Russell Jones asks whether a whole day of electricity produced without burning a single lump of coal spells out the end of an era for the nation.
Last Friday, 21st April 2017 was a very special day for the UK as the country generated a whole day of electricity without needing to use coal-fired power stations.
This landmark moment is the first working day in since 1882, when the first public coal-fired generating plant opened in London when no coal has been needed to help supply power to the nation – as reported by many news outlets such as the BBC and the Financial Times.
Whilst low demand for electricity in the week after the Easter holiday is quite normal and Friday’s are the day of the working week with the lowest power demand, this move away from what has been a bedrock of the UK’s energy production since the start of the industrial revolution is a real achievement.
This shows how the nation’s energy system is changing to embrace low-carbon electricity production through the use of nuclear, solar panels, wind turbines and a switch from coal to biomass and gas-powered stations.
In 2016, the government reported that it was working to phase out the last coal plants by 2025 in an effort to cut overall carbon emissions.
As we move towards low carbon power generation, renewable technologies such as air source heat pumps become even more viable and attractive.
So it looks like we are really starting to see a greening of the electricity grid which is tremendous news for renewable technologies such as heat pumps, which consume electricity but use it to maximise renewable heating for our homes.
Earlier this year, we produced an infographic looking at the history of home heating so I’m delighted to see that we are starting to enter the last phase of that and set the scene for a low-carbon power generating grid, feeding low-carbon heating systems – all of which will help minimise energy bills for homeowners and aid the country as we strive to meet stringent carbon reduction targets.
We look forward to discussing this more on The Hub over the next few years as we strive to move towards a truly zero-carbon society.
At Mitsubishi Electric, we also love to discuss this topic over on our Green Gateway Twitter page, so please join the conversation.
Russell Jones is PR & Communications Manager for Mitsubishi Electric Living Environment Systems in the UK.
If you have any questions about this article or want to know more, please email us. We will contact the author and will get back to you as soon as we can.
Danny Phelan, National Sales Manager at Panel Systems, looks at how building designers and architects are using innovative cladding materials, such as timber, to create modern and environmentally sustainable building designs.
“There have been great leaps forward made in green building techniques over the past decade and, as a result, we have seen building product manufacturers adapt to develop innovative and sustainable new products to meet demand.
In 2013, it was reported that around 28 per cent of architects, engineers, contractors, building owners and building consultants around the world were focusing construction work upon sustainable building design. The UK specifically has embraced the idea of sustainable construction, with UK developers expecting to complete at least 60 per cent of their construction projects using green materials by 2018. The top developments which plan to do this include:
·New low-rise residential (40%)
·New institutional buildings (37%)
The increase in production of green building developments within the UK is leading to a rise in demand for construction materials that require much less energy to process, such as timber. The exterior of these buildings plays a major part in making them attractive whilst still achieving the energy efficiency ratings required, therefore the choice of cladding material is very important.
Materials like timber are now more popular than ever with building designers and architects and a growing number of timber clad buildings can be seen within our towns and cities. With naturally appealing tones and the ability to reduce the overall carbon footprint of any development, Timber is favoured in order to create aesthetically pleasing building designs that achieve a green status. Modern timber clad panels are regularly used on a range of construction projects and can be pre-fabricated to incorporate insulation which enhances the thermal properties of a building.
As a very strong and renewable source, timber is 100 per cent recyclable meaning that it can be re-used at the end of its life. Aside from timber’s desired sustainable properties, its visual appeal helps architects and building designers achieve a finish that can help a building to complement its surroundings.
This was one of the many reasons why timber clad panels were chosen for a recent new build project in Glasgow. The £15m Eastwood Health Centre project serves the Eastwood area of East Renfrewshire and houses five existing GP practices and community health and care services. For this project, we supplied over 140m2 of Aluminium insulated panels which were clad with Siberian Larch to the front face. The timber facing was also given a special fire retardant coating, for added safety. In order to meet the intricate shape requirements of the insulation and panel, the core was carefully fabricated using 3 and 5-axis CNC equipment, meeting the architect’s design aspiration’s and ensuring the panels could be easily installed on site.
The centre now sets the standard for affordable, quality and sustainable healthcare facilities across Scotland.
As the popularity of timber cladding increases, we continue to invest in our fabrication facilities to ensure we can meet market demand and provide architects and building designers with innovative cladding materials.”
With so many rules and regulations surrounding the practicalities of washroom design in educational settings, Daniel Ward, Senior Ceramics Product Manager for Twyford, talks us through the dos and don’ts of sanitary specification for the school environment.
Specifying products for washrooms within the education sector may seem like a fairly straightforward task, but there are a number of considerations that need to be taken into account to ensure not only that regulations are met, but that the space is well designed, comfortable and practical.
Lack of privacy, vandalism and inadequate cleaning and maintenance can make a visit to the toilet an unpleasant and unhealthy experience for students. In fact, recent research undertaken by charity Education and Resources for Improving Childhood Continence (ERIC) highlighted that the quality of school toilets has a huge impact on pupils’ health, education and happiness. Therefore the design of washrooms in education premises needs to be about a lot more than simply providing enough toilets and washbasins.
