More Consistency is needed within the global construction industry

As the world’s leaders tightening their public spending and the demand of investment grows, the construction industry is finding out more and more the need for global consistency. Hence the reason construction industry leaders have joined together to set out a radical new approach to calculate costs for the world’s building and civil engineering projects,

The International Construction Measurement Standards (ICMS) Coalition, a group of over 40 professional bodies established at the IMF in Washington D.C. in 2015, is calling for professionals to support the collaboration and help embed common standards at the heart of construction investment.

The construction industry is worth an incredible amount of money, between the years 2014 and 2025; experts estimate about $78 trillion will be spent on infrastructure. It’s quite incredible that such a valuable industry can differ so much when it comes to thing such as costing and measuring the projects, which makes decision making harder for potential investors.

The new standards will enable projects throughout the world to be measured and valued in the same ways, which will enable investors to compare projects in countries from all over the world in a far simpler and fairer manner.

Ken Creighton, Chair of the ICMS Coalition, said: “Today is an important day for the global construction market because we are one step closer to achieving consistency across the industry. We are seeking input from professionals and all stakeholders in the built environment to help draft this landmark standard and establish international best practice.”

Mr Clement Lau FRICS, Chair of RICS Hong Kong Board commented: “The draft international standards mark a huge achievement for the global cost management profession. The current lack of consistency in costing construction projects leads to misunderstanding and uncertainty, which inhibits sounds investment decisions. We have worked hard to come up with the new standards, and would like to obtain the feedback from cost consultants, quantity surveyors and civil engineers around the world.”

Source: BusinessWire, 2016

Sweden to scrap taxes on solar energy from 2017

Sweden is without doubt one of the world’s leading countries with respect to trying to implement renewable energies, they are ambitiously attempting to run off 100% renewable energy by the year 2040. However, one area in renewable energies that Sweden struggle is solar energy; electricity produced by solar currently stands at a measly 0.1%, compared to hydropower and nuclear power which produces 39% and 36% respectively.

The finance ministry announced that solar energy which is produced for personal use will be completely exempt from taxes, whilst electricity provides will be charged just €51 per megawatt hour, which is a 98% reduction on current rates. The move has been made in a bid to improve the countries chance of reaching the 2040 milestone, something that will be difficult to achieve at the current standard, they hope it will encouraged more of the public to invest into the idea.

The move still requires some authorisation, the parliament are still required to approve it but this is highly likely considering the pressure they have been coming under lately with regard to renewables. The move will also need authorisation from the EU commission but this is also likely considering they have set a target to have 20% of the EU blocs usage accounted for by renewables.

In October, the Swedish energy market regulator had estimated that in order to reach the target of 100 percent renewable energy, the share of solar electricity would have to rise to between five and 10 percent.

Got a spare $111 million lying around? Buy a nuclear power plant!

A business tycoon from the US has recently made history, he became the first ever individual to purchase a nuclear power station. Franklin J. Haney, whom has made his fortune through being an innovative property developer, acquired the Alabama based nuclear power station at an auction on November 14th.

Mr.Haney, has built himself quite the reputation on the journey to attaining his fortune, he’s established a status for ‘innovative financing’ and ‘imaginative acquisitions’, of which the ‘imaginative’ and ‘innovative’ are certainly justified in his latest purchase. However, his initial investment of $111 million is just the start of his spending intentions for this project.

After attaining a number of interested parties from the beginning, the day of the auction only actually saw 2 interested parties battling it out. Jackson Holdings of Alabama LLC, were the competition faced and made a serious challenge of it, bidding up to but no higher than $110 million.

The 75-year-old has vowed to rejuvenate numerous communities in Tennessee and Alabama, pledging that the completion of the plant will create in excess of 4’000 jobs, whilst operating the plant will create 2’000 permanent and highly-paid jobs.

Along with the incomplete 2.6GW power station, which has for years been ransacked for spare parts, Haney will get 1,400 acres of property on the Guntersville Reservoir. To hold him to his promises regarding the site, the seller, state utility Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), stipulated that Haney must invest at least $25m on the property within five years of closing the deal, and he has two years to close the deal. It contains two partially built Babcock & Wilcox pressurised water reactors. When TVA halted construction in 1988, reactor 1 was approximately 90% compete, and reactor 2 was approximately 58% complete. But after years of removing assets from the units, and following subsequent inspections, the reactors were deemed 55% and 35% complete, respectively, in 2009.

As well as the power station and the land, Haney gets switchyards, office buildings, warehouses, cooling towers, water pumping stations and railroad spurs. “The Bellefonte Nuclear Station will help transform communities across the region – many of which have been hit hard by the forced closure of coal power plants over the last decade. This project will bring new life to the region by creating thousands of jobs while providing assured access to reliable, affordable, zero-emission energy.”

 

New York to London in just over 3 hours!

Sir Richard Branson, one of the most famous entrepreneurs to come out of the United Kingdom to date, is the founder of the Virgin Group which controls more than 400 companies. However, if and when his latest revelation comes to fruition, then this could well be the thing that he’s remembered for in years to come.

