home just looking to hire a skip for a few days to clear out their house or garden, or do a small renovation. Since these are often one-off jobs, a lot of people don’t realise or think about the other costs involved, or ways they could make everything more efficient. As waste management experts, one of our jobs is to help our customers make the right decisions.”

Waste Management Tips:

  • When factoring in everything from labour costs and value of waste materials, to tax and hire costs, the total cost for waste disposal can come to as much as £1,300 per skip.
  • Since skip companies charge per pick-up, skip costs are higher if skips are not fully filled, hence the importance of choosing the right size skip for the job.
  • By optimising volume and waste streams for more efficient skip use, costs can be reduced by up to 30%.
  • In order to improve efficiency, it helps to formulate a strategy for waste segregation, increase skip volume and align purchasing and delivery functions to work together effectively.
  • By focusing on the reduction of waste, reuse of materials and increased recycling wherever possible, construction companies can not only save money and reduce landfill rates, but also generate additional income and reduce carbon emissions…and ultimately enhance their reputation.

PropTech Overview: The Impact Of Technology On Construction

PropTech
As with other industries, Construction was also affected by the digital revolution. Just as in so many other aspects of our lives, technology can play a huge role in areas such as construction projects, tenders and real estate. This article aims to provide a detailed introduction to property technology, or “PropTech“, to hopefully give readers a better understanding of the influence new technologies are having on the construction and real estate industries.

The aim of many new business ideas is to make existing processes easier and to find new ways to interact with data. PropTech is the use of technologies – most notably digital technologies – in the construction, property and management industries, named in a similar way to other industries like FinTech, MedTech and EdTech, all of which involve the use of new technologies.

While FinTech aims to improve transparency within the financial markets and MedTech’s goal is to improve healthcare, EdTech strives to facilitate learning and improve performance through the use of technology…all valuable fields in which technology plays a pivotal role. However, one can also understand the more conservative mindset – the construction industry is built upon the use of well-established, proven processes. Changes to these can potentially have very negative consequences. We are at a point now, however, where enough progress has been made that certain improvements can be made to industry processes with minimal risk.

PropTech Benefits

Many uses of PropTech provide value, and cost savings, and firms know that increasing efficiency allows costs to be driven down, thereby freeing up resources to further develop their business. For example, efficient data management, the ability to search for information quickly and easy exchange of data between companies and departments may sound trivial but clearly make work considerably easier for employees and other users of software solutions. PropTech solutions generally have a slick, modern design so that users can find data quickly and easily, giving them more time for more important tasks; they can facilitate communication, resulting in fewer emails being sent; PropTech can even enable end users to interact directly with suppliers and report any potential complications immediately. Greater transparency can also be achieved. As a result, all in all, users of PropTech generally have better job satisfaction than others, resulting in lower employee turnaround.

PropTech Users

The construction and real estate industries are extremely varied, with unlimited areas for the implementation of PropTech. This is exciting not only for sales departments but also for agents, project managers, residents and investors. In the example of crowdfunding, classical roles are swapped and even small investors can now make the construction of a building possible without requiring the involvement of a big investor. Other business ideas have equally transformative visionary ambitions. The following section explores a range of possible models.

Technology in Construction

PropTech Overview

Real Estate Management: These technologies aid with the management of properties. They can be particularly beneficial for the management of leased properties. Examples are tenant management, management of lease payments or communication tools.

New Construction Management: Solutions in this category are ready to be implemented at the construction site. There, they aim to improve communication among different groups. This category also includes visualisation products and project management tools.

Property Management: In property management, PropTech solutions facilitate the work of Building Managers and caretakers and include inventories and consumption indicators, as well as complex management tools with the ability to cover numerous aspects of a property and much more. For larger firms, there are also solutions to facilitate the management of several properties simultaneously.

