HSE International

Construction industry predicts cooler summer

Survey finds that residential developments account for a third of sector’s work, and London nearly a quarter of UK projects

Britain’s construction industry is expected to cool during the summer following a slowdown in the number of new contracts.

A survey by Barbour ABI found that a rise in contract signings between April and May of 5.3% was not enough to offset a fall over the spring that left the value of contracts down 3.7% on the same time last year.

The survey follows a series of official figures showing a gentle fall in construction activity. The Markit/CIPS construction PMI this month reported that construction output had grown at the slowest pace in seven months in May after edging lower in April, to 60 from 60.8. A figure above 50 indicates a period of expansion.

The survey found that residential housing starts accounted for around a third of the entire sector’s work amid signs of weak activity in the infrastructure and civil engineering industries.

Only two of the past 14 months have seen residential construction take a slice less than 30% of contract wins, while growth in commercial space such as offices, shops and warehouses has fallen.

Michael Dall, lead economist at Barbour ABI, said London was the UK’s hotspot for construction activity in May, accounting for 24% of the UK total as a result of big-ticket projects including Selfridges’ redevelopment of its Oxford Street store and the Hyde residential development in the West End, worth a combined £500m.

He said: “After the poor weather impacting the growth of contracts awarded at the start of the year, it’s positive to see the construction industry bouncing back with a healthy month-on-month increase in activity. It’s also encouraging to see the number of projects increasing, which suggests there is a healthy pipeline of work.

“Despite this, there are clear signs that the growth we’ve become used to over the last six months is starting to slow, such as the second consecutive month where year-on-year values have fallen.

“It is perhaps more concerning that much of the construction industry’s growth is still contained within the residential sector. With both infrastructure and commercial and retail sectors down on 2013 figures, it’s even more important that we start to see an upturn in these other key sectors for a stronger, sustained and more durable economic recovery.”

Original Story: http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/jun/19/construction-industry-uk-slow-summer-projects-london

Croatia Seeks to Boost Oil and Gas Extraction

Economy Minister Ivan Vrdoljak said that Croatia needed to exploit potential oil and gas resources in the Adriatic Sea and on shore in order to increase supply and aid economic recovery.

Vrdoljak told an energy conference in Zagreb on Tuesday that Croatia was preparing an international tender for onshore gas and oil exploration in addition to its current open tender for offshore exploration in the Adriatic Sea.

“There are 40 companies interested in the Adriatic seabed. By September, a lot of other prominent oil companies will come to Croatia,” he said.

Although no details of potentialbidders have yet been revealed, Reuters news agency quoted local media as saying that some of the foreign companies interested in Croatia’s energy resources could be Gazprom and Lukoil from Russia, Exxon from the US, France’s Total and Germany’s RWE.

Vrdoljak said that the new tender would be for onshore exploitation in the Drava and Sava river basins in central Croatia, while the Dinaric Alps area also had the “potential for exploitation”.

However he also expressed concerns that the Ukrainian crisis could cause gas supply disruptions.

“Our region is also endangered in the long term, and we need to secure supply to all households… We need to look broader than Croatia, and to direct our help and our new supply routes in a way that benefits our neighbours,” he added.

He stressed meanwhile that it was crucial for Croatia to regain management rights over the INA oil company, which were sold to the Hungarian oil company MOL in disputed circumstances which led to convictions in Croatia.

“Our production has to grow. The competitiveness of our oil refineries has to be on a much higher level, otherwise we lose the chance of development,” he concluded.

Reuters has estimated that Croatia supplies 60 to 65 per cent of its own gas needs and around 70 per cent of electricity consumption from its own production.

Original Story: http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/croatia-seeks-to-boost-oil-and-gas-extraction

Germany breaks 3 solar power records in 2 weeks

Over the first week of June 2014, German solar power systems generated 1.26 TWh of electricity, another new record for the country…

Zoo’s magical mystery tour well on way

Young explorers can pretend they are following in the footsteps of Bear Grylls on entering the mysterious world of Chester Zoo’s £30m Islands project when it opens next spring.

Islands brings together the animals and plants of south east Asia – Philippines, Papua, Bali, Sumatra, Sumba and Sulawesi – here in Cheshire, with construction work on the seven hectares-site well underway.