Laying out the order
The overall layout of school washrooms is a good place to start. As well as adhering to regulations regarding wheelchair accessible cubicles, all standard cubicles must have a minimum 450mm-diameter manoeuvring space that is clear of the door swing. And of course, when you are designing spaces for growing children, the sizes and fixing heights of sanitaryware must be suitable for the relevant user age groups too. Short projection WCs offer a good solution here, creating the necessary space while still ensuring user comfort. Wall-mounting the pan with a suitable framing system will enable the height of the WC to be easily adjusted during installation, to better meet the needs of the user.
Aside from layout, hygiene in this environment is extremely important too, with ease of cleaning being key to students’ health and wellbeing. So much so that the Department for Education offers guidance on the issue, stating that to avoid build-up of dirt and germs, the toilets in schools should be wall-hung or back to wall.. This also offers a solution with regards to ensuring plumbing work is tamper-proof, a particular point of note when specifying for colleges and universities which serve older children and young adults. The cistern and pipework concealed within the framing system, preventing interference, while being easy to access for maintenance purposes. A dual-flush cistern sitting neatly behind the wall will also help to significantly reduce the amount of water used, while not affecting overall flushing performance. This is particularly important in educational establishments, which are high-traffic areas with the potential for toilets to be flushed literally hundreds of times in any one day.
It is also worth noting that in schools, particularly where younger users are present, the recommendation is also to avoid urinals, but where they are specified to opt for individual bowls rather than a trough, with modestly panels for privacy.
Water-saving pays off
The washbasins in school washrooms should also be subject to a number of practical considerations. Of course, ease of cleaning for hygiene reasons remains imperative, making ceramics that are coated with an easy to clean glaze a particular benefit, while the choice of brassware is also important. Not only should mixer taps for washbasins be robust and tamper-proof, ideally they should be fitted with an automatic shut-off too, either through a built-in timed delivery feature or infra-red sensors.
Energy and water are a major proportion of non-staff costs in schools, colleges and universities and a major part of their environmental impact. While some schools will have greater scope for savings than others, overall more than 20% of energy is wasted, and a school that is equipped with water conservation devices, such as taps with automatic shut-offs or flow restrictors, plus dual-flush WCS, typically use less than half the amount of water used in schools where such features are not present.
Keeping maintenance levels as low as possible is an important requirement in school buildings, where downtime in washrooms can be at best inconvenient for staff and students. This makes the specification of quality sanitary fittings that will be hard-wearing and durable, of particular significance. To limit the frequency of replacing such fixtures and fittings, their life expectancy should be around 15-20 years, with a manufacturer’s guarantee providing the best scope for this.
There are undoubtedly a lot of things to consider when designing washrooms for educational establishments, with all elements really carrying an equal weight of importance. The trick to ticking all of them off and achieving a successful design is to establish a strong relationship with a manufacturer who is able to respond to all aspects of a washroom’s design, from layouts and dimensions to styles and materials as standard, so that there is never any need to compromise.
Anyone who was old enough to watch TV in the 1980s may well remember one particular commercial from a well-known washing powder brand, promising to leave the country’s laundry ‘whiter than white’.
It’s quite a claim, after all white’s white, right? Actually, that detergent manufacturer may just have been on to something, as some whites are quite definitely whiter than others. And it’s not just when you’re putting on a load of washing that this can matter; it’s important in kitchen design too, particularly when you are working with a material such as quartz.
As a material that is made up of several components, including stone aggregates and resin, one white quartz surface may be a different, or whiter, white than another, dependent on how and where it is manufactured.
Quartz is normally a clear or greyish colour and often has a lot of impurities, which when mixed with the resin can create a white that definitely wouldn’t pass the Persil test. This makes it extremely difficult to make a very white quartz. At CRL Stone we’ve compared our white quartz with all the major suppliers in the UK and can confidently declare ours to be the whitest white on the block. How? Well, we’re lucky enough to have our quartz plant near the site of a natural white quartz, which is very rare and makes all the difference. Of course it’s not all down to luck; the secret also lies in the blending, as the quartz has to be ground down into a very fine powder to achieve a solid white colour with no pockets of resin.
That said, a practically perfect white isn’t always what is needed, but with that achieved, being able to offer a range of different whites is much easier. The fact that some whites are less white than others means that kitchen designers can choose from several different whites, choosing the best contrast to go with furniture or to match with the white used elsewhere in the kitchen.
With no less than six different whites in its quartz collection, not to mention an option with marble veins, CRL Stone’s offering would pass the doorstep challenge and then some.
Every year nine people on average fall to their deaths from fragile roofs or through roof lights. Many more suffer serious, life-changing injuries.