Portfolio Management: Portfolio management has a certain amount of overlap with the previously mentioned FinTech. Primarily of interest to investors, solutions include tools designed to facilitate market observation and the assess various values within the construction industry. Financing with micro-credits is another concept, among many others, that has reached the market.

Home Services: For B2C businesses, domestic solutions exist to help both owners and tenants to manage their homes and purchase various services, such as renovations and many others, directly.

Long & Short-Term Letting: Aimed at consumers and accommodation providers, these products offer easy contract solutions. Platforms like these offer leasing of property or accommodation on a daily basis, and much more, in a similar manner as an agency and are often available as smartphone applications.

Insurance: In the world of construction and real estate there are countless forms of insurance cover available to home and business owners alike, to protect against various forms of damage, theft etc., and PropTech companies can play a significant role in providing more transparency and a better fit for customers.

Agent Tools: For property agents, a lot of their administrative work can be to automated, allowing them to focus on the most important part of their work – the properties themselves. Examples include CTMs or platforms for property analysis as well as various marketing tools.

Building Surveys: About 10 years ago the global revolution of digital maps began. Fast forward ten years and now, for example, even the interior of shopping centres has been mapped. This ability to view the interior of such structures can be used by various different technologies for all sorts of applications. Examples include 3D rendering and map editing platforms.

Smart Homes: More than ever, tech-savvy residents are realising the value of having a networked home. This relatively new and progressive automation capability is helping more and more people benefit from increased comfort and greater efficiency. Popular topics in this area include safety technology, air conditioning, intelligent lightingand many others.

Contract Management: There is often a considerable administrative barrier among companies who are involved in the construction and furnishing of buildings and, as a result, many are turning to PropTech to find ways to simplify their processes. As well as in areas such as general contract management, companies are finding that their is also great potential in the use of various technology solutions in identifying sales opportunities and closing deals.


PropTech is not just a new trend. Even established real estate portals that have been trading successfully since the mid-2000s, and cover a huge share of the market, are now considered as PropTech. New companies spring up on a daily basis and not all of them fit into the categories described above. However, all of them find a home at the recently founded German PropTech Initiative, founded by industry innovators and functioning as a reservoir of ideas for ways to improve the construction and real estate industries.

The success of this new breed of technology can also be seen in the numbers. According to Blackprintpartners, in June 2016 there were 130 PropTech companies in Germany alone. Globally, $1.7 billion was invested in PropTech in 2015, with the USA leading the pack. It is now up to the rest of the world to place their trust in, and invest in, their local PropTech firms in order to keep up with the United States.

PropTech has the potential to radically and fundamentally transform the construction industry and, in this day and age, any bsiness that fails to recognise this fact and take action could very well eventually find itself in a similar position to those once-successful typewriter manufacturers when the home computer was unleashed upon the world…


Breakthrough In Manufacturing Pushes Flexible Solar Cells Into The Mainstream

Flexible Solar Panels – The Future Of Solar Energy?

A manufacturing breakthrough has meant that flexible solar cells with superior characteristics to traditional crystalline silica solar cells are now becoming available. Because it has thinner layers of semiconductors and doesn’t use a glass substrate, the product, produced by Sunflare, is light and flexible. According to the manufacturer, it’s perfect for all rooftops, especially large commercial buildings, since it’s more than 65% lighter than silicon modules. This means the entire roof can be covered without concerns over load-bearing.

Sunflare is the first firm to successfully produce light, flexible CIGS solar panels on a mass scale and at an affordable price and has completely re-engineered the production of CIGS panels with its Capture4 technology. Although silicon panels continue to be installed on homes and other buildings, the number of locations they can be installed remains limited.

In order to support bulky racks correctly, roofs need to meet certain load bearing requirements and rooflines must follow certain angles in order for the panels to function at optimum capacity. These stringent requirements can make it difficult for solar to be installed at multi-family complexes, on high rise buildings and even on some homes.

