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The Week That Was - 29 October 2021

29 October 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.

Large volume of timber imports alleviates supply concerns

Imports of softwood timber in the UK stood at 7 million m3, a figure 2 million m3 higher that the same period in 2020 and half a million m3 higher than the same period in 2019.  There are now sufficient volumes of softwood timber at UK ports and within the UK supply chain to meet the demand surge from construction.

Despite the large volumes of imports, issues still remain due to the ongoing shortages of HGV drivers, labour and fuel, which will continue to impact the market into the oncoming months.

For further information, please click here.

AI-based safety-alert camera trialled on site

J Murphy & Sons has begun trials of a smart-camera system that utilises artificial intelligence (AI) to identify safety risks on site.  The system can monitor compliance with exclusion and restricted zones, keeping watch over areas where people and plant might collide.  The system may also be used to monitor PPE and onsite trip hazards.

The system, called AiMac, was co-developed by  Murphy Technical Services and mechanical and electrical specialist, Imac.  The AiMac system detects movement and uses machine-learning software to determine, in real time, whether a danger is present.  The data obtained by the system's machine-learning algorithms can be analysed alongside existing incident data to better anticipate dangers.

Similar systems have been developed by Winvic Construction and housebuilder, Countryside.

For further information, please click here.  

UK Construction group secures  industry's largest sustainability linked loan

Construction group, Balfour Beatty, has announced it has agreed the conversion of a £375 million revolving credit facility to a sustainability linked loan, the largest recorded loan of this type for the sector in the UK.

The loan, provided by Lloyds Bank, matures in 2024.  The loan incentivises the lendee to improve its environmental credentials.  A credit margin reduction or increase will be applicable depending on the outcomes achieved in three key areas; carbon emissions, social value generation, and an independent Environmental, Social and Governance rating score by Sustainalytics.  

For further information, please click here.

New procurement policy note

The Government has issued PPN 08/21 "Taking account of a bidder's approach to payment in the procurement of major government contracts" (issued on 21 October 2021), which sets out how payment approaches can be taken into account in the procurement of major Government contracts. The new PPN updates and replaces PPN 07/20.

The accompanying guidance to the new PPN explains how to include an assessment of a bidder's payment systems to demonstrate that it has effective payment systems to ensure the reliability of its supply chain.  For example, a bidder must demonstrate that it has paid its supply chain within agreed terms and paid 95% of invoices within 60 days.

The new PPN does not apply to NHS Trusts but may apply to contracts with individual values exceeding £5m per annum if it is reasonable and proportionate to do so.

The new PPN is available here.

The accompanying guidance to the new PPN is available here.

Mount Group Student Natex Limited enters administration

Mount Group Student Natex Limited (Company Number: 10418229) appointed Administrators on 7 October 2021.  Patrick Lannagan and Julien Irving of Mazars LLP have been appointed as the Joint Administrators.

The company was developing a £45m student accommodation scheme due for completion in December 2021 and is understood to owe significant debt to its supply chain.

Read more in the Construction Enquirer here.

With thanks to Zack Gould-Wilson and Charlie Underwood for contributing to this week's edition