Falls through fragile roofs or materials usually occur on the roofs of factories, warehouses and farm buildings where workers are carrying out repairs, maintaining or installing equipment, cleaning gutters and skylights, or whilst carrying out general roof work. All these accidents are fully avoidable through careful planning and ensuring safe working procedures.
What is a fragile surface?
Work on fragile surfaces is high risk, and as a result, the HSE requires that effective precautions are taken for any form of work on or near fragile surfaces. Accidents can be avoided as long as suitable equipment is used and those carrying out the work are provided with adequate information, training and supervision.
Access onto a roof is often required for maintenance, inspection, cleaning or general repairs. Fragile surfaces such as the ones we are reading about are typically found on factories and warehouses and can include:
·Roof lights and skylights
·Corroded metal sheets
·Non-reinforced fibre cement sheets
·Roof slates and tiles
·Glass such as wired glass
How to tread carefully
The principles of working on fragile surfaces are exactly the same as any other form of work at height, so if you apply the hierarchy of control you should be able to ensure that the work can be carried out safely.
In an ideal world, the preferred option is to avoid working at height, but as we all know this isn’t always possible, so the next consideration would be to look at methods which would allow work to be carried out without actually stepping onto the roof itself, such as MEWPs.
If access onto the fragile roof cannot be overcome then you will need to look at how the area can be accessed safely and then put into place measures that can alleviate the distance and consequences of a potential fall.
This can be done in a number of ways, such as protecting the edge of the roof with guardrail, using staging or platforms with edge protection on the roof to spread the load or by protecting fragile roof lights and skylights with a cover to prevent access onto the surface itself.
When access is needed to run from the eaves to the ridge, mesh walkways could be used to spread the weight across the support battens so that workers can safely move along the full length of the systems.
Lightweight mobile walking frames on the other hand are ideal for maintenance of valleys and box gutters on fragile roofs and can provide safe access for up to two people.
A responsible approach
Falls through fragile surfaces account for nearly a fifth of all fatalities as a result of a fall from height in the construction industry. The worker in the case I highlighted at the start of this post was lucky in that he survived. However he did suffer serious injuries to his back and sternum and wore a full body brace for six weeks following the incident.
Companies have a legal duty to ensure they have done all they can to prevent accidents and with the range of products available today, particularly for working on fragile materials, there really is no reason for these accidents to still be happening.
With the arrival of spring, and winter firmly behind us, now is the time for business owners and landlords to take a look at the roofs of their premises to see what damage the colder months left in their wake.
Whether you are a contractor or the owner of the premises, it is important you know the best way to safely inspect and maintain a building, to ensure the safety of yourself and any contractors in your care.
Planned maintenance can include both plant and equipment as well as repairs to the roof itself, dependent on the type of roof.
If you follow these top tips, you’ll be able to ensure you avoid any issues, such as serious injury or worse, when carrying out spring maintenance.
1. It doesn’t matter what height you’re working at, work at height is by nature dangerous, even more so in the months after winter, when all manner of horrible damage can be hiding away. When possible, try to avoid having to work at height, if this isn’t possible then look at alternative ways to do the work. For example, if cleaning windows, use a reach and wash system rather than a ladder. if you absolutely have to use a ladder then always take advantage of the Easi-Dec Ladder accessories range to provide further support.
2. Make sure that you always carry out a risk assessment before starting the work to determine what equipment you will need and to identify who could potentially be in danger or be affected by your work. Is there the possibility that someone could be hit by falling objects?
3. When using a ladder, carry out pre-use checks to identify any defects or damages which could prevent safe use. Areas to inspect include the stiles, feet, rungs, steps/treads, platform and locking mechanisms. Make sure the ladder is long enough or high enough for the specific task. Make sure the ground is firm and level and clear of any debris.
4. Always make sure that the user is competent to carry out the work. Competency is essential. Only those who are fully trained in working at height and using equipment such as ladders safely will have the correct skills, knowledge and experience to work safely.
5. And perhaps most importantly of all, always plan the work carefully. This is even more vital after the winter months when there could be hidden risks.
Working at height can be dangerous at the best of times, so remember, if you are not sure about anything or do not believe you are competent or capable of carrying out the task at hand, always seek professional advice.
Good to know: Easi-Dec offers many different products and systems to make working at height all year round safer and more efficient.
Article by Terry Creed, Technical Sales Consultant, Safesite Ltd
We’ve written in the past about the importance of competency, especially when it comes to fall protection equipment. I spend a lot of time on roofs and unfortunately come across some shocking work which illustrates what happens when price is chosen over competency.
The following are the latest batch of horrors I’ve seen when out and about on site.
This system is installed so poorly it’s quite unbelievable that someone could leave it that way! The guardrail is too low, weights and feet are in the wrong position, extremely unstable, grub screws loose or missing, uneven…I could go on…..
Poor guardrail installation – no mid rail, a fitting is missing completely and the hot vent flue has damaged the rail. And when you look at the installation from the other side, it gets worse. The photograph below shows that single fixing has been used into the masonry.
This is definitely not something we would recommend as the fixings can work loose over time.