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10 most-read features of 2017: Spurs, Lakesmere and more

Our top 10 features of the year look at major projects, the collapse of Lakesmere, the UK’s biggest contractors and some innovative materials.

Tottenham Hotspur new stadium development 6

Tottenham Hotspur new stadium development 6

1) Stadiums: The challenges and opportunities

Our most-read feature of the year was this in-depth look at the burgeoning stadium construction sector.

The project to rebuild Tottenham Hotspur’s stadium is one of the biggest and most high-profile jobs in the UK at the moment, and with an even more complex project planned for Chelsea FC’s Stamford Bridge, this is a sector to watch closely.

The list of planned, under construction or recently completed stadium projects is long, featuring work at Aberdeen, Anfield, Ashton Gate, Craven Cottage, Everton, the London Stadium, Stoke City, Twickenham and many more.

It’s an exciting but complex sector to work in, with some unique challenges. This piece is a must-read for any company that works in this space – or has ambitions to.

Women in construction montage

Women in construction montage

2) Where are all the women in construction?

Construction News published a special issue on women in construction to coincide with International Women’s Day in March.

It’s estimated that women account for around 12.8 per cent of the industry’s workforce, according to the ONS. As part of our coverage, Lucy Alderson asked the question: where are all the women in construction?

She examined the gender pay gap, the problem of everyday sexism in the industry, and the challenges around retention – all of which contribute to the lack of women working in construction.

So what can companies do to attract a more gender-balanced workforce? This feature takes a closer look.

Lakesmere worker

Lakesmere worker

3) Lakesmere’s collapse: The inside story

The collapse of building envelope specialist Lakesmere in November, with 109 jobs lost, shocked the industry.

This feature reveals that there was more to the story than met the eye, with ex-workers, insiders and subcontractors revealing to CN what was happening in the build-up to Lakesmere’s demise.

A number of problem contracts in the UK, coupled with cashflow challenges from the Middle East, may have contributed to the firm’s downfall.

CN also examined the potential suitors for McMullen Facades before it was snapped up shortly afterwards, and asked whether founder Mark Davey would try to keep the UK business going in some form – which he has, launching Kaicer Building Envelope Solutions from Lakesemere’s former HQ.

Specialists Index 2017 index Tottenham Hotspur

Specialists Index 2017 index Tottenham Hotspur

4) CN Specialists Index 2017

Our annual look at the UK’s biggest specialist contractors revealed some interesting trends, as subcontractors became increasingly selective in the projects they were bidding for, resulting in some strong financial rewards.

Certain specialists saw revenue and profit hit new heights, with some even turning over enough to rival the UK’s larger main contractors, as the balance of power continued to shift.

The top 10s for six of the seven specialisms saw total revenues and average margins increase, reflecting the success some of the leading specialist contractors are experiencing.

Yet caution remained prevalent, with uncertainty over Brexit and the high-profile struggles of many of their tier one clients ensuring no-one was getting too carried away.

Mace_Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park aerial 1

Mace_Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park aerial 1

5) London 2012: Five years on

27 July 2017 marked the five-year anniversary of London 2012’s opening ceremony.

Features editor Daniel Kemp took a look back at the planning and delivery of the Games, a period when the UK construction industry rose to the ultimate challenge and really got it right.

Featuring interviews with all of the major players, including Sir David Higgins, Sir John Armitt, Lord Deighton, Alison Nimmo and many more, this is the definitive story of how London 2012’s venues and infrastructure were built. And, more importantly, what lessons it holds for the industry now.

This was also one of three pieces that contributed to Daniel’s award for Feature Writer of the Year at the 2017 International Building Press Awards.

CN100 2017 index image_BCEGI_Middlewood

CN100 2017 index image_BCEGI_Middlewood

6) CN100 2017: The UK’s biggest contractors

This is the definitive ranking of the UK’s 100 biggest contractors: the CN100.

The 2017 edition reflected some of the difficulties being experienced by the biggest tier ones – and that was before Carillion and Interserve revealed their most recent problems.

Our analysis revealed that if the UK construction industry’s top 10 largest contractors had combined their most recent turnover figures, they would have posted a revenue of £31.9bn.

But at the same time, combining the pre-tax profit/loss figures for those same 10 companies would leave you with a loss of £52.9m – and an average pre-tax margin of -0.5 per cent.

It painted a picture of a contracting model in trouble and sparked debate about how it could be changed.

HS2 platform train Euston redevelopment CGI

HS2 platform train Euston redevelopment CGI

7) Euston: HS2’s biggest conundrum

The problem of how to bring HS2 into its planned London terminus at Euston is one of the biggest headaches the project team has to solve.

Back in January, we analysed what the final design might look like and when it was likely to be delivered.

Since the feature’s publication, procurement for the redevelopment of Euston has started to move along, with bidding for contractors to manage the project’s delivery opening in August.

The feature took a close look at some of the major conundrums those contractors would have to solve and highlights the scale of the task they face.

Old Oak Common Grand Union Park

Old Oak Common Grand Union Park

8) Old Oak Common: Will 2017 prove a turning point?

Another feature from January looking at a project with significance for HS2, this piece delved into the huge regeneration scheme at Old Oak Common, which will include a major new station on the high-speed line.

Despite the formation of the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation in January 2015, questions over funding and land ownership continue to plague the project, and doubts remain within the industry about how much will be delivered.

CN also interviewed OPDC’s new chair Liz Peace later in the year, who explained how she only “realised the extent and the enormity of it” once she joined the mammoth project.

Contractors will be watching the situation closely and hoping to see more action – and this feature highlighted the biggest issues to be tackled.

Innovation collage

Innovation collage

9) 11 materials that could shape the future of construction

Back in February, The Building Centre in London held a exhibition titled SuperMaterial.

It showed off some of the most radical new ideas in construction materials, ranging from wood, graphene and stone through to harnessing biological organisms.

The exhibits were assembled from around the world and CN got an exclusive tour before it opened to the public.

Here we looked at 11 of the exhibits in detail and examined their potential implications for construction – as well as whether enough was being done in the UK to harness innovation of this kind.

GKR Scaffolding Tottenham Hotspur North Stair 1

GKR Scaffolding Tottenham Hotspur North Stair 1

10) Tottenham’s new stadium calls for huge scaffold staircase

With the feature on stadiums in first place, rounding out our top 10 is an exclusive site visit to the redevelopment of Tottenham Hotspur’s stadium – the first media visit onto the construction site proper.

The original White Hart Lane was still standing at the time of the visit, with this feature focusing on the work GKR Scaffolding was undertaking on the site – part of our special report on access and scaffolding.

The highlight was one of the largest public scaffold staircases ever built in the UK – a “once-in-a-lifetime” project for GKR director and lifelong Tottenham Hotspur supporter Lee Rowswell.

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