ONS figures released today show construction sector output fell by 3.3% in the last three months of 2010, while the overall economy shrunk by 0.5%.
Poor weather in December not only hit the construction sector but also slowed the whole economy, which shrunk in size by 0.5% in the final quarter of the year, compared to Q3.
The 3.3% drop in the construction sector virtually reverses the 3.9% increase between 1 July and 30 September.
Despite the recent, expected, drop off in construction sector output, the sector has increased in size since when compared to 2009. Year-on-year growth in the sector is estimated to have been 6.9%, according to today’s preliminary figures.
The construction sector alone, represented 0.2% of the fall in the wider economy.
While today’s construction figures will not come as much of a surprise, the 0.5% fall overall is particularly negative, as many economists were expecting further growth.
The ONS blamed the poor economic performance on the bad weather and said: “The change in GDP in Q4 was clearly affected by the extremely bad weather in December last
“The disruption caused by the bad weather in December is likely to have contributed to most of the 0.5% decline, that is, if there had been no disruption, GDP would be showing a flattish picture rather than declining by 0.5%.
“We should emphasise that this assessment of the effect of the bad weather is the best we can make it at this stage, but is still inevitably uncertain.”
New UK boss Robert Care completes cull losing 670 posts.
Arup has made 15% of its UK staff redundant following its restructuring late last year, the architect and engineer confirmed today.
The firm, which drafted in Australasian chairman and chief executive Dr Robert Care to run the UK and Europe business as part of the restructure, has made 670 posts redundant after it put 600 staff on a 90-day notice of redundancy in November.
It said today the consultation resulted in 280 permanent and 230 part-time and agency roles being made redundant.
In addition, 86 vacant positions will now not be filled. However, a further 70 staff will be redeployed to offices overseas.
Arup last year employed more than 10,000 staff worldwide, including just under 4,000 in the UK. Robert Care has re-organised the UK office into five sub-regional groups.
Yechte Consulting finalises an interior render for an office conversion in central Brussels.
Roger Zogolovitch seeks to force special general meeting to reconsider abolition
A simmering row over the scrapping of the RIBA Trust threatened to escalate into civil war this week as four former presidents vowed to challenge the move.
Richard MacCormac, Max Hutchinson, George Ferguson and Owen Luder all spoke out in support of former trustee Roger Zogolovitch after he launched plans to “reinstate” the trust by forcing Portland Place to hold a special general meeting on the matter.
Zogolovitch, who needs signatures from 280 chartered members in order to trigger the meeting, argues the abolition of the trust threatens the RIBA’s promotion of architecture and that its independence was vital to the curatorship of the world’s most important collection of architectural artefacts.
He has also won support from fellow former trustee Christophe Egret and honorary librarian Paul Davis, while former RIBA presidents Jack Pringle and Paul Hyett are also considering joining the campaign.
”I worried about the RIBA’s ability to maintain its scholarly commitments”
The developments pose a serious challenge to the authority of RIBA chief executive Harry Rich, who wants to see the creation of “One RIBA” and has masterminded the changes.
“My feeling is that [scrapping the trust] was not a good move,” said MacCormac, who led the RIBA from 1991-93. “When I was president I was always worried about the RIBA’s ability to maintain its scholarly commitments like the library.
“There is always a tension between its commitment to its members and its commitment to architecture.”
The trust was formally wound up on December 31 just days after Rich was warned by Luder that he risked sparking a “very damaging internal conflict”.
BD understands Rich and president Ruth Reed are now attempting to limit this by meeting former trustees in person to explain the reasoning behind the reforms.
President-elect Angela Brady said she supported Rich’s efforts to simplify the RIBA but conceded that they had not been “properly explained”.
“The RIBA collection is a fantastic asset and that is not going to change,” she said. “I am in favour of the ’One RIBA’ Harry has put forward. There were too many groups within the RIBA… it was so complicated with one part lending money to another part and so on.
“I think we need to sit round a table and Harry needs to explain exactly what difference this is going to make. That needs to happen before a campaign goes flying off in the wrong direction.”
In a separate development this week, RIBA director of communications Roula Konzotis announced she was leaving after 11 years with the organisation.
Smaller practices could find it easier to win school design work in future, according to schools architect and former RIBA president Sunand Prasad.
Former RIBA president Sunand Prasad said he hoped that the coalition’s localism agenda would influence the delayed capital review into the future of post-BSF school investment, which is expected to be published soon.
“Sensible people are realising it’s more complicated than they thought and are taking time to get it right,” he said. “There was a danger of throwing the baby out with the BSF bathwater. “Because of localism I am hopeful there will be more work for smaller firms than was the case in BSF. But it’s all speculation at this stage.”
In the meantime, work has begun on the first wave of 25 free schools due to open in September.
Partnerships for Schools has appointed two firms to advance the schools to business case. Capita Symonds is using in-house architects while Turner & Townsend has hired Bond Bryan and NPS.
Design work on schools themselves is still up for grabs, though school proposers will be expected to follow procurement rules once the capital review has set them.
The Department for Education said most groups would use Partnership for Schools’ frameworks or local authority frameworks but “have the option of procuring their own capital works”.
Writer Toby Young, whose West London Free School steering group includes architect Mustafa Erdem from Chiswick practice Hans Haenlein Architects, said: “Given this is public money, it seems eminently sensible that free school proposers should have no influence over which firms of architects work on their projects or they could be accused of giving work to their friends.”
The Department for Education is still unable to say when the capital review will be published, though insiders suggest it could be this month.