Flexible Solar Cells On Vehicles

Producing copper, indium, gallium and selenide, or CIGS, thin film efficiently on a mass scale has posed a challenge. Most notably with Solyndra in 2011, the solar industry has a history of failures in CIGS. This variety of cell produces a greater amount of power in hot conditions than crystalline silica cells and is active for more hours of the day.

Car with solar panel

This particular variety of flexible solar cell requires 50% less energy to produce. Aluminium framing is not required for the installation, so they are also easier and cheaper to install – approximately half the installation cost of cells that require frames. These new cells have a lifespan of around twenty five years, with an output efficiency at 10 years of 90%; and 80% at 25 years.

While the cost of these new flexible solar cells is around double that of silica cells, the lower installation cost and the fact that no rack is required mean that the net installed cost per watt is approximately equal to that of silica cells. An additional advantage is that rectangular or square spaces are not required to install them, allowing the volume of space devoted to solar power to be maximised. Virtually any surface – vertical, horizontal, even curved – can be used to set up an energy-gathering and power-generating plant.

Sunflare Cost/Watt
Solar Panels: $1.07/W
Inverter: $0.22/W
Rack: N/A
Installation: $0.21/W
TOTAL: $1.50/W

Glass Panel Cost/Watt
SolarPanels $0.54/W
Inverter $0.22/W
Rack $0.26/W
Installation $0.49/W
TOTAL: $1.51/W

Philip Gao, Sunflare’s CEO, states:

“Sunflare has worked for 6 years to perfect Capture4, a cell-by-cell manufacturing process with the highest degree of precision and the cleanest environmental footprint. This allows us to do what no manufacturer of CIGS thin film has done before – mass produce efficient, flexible solar panels.”

For founder Len Gao, in his early 20s, Sunflare started as a dream. Len came to the USA, after graduating from college in China, to earn his MBA at Pacific State University with just 200 dollars to his name and limited English language skills. Len’s goal was to one day create a technology with the power to change the world. After founding a successful furniture business in 2003, in 2010 he went on to discover a revolutionary concept in solar energy and began creating and perfecting Capture4. Sunflare completed its first successful production run in 2015 and a full-scale manufacturing facility opened in June 2016.


Brexit And Its Effect On Purchasing Regulations Within The UK

Brexit referendum
Procurement accounts for nearly 20% of the United Kingdom’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Following the decision to part ways with the EU, it’s a fair question to ask how the rules and regulations will change and how these changes might effect the UK economy. Prior to the UK joining the EU, the perception of buyers within public procurement was unwieldy and restrictive.

Since then, there have been significant changes in the way public procurement is carried out. With the aim of encouraging competition, increasing value for money and improving social benefit and innovation, the EU introduced less restrictive regulations.

The “National Innovation Plan” and other incentives were introduced by the powers that be in order to promote innovation based on suggestions given by the public. This process began to include public procurement and, as part of the EU, the UK was encouraged to make enhancements to its social welfare, to leverage innovation and to introduce more liberal regulations.

Brexit

In terms of Brexit, the question is whether the UK’s legislation will return to that of before its membership of the European Union, or will the UK attempt to put in place a similar regime to that of the EU? Certain members of the pro-Leave community are in favour of a simpler way to meet their needs for goods, services, works and utilities, but these will remain a minority.

Judging by the aftermath of the referendum, making reforms to procurement legislation will almost certainly not be one of the government’s first priorities – in the short-run at least, the UK will most likely keep working with its current legislation to regulate purchasing.

Moving forward, it semms unlikely that regulations will change significantly. The UK will undoubtedly continue to maintain a relationship with the EU and will therefore still have to adapt to EU procurement legislation.

The government will also still have an interest in the sustainable development of procurement…which is only feasible by breaking down trade barriers, encouraging competition and promoting innovation.


What Exactly Are Mould Resistant Building Products?