Gareth Simpson, operations implementation manager, has the job of ensuring the ambitious scheme, funded from zoo money, is delivered on time and on budget. Firing the imagination of young minds, to inspire the next generation of conservationists, is one aim of the project which is projected to attract 150,000 extra visitors a year.

Gareth explained: “There will be some very soft-themed signage and you will have a map as well, to guide you, an explorer map, because that’s effectively what we are doing here. There’s been people who have gone out, done the exploration and left little hints for you as you go, like ‘don’t go this way’ or ‘beware of tigers over here’ and things like that, so we will be really building up the mystery as you work your way around.”

Guests will enter through a narrow opening where they will catch a glimpse of an impressive waterfall and the white beach of Coral Sands. The whole area will be navigated by a series of paths and footbridges plus a 15-minute journey on water in a cable pulled vessel holding 17 passengers, offering a completely different perspective.

A highlight will be when water-borne guests approach the banteng stable where the long-horned cattle, normally found in paddy fields, will wallow in the same water as the boat.

Gareth continued: “So as you come down and round, you will be in the same water as the banteng, or it will give that visual appearance. You will be very close to them and they are cattle that really love to wallow in the water so it really will be a great attraction.”

Another highlight on foot will be the 15 metres-high Monsoon Forest entered via an incline and through an opening as though going into a cave but topped by an inflatable polymer roof similar to that used at Cornwall’s Eden Project – the climate will be thermostatically controlled at a hot and humid 26-29 ° C. Every detail has been considered from the artificial rockscape and the smell of the rainforest to the sound of thunder claps and buzzing mosquitoes.

“It’s completely immersive,” said Gareth. “There will be rain as well, not necessarily on our visitors, but around the sides and you’re into our tree top research station which will mimic ones that we actually see in south eat Asia where the zoo is working on projects out there.”

“We will have orangutans, we will have macaques, at the entrance here we will have rhinoceros hornbill, birds that are absolutely amazing, the size and the colours. Going up to the top we will have tanks with different reptiles and have the opportunity to get hands on to see some of the bugs and other insects. The whole point of what we are trying to do is make it as natural as possible for them, not only for them, but for us to see them too.”

View a video animation of Chester Zoo’s Islands Project

There will be an opportunity to go eyeball-to-eyeball with crocodiles at two glass tanks – one for swimming (for the animals not guests) and another for sunbathing.

Other enclosures will feature Sumatran tigers, warty pigs and the tall cassowary bird with its third six-inch claw – heightening the ‘safe danger’ experience.

A total of 42,000 plant species will be on site – south east Asian flora indoors and ‘mimic species’ outdoors including foliage to hide the A41 so the illusion is not undermined.

The educational side of the project is important and so, for example, a mocked-up illegal bird market will teach youngsters about the darker side of the world in which we live. And there will be ‘a ranger station’ by the warty pigs stable, just as you would find in real life, complete with laundry hanging on the line and a vegetable patch.

It has not been decided whether the admission price will rise following the opening of Islands but it seems a safe bet. However, dwell time will be extended at the zoo – which already pulls in more than 1.4 million visitors per year – and Chester too, with spin-off benefits for city restaurants and hotels.

Sponsors are sought to offset the costs, so if any companies fancy their name in titles such as ‘Islands sponsored by Crocs’, then they are invited to get in touch!

Original Post: http://www.chesterchronicle.co.uk/news/chester-cheshire-news/chester-zoo-islands-project-under-7300602#.U6dGTyYivLQ.twitter

UK government gives green light to offshore windfarm

An offshore windfarm which could become one of the largest in the world has been given the green light by the UK government.

Development of the East Anglia One windfarm, off the coast of Suffolk, will involve the installation of up to 240 turbines and, once built, will generate enough electricity to power around 820,000 homes.

The scheme is expected to support almost 2,900 jobs during construction and operation and bring more than £520 million of investment into the UK economy, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) said.

Some 1,800 jobs could be supported locally and generate half a billion pounds for the East Anglian economy, Decc said, including £10m a year once it is completed.

Energy and climate change secretary, Ed Davey, said: “East Anglia and the rest of the UK have a lot to gain from this development.

“The project has the potential to inject millions of pounds into the local and national economies, and support thousands of green jobs.

