Facilities Management Forum | Forum Events Ltd Facilities Management Forum | Forum Events Ltd Facilities Management Forum | Forum Events Ltd Facilities Management Forum | Forum Events Ltd Facilities Management Forum | Forum Events Ltd

Posts Tagged :

Guest Blog

Could FM financing solutions save our High Streets?

By Rob Marriott, Marketing & Strategic Bid Director at SPIE UK

The recent news about Debenhams falling into administration is just another nail in the coffin for the British High Street. Part of the problem can be attributed to retailers’ legacy estates. Swelling rents, wage hikes, long lease periods and aging property in urgent need of upgrading are all contributing factors.

However, retailers are struggling to find budget to overcome these problems. 

Sometimes heralded as the panacea, new smart technology installed throughout shops, warehouses etc. would give retailers additional useful data which could help them manage their operations more efficiently. Benefits of this approach could include reducing how much energy is used, improving staff wellbeing, implementing predictive maintenance and enhancing the customer experience, which would all help contribute to lowering long-term operating costs. Unfortunately, organisations are being held back in the short term by the hefty up-front costs that this sort of technology investment requires, as well as the need to provide leadership teams with a robust business case for its installation. 

However, facilities management (FM) firms could have the solution. Some of these companies are starting to develop new financing solutions which are founded on a single lease purchase agreement. As such, machinery, fixtures and fittings etc. don’t have to be capitalised or purchased by the retailer. Instead, merchants can buy them on an on-balance provision instead of the traditional off-balance sheet capitalisation. FM companies would be able to then build upon this idea by creating a completely new model, whereby retailers will not be shackled by lengthy leases that they have previously been used to. As well as being able to lease the property from a third party, these businesses will also have the ability to lease everything within it too – from IoT hardware right through to lighting. 

If we take a retailer that wants to fit out twenty new sites, as well as fully supply and maintain them whilst being certain of the operating costs, the FM organisation would create a plan where they organise the installation and maintenance of the equipment on a fixed annual fee basis. By providing a fully comprehensive offering, not only will this guarantee budget certainty for the retailer, but also helps with peace of mind. 

One of the main benefits of this new type of model is that retailers will be able to predict their income more precisely. By operating in a fixed cost environment, these companies will have more confidence in their ability to plan for future investment in innovation and new ways of working. It is much trickier to invest in new technologies and leverage efficiencies when you have a less predictable maintenance spend. In addition, paying for everything in one easy payment on a fixed basis means retailers can better forecast and plot what their cost profile might look like over the next three-to-five-year years. Of course, this makes it even more straightforward when calculating future investment funding.

Once retailers have been able to finance the installation of state-of-the-art equipment, both they and the FM company in charge of the premises can reap the benefits of the increased amounts of data this will create. The information can be tapped in a number of ways to generate an improved working environment and better customer service. Data can be used to build a more detailed understanding about how the premises are being utilised. As a result, everyone can implement new initiatives to achieve greater energy efficiency. What’s more, the FM company will be able to provide a better service level by leveraging tools such as predictive maintenance. By identifying when machinery and facilities are going to breakdown before the event actually occurs, they can reduce disruptions and improve the return on investment for the retailer. Not only that, but reducing disruption also improves the customer experience, helping the retailer to strengthen their brand image. In short, greater information on and overall visibility of the premises results in more efficient management and maintenance. 

Within retail there are some examples of this model being used with the purchase of single assets, for example the leasing of their EPOS till systems, flooring, fixtures within site, and lighting. Within an organisation, different departments will procure items including shelving and mannequins from various suppliers. And yet, there is nobody currently in the market who has combined these services together to create one single purchasing offer. This presents facilities management companies with an enormous opportunity. FM companies are not limited in what they can source a supplier for, but such change demands a transition away from traditional procurement strategies when forecasting the opening of new stores or refurbishing existing facilities. 

Multiple site High Street retailers are best placed to generate value from these new financing plans because they have the sufficient critical mass to deliver scaled saving across their portfolio. For an independent retailer, it would be a lot harder to achieve similar results and savings if they only had one shop or warehouse to deliver them. For those companies with multiple sites, once they have rolled out the new financing model they can benefit from economies of scale. Following the introduction and successful implementation of a one site model, practices be reviewed, standardised and rolled out across other sites. Evidently, this is why organisations who have larger regional, national or even international foot prints are more likely to benefit.

There are myriad advantages to this way of working for FM companies: the capacity to maintain equipment to the right operating standard, a more predictable income, and a better environment and customer experience. This means the FM company is more efficient and makes better use of its resources, also customers won’t need to waste time following up with suppliers.

These new bespoke financing solutions are already being developed by some FM companies with their retail clients. In the same way that car dealerships lease their vehicles to consumers, we will soon see the retail industry undergo somewhat of a transformation in terms of how their premises are managed, maintained and leased. As the retail industry continues to digitally transform and evolve into a multichannel environment, all being well, these new financing techniques will be able help these organisation adapt and thrive.  

Which countries are investing the most in construction?

Around the world, business is booming for the construction industry. Not only are countries looking to house an ever-growing population, but they are also looking to compete on a global scale to grow as nations.

