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New Construction Strategy focuses on sustainability and efficiency

New Construction strategy focuses on sustainability and efficiency

An industrial strategy for construction‘Construction 2025’ is being launched by the Coalition Government today which aims to tap into the considerable growth opportunities predicted for the global construction market. The strategy has been developed in partnership with the new Construction Leadership Council, jointly chaired by Business Secretary Vince Cable and Sir David Higgins, Chief Executive of Network Rail, formed to help oversee the delivery of the action plan and its strategic priorities. The strategy’s vision to 2025 includes ambitions for a 50 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the built environment, and an equal reduction in the trade gap between total exports and total imports for construction products and materials. More →

Wellness in Real Estate resolution passed for U.S. built environment

The influential U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) has voted unanimously to pass a Wellness in Real Estate Resolution which commits to promoting buildings that “use a combination of criteria and features that will enhance the well-being of occupants and address growing preventable health concerns and costs.” The resolution is one of ten new sustainability resolutions for the U.S. built environment commended by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), which praised the USCM for “showing courage and leadership by embracing a strong sustainability and green building policy agenda”. More →

What Jeremy Clarkson can’t teach us about workforce productivity

In 2011, one of Top Gear’s regular bits of lazy casual racism caused a bit more fuss than the rolling of eyes it typically deserves. The presenters had mocked a Mexican sports car with Richard Hammond – who has never said anything interesting or funny in his life – claiming  that ‘cars reflect national characteristics. A Mexican car’s just going to be a lazy, feckless, flatulent oaf with a moustache, leaning against a fence asleep, looking at a cactus with a blanket with a hole in the middle on as a coat.’ There was a bit more of this kind of stuff with Jeremy Clarkson suggesting that the Mexican ambassador to Britain would be too lazy to make any kind of complaint. He was wrong about that (he did) and they were all wrong about Mexicans anyway because according to a new report into global productivity,  Mexico has the world’s most productive workforce.

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Sickness absence rates stall, despite employer and government efforts

 Progress in reducing sickness absence has stalled in the UK, despite a growing number of companies initiating return to work interviews, line manager training, setting stretching absence targets and providing employees with occupational health and wellness initiatives. The 2013 EEF/Westfield Health Sickness Absence survey, found that longer-term sickness absence is increasing (40 per cent) rather than decreasing (24 per cent) and that employers have lost faith the government’s flagship ‘fit note’ programme is getting people back to work.  The three most popular health and well-being employee benefits are health screening/health checks (56 per cent), access to counselling or employee assistance programmes (EAPs) (54 per cent) and subsidised private medical insurance (40 per cent). More →

Real demographic challenge as number of older workers tops one million

The latest employment figures published today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show an interesting demographic trend. Beneath the rather unexceptional news that employment rose by 24,000 and unemployment fell by 5,000 in the three months to April, is what Jim Hillage, Director of Research at the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) describes as “underlying structural changes in the labour market”. The number of employed people over 65 in the UK has now reached more than a million (1,003,000), the highest since records began in 1971. This means that almost one in ten of over-65s are now in work.

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Neocon 2013 announces comprehensive list of awards winners

It might sound like a Republican convention but in fact Neocon is the annual workplace exhibition at the giant Merchandise Mart in the centre of Chicago. And when we say ‘workplace’, we mean largely ‘office furniture’.  It attracts around 700 exhibitors and 40,000  of visitors from all over the world and so can help to disseminate ideas that spring up in the US to influence design on a global scale.  Many of the themes apparent at this year’s show will be familiar around the world. As well as the fact that everybody is talking about the environmental credentials of the products, the themes are direct reflections of the concerns and priorities of office occupiers and specifiers. By custom, the first day of the show is when they dish out the awards.

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Record breaking month for City of London office leasing market

The City of London leasing market has had one of the highest monthly take ups on record in May, with a total of 793,400 sq ft being let – up by 117 per cent month-on-month and 135 per cent on May last year. This brings the year to date take-up to 2.2 million sq ft, a 46 per cent increase on the equivalent period in 2012 according to Jones Lang LaSalle.  Five lettings over 50,000 sq ft were recorded during May, of which three were pre-lets exceeding 100,000 sq ft. These include Amazon at Sixty London, EC1 (213,000 sq ft), Bird & Bird at 12-14 New Fetter Lane which was leased last month by Great Portland Estates (pictured), EC4 (136,200 sq ft), and Amlin at The Leadenhall Building, EC3 (111,800 sq ft). More →

Are Japanese firms using banishment rooms to get rid of unwanted employees?

Earlier in the year, it was reported that the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare was investigating a number of the country’s most prominent companies including Panasonic, NEC, Sony and Sharp for the morally dubious practice of setting up euphemistic business units with the primary purpose of creating an office where they could send unwanted or poorly performing employees to demoralise them and drive them ultimately to resign. Last week the Japan Daily Press blog published more information about these so-called banishment rooms or oidashi-beya, claiming that  workers are forced to spend ten hours a day performing tedious and menial tasks until they decide to leave.

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Workplace wellness initiatives improve job morale, satisfaction and performance

It emerged this week that workplace wellness programs may not be as effective as previously thought in creating a healthier workforce and, of particular relevance for US firms, reducing health-care costs, but another US study paints a more positive picture. While concurring that determining the bottom-line impact of wellness programs continues to be a challenge for employers, this latest study does find a strong link between the wellness and vitality of an organisation and the health and wellness of its employees, which impacts directly on employees’ increased job morale, satisfaction, commitment and performance. The survey of approximately 1,300 businesses and 10,000 employees conducted by Virgin HealthMiles, Inc.  found that workers also place a premium on the culture of wellness with 87 per cent claiming that health and wellness initiatives play a role in determining their employer of choice. More →

Applications for UK commercial property developments continue to fall

Commercial property constructionAccording to law firm EMW LLP, the number of planning applications submitted for commercial property developments in the UK has fallen for a second successive year. The firm claims that the around 4 percent fall is down to declining demand from tenants. However there are stark contrasts between London and the rest of the UK measured both in terms of market activity and the number of tower cranes on the skyline, with London now having more than the rest of the UK combined for the third consecutive year according to the Health and Safety Executive. The report echoes the findings of the latest Markit/CIPS report on construction activity which saw a fall in construction activity, although total activity increased on the back of an increase in housebuilding.

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US Govt to encourage wellness programmes, even though they don’t do anything

Darts missIn spite of the evidence from a report published last week that confirmed workplace wellness programmes don’t achieve what they set out to do, American employees will be eligible for significantly lower premiums on any health insurance they buy through employers if they participate in the schemes. The Affordable Care Act, signed into law in 2010, will allow US employers to increase the rewards they offer employees who participate in workplace wellness programs. The goal is to improve employees’ health by helping them give up smoking or lose weight in a bid to curb medical costs and absenteeism. Under the rules issued last week, employers must structure programmes so that  every individual participating can receive the full amount of any reward or incentive, regardless of any health factor.

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First non-UK BREEAM outstanding award redraws the green building battle lines

The jostling for position in the field of environmental accreditations for buildings has taken a new turn with the announcement that a project in the Czech republic is the first commercial building outside the UK to achieve a BREEAM outstanding rating.  The Tower at the Spielberk development in Brno designed by architects Studio Acht is, according to the Building Research Establishment (BRE), a true demonstration of good design, reducing CO2 emissions by over 50 percent compared to a typical building, built to Czech regulations.  BRE Director Martin Townsend awarded the BREEAM outstanding certificate to Stefan de Goeij, Head of Property Management at CTP, for the office building which is located in the centre of the Czech Republic’s emerging high-tech city of Brno.

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