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Signoff: David Taylor

I HEARD the other day that CABE, the Government's architectural watchdog, had written to Transport for London to explain that the design for the new Thames Gateway bridge is rubbish.

It's CABE's job to tell us what is good architecture and what isn't ? which is useful, because otherwise how would we ever know?

The Thames Gateway bridge is important not just as a river crossing but as a symbolic ? well, gateway, to that vast swathe of land at high risk of flooding either side of the Thames estuary just to the right of the screen as you're watching the Eastenders credits.As you know, Mr Prescott wants to cover this marshy area with thousands of new houses.

Marks Barfield, the architect of the London Eye, designed the new bridge and I suspect that, because of this, CABE thought we might get something that revolved. Instead, what we've got is a restrained design for a low-profile bridge deck sitting on concrete piers.This is because a suspension bridge would interfere with the approach to London City Airport.

In its letter, CABE complains that the design 'demonstrates a lack of aspiration' and that driving over it would be little different from 'driving on any other road in any part of the country'What's wrong with that? When I'm driving across a bridge, I don't want any surprises.

IT ALWAYS happens this time of year: the first week of hot weather and the news desks start showing signs of silliness.

Looking through a selection of industry newspapers and magazines recently, I came across a story that could only have been born out of a combination of too much sun and a desperate need to fill space (which, coincidentally, is why I'm writing about it now).

It appears that chimney and flue manufacturers are facing the grim prospect of extinction brought about by Part L of the Building Regulations.

If you haven't heard of Part L you're obviously new to the industry because the Government amends it at least once a year. It's all about energy and the need to conserve it.

The latest revision, due to come into force next January, will make it illegal to allow any heat to escape from a house (of course, I'm simplifying for the sake of brevity).

Now somebody has helpfully pointed out that chimneys are in the habit of sucking warm air out of a building. So now to build a house with a chimney you must pack the building so full of thermal insulation that the inside resembles a padded cell.

I'm surprised we haven't heard anything from the fireplace manufacturers who, as far as I can see, must have an interest in the chimney situation.Maybe it's because this is a non-story.

This isn't the first time we've been told that Part L will banish a traditional and much-loved part of the British way of life.A couple of years ago the energyhungry incandescent lightbulb was tipped for oblivion. But instead the reverse has happened and they've just got smaller and hotter.

And anyway, I can't remember the last time I saw a new house with a real chimney on the roof.

INMATES serving life sentences at Gartree Prison in Leicestershire are working with architects to develop the design for a new type of prison that focuses on rehabilitation rather than punishment.

It's a fashionable new trend in public sector building that focuses on stakeholders.

Already, patients have been encouraged to design hospitals and pupils have designed their own schools, so why shouldn't prisoners design their own prisons?

I can think of a couple of reasons ? the panoramic horizontal sliding windows and the nice wide doors with the locks on the inside, for a start.