Mould Resistance In Construction Materials

The aim of mould resistant products is to lessen the long-term hazards that builders and architects have to deal with, but it’s key to understand how firms can demonstrate that their produce is in fact completely resistant to mould. Here’s the down and dirty on it…

It might come as some surprise to certain people but the world we live in is overrun with mould. Some authorities estimate the number of types of mould, or fungi, at approximately 300,000 or possibly more. The majority of these fungi have useful functions such as breaking complex substances down into compounds of simpler structure. One example of this is yeast, a single-celled fungus which makes the manufacture of bread, beer, and wine possible. Even most multi-celled (“hyphae”) moulds help our planet by decomposing organic matter so that it can be recycled and reused by other organisms on Earth.

Outdoor Mould Prevails

The built-up environment, without a doubt, has its fair share of mould. However, recent research has discovered that the majority of moulds found indoors are in fact outdoor species. In their “Diversity and Distribution of Fungi on Residential Surfaces” study, Rachel I. Adams and researchers sampled fungi from 3 types of surfaces likely to support growth and therefore possible contributors of fungi to indoor air: drains in kitchens and bathrooms, sills under condensation-prone windows and skin of human inhabitants. Their samples were taken at a university residential complex with no mould issues.

Taken together, the results from this research suggest that, in healthy structures with no reported mould problems, indoor surfaces are not a major source of indoor fungi, but in fact the reverse: surfaces seem to be mostly depositional environments which collect many of the same fungi common to both outdoor and indoor air.

So, most indoor mould isn’t actively growing since it’s outdoor mould that has a preference for outdoor conditions in order to multiply and propagate. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), construction areas are among the top eight environments with high mould populations. Other places with typically high mould counts include antique shops, greenhouses, saunas, farms, mills, flower shops and summer homes.

The Value Of Sampling For The Presence Of Mould Is Questionable

In most cases, even when mould exists in buildings, it is not growing to the point where it can be seen with the naked eye. In addition, the growth of mould is significantly affected by humidity and, as so many of our buildings these days are air conditioned or use dehumidifiers, the opportunity for mould growth is reduced.

The CDC does not recommend sampling for mould since allergies are the afflictions generally associated with mould and people’s susceptibility can vary significantly as the amount or variety of mould, sampling and culturing are unreliable factors in determining one’s health risk. If a person is susceptible to mould and mould is either seen or smelled, there is a possible risk to health; so, regardless of the kind of mould that is present, it should be removed.

 

Mould In Petri Dishes

 

One variety of mould in particular, Stachybotrys Chartarum, may cause respiratory health issues, particularly in small children, and is one of the test cultures required by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “Test and Quality Assurance Plan” for testing building materials for mould resistance.

Businesses who sell building products are now, more than ever, having their products certified as mould resistant based upon various tests that they carry out. These usually involve the introduction of mould cultures to the products, under carefully controlled conditions where moisture levels are above 85%, and subsequently either looking for visible evidence of mould or measuring the amount of mould growing through the use of microbiological plating methods. Different tests are used for different types of materials. Plasterboard is typically tested using one of two methods.

Testing Methods

One test, ASTM D3273, measures the resistance of plasterboard to mould over a four week period, with visual effects being recorded on a weekly basis. In an environmental chamber, samples of the product to be tested are suspended over soil that has been inoculated with several different types of fungi. After 4 weeks, the samples are inspected under magnification to verify whether what was observed over the four week period was in fact mould.

This method of testing aims to simulate real world conditions as it is based upon indirect inoculation. However, according to a document released by the United States Gypsum company, there are 6 limitations to this approach. These include:

  • Results do not accurately represent field conditions and highly variable field conditions.
  • Tests only for 3 types of fungi.
  • The method was originally aimed at testing for mould resistance of paints and other similar coatings.
  • Difficult to reproduce the same results from one laboratory to the next.
Another type of test is ASTM D6329, where each sample is gathered into its own petri dish while the level of humidity is controlled to accommodate the types of mould that were introduced into the sample. With this method, the rating aims to produce more robust results by not having to rely on visual measurements, but rather measuring the degree of fungal growth through the use of plating techniques and therefore reducing the risk of cross-contamination and increasing accuracy.