“Making the most of Britain’s home grown energy is crucial in creating job and business opportunities, getting the best deal for customers and reducing our reliance on foreign imports.”

The scheme’s plan to install up to 240 wind turbines would make it significantly larger than the London Array, off the Kent coast, which is currently the largest offshore windfarm in the world.

Friends of the Earth’s head of campaigns, Andrew Pendleton, said: “This is fantastic news for energy security, jobs and the battle to tackle climate change. Ending our reliance on dirty fossil fuels by plugging into our abundant renewable power is absolutely vital for our future.

“It’s a shame however that the government continues to speak with a forked tongue on renewables. Simultaneously supporting and undermining the growing renewables industry, and having a meek ambition even for offshore wind, is no way to secure a clean supply of energy for the future.”

Ben Stafford, head of public affairs at WWF-UK, said: “Today’s decision is a strong vote of confidence for the UK’s offshore wind sector.

“Climate change is the biggest threat facing our oceans and seas globally and is already impacting on the UK’s rich marine environment. It’s therefore vital that we find ways to harness the clean energy that marine renewables, such as offshore wind, can provide.

“Projects at this scale will also help to reduce costs, boost jobs and investment and help to keep the lights on.”

Original Story: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jun/17/uk-government-gives-green-light-to-offshore-windfarm?CMP=twt_gu

Tesla Release Electric Car Patents To Public

A few days ago, we reported that Telsa Motors CEO Elon Musk had hinted he would be opening up patents to the Supercharger stations that charge their electric vehicles (EVs). This would have made it more convenient for competitors to enter or expand the EV market, reducing demand for traditional vehicles powered by gasoline. Today, Musk formally announced that Tesla Motors were not just opening up the patents for the Superchargers, but for all of the patents obtained by Tesla; over 200 in all.

Musk released a blog entry on Tesla’s website entitled “All Our Patent Are Belong To You” which doubles as a potential massive advance for the EV market as well as the only good reference to that Zero Wing meme in the last decade. In the blog, Musk vows that Tesla will not sue anyone who uses their technology in good faith.

“When I started out with my first company, Zip2, I thought patents were a good thing and worked hard to obtain them,” Musk wrote. “And maybe they were good long ago, but too often these days they serve merely to stifle progress, entrench the positions of giant corporations and enrich those in the legal profession, rather than the actual inventors.”

There are some minor stipulations for companies who want to use Tesla’s technology. Other auto manufacturers using Supercharger technology must also charge customers for use of the charging stations up front, and granting free access thereafter. It is hoped that other manufacturers will also assume an open source stance, allowing the industry to evolve more quickly.

Aside from the free exchange of ideas with an open source format, there are other benefits. Tesla is set to open a factory to produce batteries for EVs. If more auto manufacturers utilized the batteries, they could be produced at a lower cost per unit, driving down price. This would aid in Tesla’s goal of creating an affordable EV in order to reach a wider range of consumers.

Musk elaborated that while Tesla Motors originally sought patents in order to protect themselves, they realized they were really just limiting the competition in a field that they had hoped to expand, not constrict.

“At Tesla, however, we felt compelled to create patents out of concern that the big car companies would copy our technology and then use their massive manufacturing, sales and marketing power to overwhelm Tesla,” Musk elaborated. “We couldn’t have been more wrong. The unfortunate reality is the opposite: electric car programs (or programs for any vehicle that doesn’t burn hydrocarbons) at the major manufacturers are small to non-existent, constituting an average of far less than 1% of their total vehicle sales.”

Musk lamented that most major auto manufacturers have EVs that aren’t attractive to consumers due to their limited range, if they have EVs at all. With 100 million new vehicles hitting the roads every year, Musk believes there is plenty of room for everyone manufacturing EVs to thrive.

“Technology leadership is not defined by patents, which history has repeatedly shown to be small protection indeed against a determined competitor, but rather by the ability of a company to attract and motivate the world’s most talented engineers. We believe that applying the open source philosophy to our patents will strengthen rather than diminish Tesla’s position in this regard,” Musk concluded.

Original Story: http://www.iflscience.com/technology/tesla-release-electric-car-patents-public

McLaren chosen to build Banbury’s £80m retail park

The developer got planning permission in 2012 despite local planning officers recommending that it should not go ahead.

