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Signoff: David Taylor

MULTIPLEX doesn't just build sports stadia, you know. It's also a house builder.A colleague of mine went to see one of its latest projects the other day, a development of 15 apartments in Manresa Road, Chelsea. It's not your average housing development, though.

Not for Multiplex the challenge of off-site manufacture or high-density development - still less the £60,000 home.These flats are the world's dearest, on the market at prices over £20 million a go.

Can you believe that? At that price I'd expect at least two miles of salmon river, formal gardens by Capability Brown and an avenue of ancient limes leading up to the front door. But as far as I can see, all you can expect in the way of extras at Manresa Road is off-street parking, CCTV cameras everywhere and a communal garden (with water feature).

The contract is worth £45 million which means that once the developer's sold two flats the rest is pure profit.And, theoretically, if all the flats go for around £20 million, the developer will be making a quarter of a billion pounds' profit on an investment of just £45 million.What a great advertisement for the property industry!

Admittedly, the site could have held about 100 'normal' dwellings (normal by Chelsea standards, that is), but the developer wasn't having any of that Urban Taskforce nonsense.

So who is the developer?

All I can tell you is that he's 'the former global head of global development' at a big city bank, and that's about as global as you can get.

My colleague attended the topping-out ceremony last week during which Mr Global Banker climbed a temporary stairway to tighten a bolt on the top-most steel beam.'As he climbed up, Led Zeppelin's 'Kashmir' started blasting from a PA system, ' reports my friend.'Surely it should have been 'Stairway to Heaven'.

I suppose he's right.After all, Led Zep never performed a song called 'Stairway to Obscene Wealth'.

I BET Mr Global Banker never has to bother chasing payment. But small businesses in the construction industry spend the equivalent of over 14 years chasing payment every single week. I thought only Dr Who was capable of such feats.

As I understand it, research commissioned by the Forum of Private Business has proved that if you pack 51,000 small-to-medium enterprises into your Tardis (which is much bigger inside than out, remember) they will somehow spend 127,500 hours chasing payment but emerge just one week later with a motley collection of IOUs and bouncing cheques.

This is quite literally mind-boggling.Here is a huge chunk of the construction industry having to bend the time-space continuum just in order to keep the cash flowing.

The FPB's chief executive, Nick Goulding, quite rightly points out what a shameful waste this is. If people paid on time, these same SMEs could channel their powers into fast-tracking mega-projects like Terminal 5 into a few days during half-term.

This question of late payment must be the most serious impediment to construction in the 21st century. But the FPB says the issue was only number four in its latest survey.

I dread to think what the top three problems must be.

I NOTICE the concrete industry is promoting the thermal mass argument again. It's very convincing:

the ability of mass concrete to regulate temperature fluctuations can reduce the burden on air conditioning systems and thereby 'dramatically reduce' CO 2emissions from buildings.

I like that argument, but I'd feel happier if someone could just check that the CO 2saving you get from a concrete building compensates for the large quantity of CO2 driven into the atmosphere when limestone is burnt to make cement.