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Theresa May opens The UK’s first renewable energy training facility

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This week, Theresa May MP officially opened The Energy Centre at Berkshire College of Agriculture, Maidenhead – the UK’s first renewable energy training facility at a Further Education college.

The facility –pioneered by leading biomass company LC Energy in partnership with Berkshire College of Agriculture (BCA) and Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership – is an important first step in addressing the significant skills shortage in the renewable energy sector here in the UK.  The opening of The Energy Centre at BCA will lead to courses which will enable – for the first time – students aged between 16 and 19 to gain accredited technical qualifications in renewable energy, marking a key development in delivering the skills required by employers to help the UK meet its renewable energy targets.

The UK has been allocated a target to increase the proportion of its renewable energy use to 15% by 2020.  There is currently a shortfall of 50% in the 12% target for the generation of heat from renewable sources and a shortfall of 18% in the 30% target for the generation of electricity from renewables.

LC Energy firmly believes that extending access to approved and accredited technical education and skills training in renewable energy is key to addressing this, and to reducing the country’s reliance on fossil fuels.  As such, the company has installed the first training biomass boiler at a UK College of Further Education to facilitate accredited training for the next generation of heating and plumbing engineers.

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More fire doors exposed as inadequate

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A mass programme of replacing fire doors in public housing is set to begin after the discovery of a widespread industry failure to meet standards

Five suppliers have now been identified as failing to meet the requisite fire performance standard, despite the manufacturers’ claims.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) began investigating the fire door industry after it was found that a glazed, composite fire door in Grenfell Tower manufactured by Manse Masterdor failed a 30 minute fire resistance test after approximately 15 minutes.

Issues were subsequently identified with doors produced by Masterdor Limited (the successor business to Manse Masterdor).

Investigations have continued and in the last few days doors from three more manufacturers have failed fire resistance testing when tested on both sides.

The products which have failed government tests to date were glazed and unglazed doors supplied by Manse Masterdor and Masterdor Limited and glazed composite doors supplied by Specialist Building Products Limited, trading as Permadoor; Solar Windows Limited; and Birtley Group Limited, trading as Bowater by Birtley. All doors that are known to have failed to meet the necessary standards have been withdrawn from the market and the department has informed local trading standards of its findings. Each manufacturer has co-operated fully with the government’s investigations, which are continuing.

MHCLG is writing to all building control bodies highlighting the need to check that existing building regulations guidance on new fire door installations is followed. The guidance sets out the tests to be performed – including testing doors on both sides –to meet building regulations requirements.

Housing secretary James Brokenshire has called a meeting of major fire door suppliers to work out a plan of action.

National Trading Standards will oversee local investigations which are taking place. MHCLG will also work with third party certification bodies to develop minimum standards of assurance to provide building owners with more confidence in the fire doors they purchase.

The government’s Independent Expert Panel and the National Fire Chiefs Council have advised that the additional risk to public safety is low, as even when not meeting full resistance standards fire doors will provide some protection from the spread of fire and are part of layered fire protection systems within buildings.

James Brokenshire said: “While the department’s investigations are on-going, I now have enough evidence to suggest that there is a broader issue across the fire door market. That is why I am calling on suppliers to meet this week and provide reassurance that they are gripping this issue properly.

“I want to see a clear plan of action to rectify existing problems and ensure such failures are not repeated in the future. Whilst our Expert Panel assures me the risk remains low I want to assure the public that the government is doing everything it can to ensure construction products are of the highest safety standards and accurately tested and marketed.”

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Cost doubts put Ipswich bridges in jeopardy

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The leader of Suffolk County Council has commissioned engineers from Jacobs to review the construction costs of its planned Upper Orwell Crossings in Ipswich.

 

Based on earlier work done by Kier and WSP, among others, Suffolk county councillors had been advised that the bridges project, which is still in its planning stages, would cost £97m in total.

But a recent internal review of costs has forecast that the total amount needed to complete the project could increase significantly. The project has therefore been put on hold pending a review by Jacobs, which is expected to report in September 2018.

The original plan was that around three quarters of the £97m required would come from central government and the rest from Suffolk taxpayers. Unless additional funding from government can be secured, the additional money would have to come either from Suffolk businesses or council taxpayers.

Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks said: “Since becoming leader, I have asked my senior team to review the major infrastructure projects Suffolk County Council is working on. The Upper Orwell Crossings is one of the biggest and most complex.

“It’s clear to me that whilst the significant project is being managed well, there is currently some uncertainty around the costs. If we’re going to proceed and build these bridges, that uncertainty needs to be addressed right now.

“We’re going to pause work temporarily, pending the outcome of this review. Then, based on sound and independent advice and considering everything we know about the project, Suffolk County Council will make a decision on the future of the Upper Orwell Crossings.”

The Upper Orwell Crossings project includes construction of two new bridges and refurbishment of a third.

Crossing A is a new road crossing to the south of the Wet Dock Island to connect the east and west banks. Crossing B is a new road crossing to connect the west bank to the Wet Dock Island. Crossing C is an existing swing bridge over the Prince Philip Lock, which would be refurbished for cyclists and pedestrians only.

The previous timetable envisaged contract award in January 2019, construction starting in 2020.

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Auditor gives Queensferry Crossing clean bill of health

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Transport Scotland’s management of the Forth Replacement Crossing project delivered value for money but a clearer plan is needed to measure its wider benefits, says Audit Scotland.

The official audit of the project found that construction of the £1.34bn Queensferry Crossing was managed effectively.

The bridge was built by Forth Crossing Bridge Constructors (FCBC), a consortium of Hochtief, Dragados, American Bridge and Morrison Construction (Galliford Try). It opened to traffic on 7th September 2017.

Overall the project took around 10 years to complete. The Queensferry  Crossing is the tallest bridge in the UK and the longest three-tower cable-stayed bridge in the world. It is intended to have a useful life of at least 120 years.

The audit report praises Transport Scotland’s budgeting, governance, quality assurance and risk management – as well as the competitive tendering which helped deliver the project under budget. The final cost of the project was £1.34bn was in the range of 8% to 16% less than the £1.45bn to £1.6bn estimated at the start of construction

A key factor behind the project’s success was that the delivery team had the right mix of skills and experience, the report says. They demonstrated strong, consistent leadership, and communicated well with contractors and stakeholders.

The client identified a need for the bridge, and demonstrated that the preferred design, a cable-stayed bridge, had advantages over other options.

It is too early for some of the project’s wider benefits to be proven, such as improving public transport across the Forth, cutting journey times and boosting economic growth. But Audit Scotland says more detail is needed on how success will be measured.

Auditor General Caroline Gardner said: “There is much the public sector can learn from the way Transport Scotland managed the project and it’s important that the good practice is shared more widely.

“The management of the project delivered value for money and achieved its overall aim of maintaining a reliable road link between Fife and the Lothians.

“Transport Scotland now needs to produce a clearer plan about how it will measure the success of the project’s wider benefits, including its contribution to economic growth and improved public transport links.”

The full report can be found at www.audit-scotland.gov.uk

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