Virgin Galactic and Boom (a start-up company creating supersonic transport), have unveiled a prototype of what they are expecting to be the first post-Concorde airline to be used for supersonic commercial travel. The jet is designed to be 10% faster than the Concorde, which offered supersonic commercial service until it was retired in 2003. A crash in 2000 killed 113 people. “Concorde’s designers didn’t have the technology for affordable supersonic travel, but now we do,” said Blake Scholl, Boom’s founder and chief executive officer.

The new aircraft has a cruising speed of Mach 2.2 or 1,451mph, which is 10 per cent faster than Concorde’s speed of Mach 2 (the speed of sound is measured as Mach 1) and 2.6 times faster than other airliners. The new planes are set to carry 40 passengers at a time. The airline is expected to come into operation in 2023 and will cost passengers £2’500, currently the jet will only be able to seat around 40 passengers. Its name is officially going to be XB-1, but it has already established the popular nickname of ‘baby boom’.

You will be able to travel between New York and London quicker than it takes you to drive from London to Manchester.

 

HS2 railway gets the green light!

Despite considerable opposition to the idea, the British government has announced they will be going ahead with plans to build the highly anticipated High-speed 2 (HS2) railway in full. The line is estimated to cost the country somewhere in the region of £56 billion and will considerably reduce travel time between some of the country’s most economically integral cities including London, Manchester, Birmingham, and Sheffield.
The country’s transport secretary, Chris Grayling, said “HS2 will be world’s high-techest, smartest, fastest railway. It will be a state-of-the art railway. This is faster than the Japanese bullet trains, and more state-of-the-art. This will be the fastest, most modern railway in the world.” Once the entire system is fully operational, the new trains will carry 300’000 people a day, tripling the number of available seats out of London Euston station.
Much of the rail-line is going to be situated in the north of the country, which could be an immediate response to the message delivered by the Brexit vote. A large proportion of the country whom voted to leave the European Union were based in the north of England, a part of the country which for many years felt they were being neglected by the government when it came to large-scale investments. Much of the motive behinds the vote was people felt the country was chucking needles amounts of money into the European Union, whereas it could have been better used in domestic developments.
Grayling has stated that HS2 is not just about making journey’s quicker but also to address the capacity issues being felt by train operators, where many of the countries commuters are forced to stand on their journey’s due to a lack of seats. “We all know our railway system is full. Too many people have to stand, and there are too many people sitting in traffic jams on roads behind endless rows of Lorries. “You can’t solve that problem unless you build something new, and by building something new, why would we build something old-fashioned?

The government has also vowed to allow as much of the project as economically possible to be contracted to British manufacturers, which Grayling describes as “overwhelmingly good news for British business and for British skills and for British manufacturing”.

 

Is government intervention hampering private investment into East-African renewables?

Many experts believe the contribution of governments within East-Africa is slowing the speed of growth in the renewable energies sector. Government involvement in the design, development and operation of mini-grids is deterring potential private investments; private investments into East-African renewable energies were predicted to surge in recent years but this has not been the case.
Experts from within the sector are pointing the finger at government agencies that are crowding out the developers using legal and political tools that are in need of reforms. Private companies have indeed shown an interest in investing but they have insisted the power and subsidies given to government companies need addressing if their investment is to be warranted.
Kenya’s ministry of energy has said that overall electricity access has increased within the country from 23 percent in 2009 to 50 percent in 2015; however, the unequal distribution of this electricity is still highly prevalent with much of northern Kenya still deprived of such resource. Regions such as northern Kenya have access of about 5 percent. It says eight out of the 20 poorest parliamentary constituencies “where 74 percent to 97 percent of people live below poverty line” are found in this northern region.
A number of renewable energies companies would happily address this problem, through investment into the northern and other neglected territories of Kenya, however, the unfair position of power given to Kenya’s Rural Electrification Authority (REA), just completely deters these prospective companies.

In countries such as Kenya, which has such vast areas which do not have access to any electricity, mini-grids are definitely a better option to grid extension; it provides better quality and more reliable electricity to remote areas.

Hyperloop One to debut in UAE

Hyperloop One, the firm who have carried and developed the brain-child of tech-innovator Elon Musk, has signed a deal with the Dubai’s head of transport. On the 8th November, the company announced that it’s highly likely the very first version of the futuristic transport system will connect Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
In a promotional video, the company claimed that the journey between the two cities which traditionally takes about 1 and a half hours, will take just 12 minutes inside the Hyperloop. The high-speed transportation system would use electric propulsion to accelerate a passenger or cargo pod through a low-pressure tube at speeds of up to 700mph. The vehicle would levitate above the track, which is likely to be built on stilts above the ground.
Hyperloop One, which hosted its Dubai announcement at the top of the world’s tallest building – the Burj Khalifa – has signed a feasibility deal with the emirate’s roads and transportation agency. The firm has said they will explore the feasibility of testing the technology at Dubai’s Jebel Ali port, where they hope a successful testing period will lead to further confidence from the city and countries officials.

It is important to note that due to the extreme innovation behind the Hyperloop, it’s still very much in the preliminary stages and therefore, the details revealed were very limited and it’s likely to be a considerable amount of time till we see this system get anywhere near public use.