However, no mould testing method is perfect – in this case, according to ASTM, the static chambers limit the amount of material that can be tested, therefore producing results that may not always be truly indicative of what would happen in the field.

The Move Towards a Standard

The EPA has carried out a project with the goal of making the testing protocols for plasterboard and other building materials more standardised and more accurate. In its December 2008 brief, the EPA wrote the following:

Removal of growth substrates from building materials, or the incorporation of antimicrobial agents in the manufacturing of building products may prevent mould growth and the spread of biological contaminants. There are several building products readily available that can reduce mould growth in the indoor environment.

 

However, there is no nationally accepted testing and verification program to guide consumers and building professionals on how to select or specify the best building products for their needs. To help fill this need, EPA started an ESTE project to verify the performance of microbial resistant building products. EPA has contracted with RTI International to develop the protocol and perform the testing needed to verify these products.

 

Testing for mould

When the EPA alludes to this testing approach in its Test and Quality Assurance Plan it refers to it as ASTM D6329-98(2008). In this plan, the test is designed to run for twelve weeks, i.e. 4 times longer than ASTM D3273. In this case, the number of colony-forming units (CFUs) taken from samples collected during weeks 1, 6 and 12 is counted and compared to the baseline level of CFUs present at the beginning of the test.

Considering the strengths and weaknesses of each test method, it would seem that only products that get through either of the tests with absolutely no fungal growth whatsoever can truly be described as mould resistant.

The Use of Multiple Standards

According to Kendall Clark, R & D Program Manager for Georgia-Pacific Gypsum, the company had products that, using the ASTM D3273 test protocol, met the “no visible growth” criterion. The company then put the products through the ASTM D6329 test for twelve weeks, resulting in “no growth” there also.

Clark states:

 

“Mould can grow on regular plasterboard within 2 weeks. Our DensArmor Plus and DensShield products are manufactured to show no mould growth in the ASTM D3273 test (28 days). In an effort to assess the robustness of our product, we ran the 12 week test and showed no growth for that period. This type of performance makes our products extremely well suited for applications such as installation of the wall panels before the building is fully enclosed or “dried in”. This sequencing allows the building project to proceed on an accelerated pace.”

 

As for the reasons why the company decided to proceed with the ASTM D6329 test, here’s what Clark had to say:

 

“The test was conducted to demonstrate the durability and robustness that is designed into our products that we do not feel is fully captured and reflected by the industry standard ASTM D3273 test. The product selected for the test was standard production product. No reformulation was involved in the test product.

 

The decision to conduct the testing was based on our belief that while the current industry standard test (ASTM D3273) is a reasonable measure of mould resistance for a relatively short period of time (28 days); it does not provide a good reflection of long-term mould resistance and durability that would provide a higher level of confidence relative to the product’s ability to withstand real world conditions seen on construction sites.”

 

The impact that all of this has on architects, building owners and contractors is influenced by numerous factors that are unique to each one, however Clark suggested that there is a common benefit:

 

“The extended testing period is meant to demonstrate the durability and robustness of the product design. Each of the groups… will likely experience an unexpected moisture event during the product’s life that will be atypical with respect to magnitude and/or duration.

 

The extended test indicates that our product can provide resistance to mould growth for a period that is three times longer than the industry standard test; thereby providing greater confidence for the architect, builder or owner that the product will not need to be replaced due to mould growth.”

 

When evaluating products, therefore, it appears that the tests used by manufacturers to support their claims of mould resistance are paramount in assessing their products’ expected performance. When all factors, including the products’ pricing, are taken into consideration, the use of “somewhat” or “marginally” resistant products will add only marginal value to buildings.


Architecture and Construction Management from the Ground Up