Outside view of RPC's transparent glass building.

The Week That Was - 10 September 2021

10 September 2021. Published by Ben Goodier, Partner and Sarah O'Callaghan, Associate

Welcome to The Week That Was, a round-up of key events in the construction sector over the last seven days.

Full fibre broadband to be installed in Chichester

CityFibre has begun work to bring full–fibre broadband to almost every home and business in Chichester.

Full-fibre broadband uses 100% fibre optic cables to carry data at light speed from a home to the point of connection. It is described by BT as being 'next-generation broadband with a dedicated connection that runs straight to your home. It uses the latest fibre-optic technology to offer gigafast download speeds up to 900Mbps and ultrafast upload speeds'.

The work is being carried out by CCN Communications Ltd on behalf of CityFibre, and is part of CityFibre's £195m plans for Sussex. The project is expected to reach overall construction by late 2023.

Adrian Smith, CityFibre's city manager, says: 'We cannot wait for residents and businesses to see what is possible with digital connectivity that propels you forward rather than holds you back. And once the network’s built, it will serve the community’s connectivity needs for decades to come'.

For more information, please click here.

National Highways and Minecraft education package

National Highways (formerly Highways England) has teamed up with Minecraft, which is a 'sandbox' video game, to create a learning package for school children.

Players have the option of five games designed for Key Stage 2 (aged 7 – 11) and Key Stage 3 (and 11 – 14) which can be played alongside lesson plans and game guides for teachers. In addition, there are three games with 'creative mode challenges'. Within the games, students will learn about science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects. National Highways says that the students will 'see what it takes to build and maintain a road. And they can learn about protecting and improving biodiversity, conserving heritage for future generations to enjoy, creating new technology to make our roads safer, and operating machines to build one of the world’s largest tunnels'.

Natalie Jones, talent delivery lead, says 'We want to inspire the next generation of talented engineers and scientists, on whom the country’s infrastructure and national economy will one day depend. Our ambition is to seek out the next James Dyson or Dame Sarah Gilbert and help put them on the path to a fascinating life and career. With the help of Minecraft and the in-game activities, students will get first-hand experience of what would go into building a huge bridge or digging a giant tunnel. In real life these are multi-million pound structures that are carefully designed and then built by experts. These skills and expertise help to create the motorways and main roads that keep us all moving, whether going to work, delivering goods or keeping families and friends connected'.

For more information, please click here.

Wood and steel driving record material prices

The price of building materials rose 4.5% in July 2021 and 20.1% year on year to reach a new record high, with the construction materials price index at its highest point since current records began in 1996.

Propping up this increase are significant rises in the costs of plywood (up 87.1%), fabricated structural steel (up 64.7%) and imported sawn or planed wood (up 64.2%). As a result, the majority of UK construction subcontractors are reported to be struggling with the cost and a lack of availability of raw materials. The industry also continues to be plagued by labour shortages, with 44% of UK construction subcontractors assessing this as the greatest threat to their business.

For more information, please click here.

Contractors urge the Chancellor to extend Super Deduction Allowance to leased plant

Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced in his March 2021 budget the introduction of the 'Super Deduction Allowance' (SDA), allowing purchasers to claim a 130% capital allowance against qualifying new plant purchases.

The Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) and six other industry trade bodies have written to the Chancellor to ask that the SDA be extended to those who choose to lease their plant, rather than purchase new machinery. The CECA notes that many of its members lease and hire plant, rather than purchasing it, in order to access the latest machinery when and where it is needed and as such the SDA does not reflect the practice of many engineering firms. Further, the CECA argues that extending the SDA to leased plant would "provide an added incentive to firms to use the newest plant and machinery, with obvious environmental benefits, as well as feeding through to efficiencies in project delivery".

For more information, please click here.

Insurance for Space Travel

Insurance provider Battleface has launched a travel insurance policy for space tourists (underwritten by Lloyd’s), to cover those travelling with companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and Space Perspective. Cover includes accidental death and permanent disablement.

Sasha Gainullin, the CEO of Battleface said: “While space tourism is still in its infancy, several hundred space flights have been sold to ‘civilians’ and demand is growing. This type of product fits with our values of providing people with the confidence to fulfil their dreams.”

He added: “Today’s landscape mirrors the early days of air travel back at the beginning of last century. With the advent of more affordable space travel, costs should come down as demand rises alongside the need for insurance."

The first policy for aviation was written in 1911 and in 1927 the first transatlantic flight flown by Charles Lindbergh was insured.  Battleface is excited to be one of the first companies in 2021 to be providing insurance to space tourism pioneers who want to have the freedom to travel into space.

For more information, please click here.

Thank you to Harry Collins, Georgina Taylor and Hannah McDonagh for contributing to this week's edition.