The Banbury Gateway project involves demolishing existing buildings on the site next to the M40 and putting up 290,000 sq ft of new shopping space. Under the plans, there will be 10 retail and three restaurant/cafe units, including a 100,000 sq ft Marks & Spencer anchor store.

The site was previously the headquarters of motorsport company Prodrive, which has relocated.

LXB has also had the all clear for its Rushden Lakes development in Northamptonshire.  Communities secretary Eric Pickles called it in but has now supported the planning inspector’s recommendation to uphold the 2012 planning permission for the 465,000 sq ft of mixed use retail and leisure. Assuming no further challenges under judicial review procedures, the planning permission will become final in six weeks’ time.

Original Story: http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/mclaren-to-build-banburys-80m-retail-park#.U6CswsTQMDp.twitter

Son of David Rockefeller Dies in Small-Plane Crash

Dr. Richard Rockefeller, son of the billionaire and prominent philanthropist David Rockefeller, was killed Friday morning when the small plane he was piloting crashed shortly after takeoff, according to a spokesman for the family.

Dr. Rockefeller, 65, was the only person on board the plane, which the authorities identified as a Piper Meridian single-engine turboprop.

The cause of the crash was not immediately clear.

Dr. Rockefeller took off from Westchester County Airport at 8:08 a.m., departing from Runway 16 into dense fog and steady rain. Less than 10 minutes later, the Federal Aviation Administration notified airport officials that it could not reach the pilot.

At 8:23 a.m., the local police reported that the plane had crashed less than a mile from the airport, near Cottage Avenue in the town of Harrison.

It smashed through several trees and narrowly missed an occupied house before hitting the ground and breaking into pieces, the authorities said.

Dr. Rockefeller was flying home after visiting his father, David, at the family’s estate in Pocantico Hills, a hamlet in the town of Mount Pleasant. Mr. Rockefeller’s 99th birthday was Thursday.

David Rockefeller is the oldest living member of the family whose name adorns countless university buildings, hospital wings, libraries and museums across the country.

He is a grandson of John D. Rockefeller, an accounting clerk who invested $4,000 into an oil refinery business and went on to lead the Standard Oil Company. He became one of the richest and most famous men in the world.

Fraser P. Seitel, the family spokesman, said Dr. Rockefeller was an experienced pilot and had flown in and out of the Westchester airport many times.

Officials from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board were sent to investigate the crash.

“The family is in shock,” Mr. Seitel said. “This is a terrible tragedy. Richard was a wonderful and cherished son, brother, husband, father and grandfather.”

Dr. Rockefeller was a family physician in Falmouth, Me., who earlier practiced and taught medicine in Portland, Me. He was married with two children and two stepchildren.

He was chairman of the United States Advisory Board of Doctors Without Borders from 1989 until 2010, and served on the board of Rockefeller University until 2006.

Doctors Without Borders issued a statement on his death. Dr. Deane Marchbein, president of the United States division of Doctors Without Borders, said the group was “devastated.”

“Richard gave so much of his life to support Doctors Without Borders,” Dr. Marchbein said in the statement. “He made so many vital contributions that have helped Doctors Without Borders provide independent medical humanitarian assistance to millions of patients in over 70 countries.”

In recent years, Dr. Rockefeller was working to help establish better treatment for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Mr. Seitel said.

He was also a past president of the Rockefeller Family Fund.

Correction: June 13, 2014 
An earlier version of this article misstated the age of Richard Rockefeller, based on incorrect information from a family spokesman. He was 65, not 64.

Original Story: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/14/nyregion/richard-rockefeller-killed-in-new-york-plane-crash.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0

Health and Safety officials launch probe into Harrison Ford’s injury

The 71 year old was airlifted to hospital on Thursday (12Jun14) after he was crushed by a hydraulic door while filming Star Wars: Episode VII at Pinewood studios inBuckinghamshire.

Reports suggest his ankle was fractured as the door of the film’s iconic Millennium Falcon, in which his character Han Solo flew in the original trilogy, fell on his leg.

Now bosses at the Health and Safety Executive, which oversees procedures in the workplace, have confirmed they are looking into the incident.

A spokesperson says, “We have been made aware of an incident at ­Pinewood Studios and are making initial enquiries.”

Original Story: http://libreprensa.com/s/3472327#s/3472327 

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