Some countries are fuelled by sheer speed of growth, while others are supported by a huge economic force. With this in mind, which countries are the biggest investors in the construction market? Work platform supplier Nifty Lift investigates… 

How the construction market has previously played out 

In the past, the USA has remained the dominant figure of the worldwide construction market. Ten years ago, the country commanded a construction market value of $1,313 billion, compared to China’s $1,035 billion. But just a year later in 2010, the two had finally shifted places, with China taking 15% of the total global share. 

2009 (value in USD)2010 (global share in %)
USA ($1,313 bn) China 15%
China ($1,035 bn)USA 14%
Japan ($592 bn)Japan 9%
Germany ($303 bn)India 5%
Spain ($292 bn)France 4%
France ($271bn)Germany 4%
Italy ($262 bn)Canada 4%
South Korea ($248 bn)Spain 4% 
India ($247 bn)Italy 3% 
UK ($243 bn)UK  3% 

China overtaking the US 

Naturally, a country’s individual construction market strength will shift a lot depending on a variety of factors — from economic stability to population growth, or simple change in needs. But the USA has remained on the top spot for a long time. That was until 2010, when China surpassed its global construction market share. 

The USA has suffered during the recession, with the house building sector’s fall resulting in its construction industry slowing down. 

India’s rapid growth

While China may have enjoyed a swift growth in the construction market, India has certainly proven itself to be an emerging contender, with one study showing the country is growing at almost double the rate of China. This saw India flying up the global shares table, from 9thin 2009 to 4thin 2010. 

Spain’s fall

Due to the Spanish financial crisis from 2008-2014, the country descended in terms of its construction market share. The country went from recording the 5th largest global share to having the 8th largest, as it and other European countries struggled with a recession. 

The current construction market growth

With most countries well on the way through a recovery period after global economic crises, the construction market is set to see an exciting period of change and growth too. Turner and Townsend surmises that recovering oil prices, demand for data centres, and the retail need for refurbishment in order to create new experience to compete with the online retail world will see the construction market go from strength to strength. Plus, the worldwide desire to move to a greener future is also calling for continued efforts and renovations to old, outdated buildings and structures. 

Predictions for the future construction market 

Observations and predictions have already rolled forth for the continued global growth of the construction market, and with it, which countries will be the biggest players: 

2020 (predicted global share) 2030 (predicted ranking)
China 21%China
USA 15% USA
India 7% India
Japan 6% Indonesia
Canada 3% Japan
Indonesia 3% UK
France 3% Canada
Germany 3% Germany 
Australia 3% France
Spain 2% Australia 

China’s continued #1 spot

China’s growth is set to continue through to 2020, with a prediction of the country sitting at a global construction market share of 21% that year. But its overall construction growth is also set to slow down considerably, while the USA’s growth is on track to grow faster than China across the next 15 years. This is speculated to be down to the country’s return to form in the house building sector, as well as planned major investment in its older cities. 

With that being said, China’s projects aren’t set to diminish — the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative is set to push further trade, and thereby further construction needs, to the country. 

India in the top 3

In this time, India is predicted to continue its trend of construction growth, overtaking Japan as the third largest share in the construction market between 2010 and 2020. This need to expand its construction market will be fuelled by its own rapidly increasing population. According to the B1M, India needs to build 31,000 homes every day for the next 14 years to keep pace with its growing demand for housing! 

Indonesia’s growth 

Ten years ago, Indonesia didn’t feature within the top ten biggest construction markets. Yet, by 2020, it is predicted that the country will hold the sixth biggest share in the global construction market, growing to fourth by 2030. In many ways, Indonesia is mimicking the rapid rise through the rankings that India has enjoyed from 2009 onwards. 

This sudden burst of activity is simply down to an increase in demand, which in turn, is due to the favourable conditions the country is currently enjoying. Indonesia’s economy has enjoyed a steady growth in recent years, and with a low public debt coupled with stable governance and commodity prices, the country has the perfect foundation for increased housing and improved infrastructure needs. 

UK out of the top ten in 2020  

The UK has been struggling on a number of fronts in recent years, and in terms of its share in the construction market, the nation will drop out of the top ten in 2020 according to predictions. There is a certain amount of Brexit uncertainty affecting investment in general, and for the construction industry, output dropped by 1.7 per cent in the UK for the first quarter of 2018 due to difficult weather conditions at the time.

This drop isn’t expected to last long, however, as the UK’s housing crisis remains rife and will provide a catalyst for many construction projects to get underway across the UK by 2030. These will include housing and a number of mega-builds, as well as rail and airport development. 

In fact, some predict that the UK will not only return to form in the construction market, it will actually become one of the biggest contributors to the construction industry’s 14.7% share of all global economic output by 2030. 

Biggest construction projects at present 

As we enjoy further technological advances and opportunities, the construction market is witnessing a number of mega-projects that are fuelling growth. 

Currently, some of these proposed large-scale construction projects that are in-progress include: 

  • South-North Water Transfer Project in China. This construction project is set to help the population living in the north of China to access a greater water supply. The project has a whopping 48-year schedule! 
  • London Crossrail Project in the UK.The construction of the world’s first underground train system is set to connect 40 stations.
  • Dubailand in Dubai.This project will see a complex of 278 square kilometres being built, containing a number of theme parks, hotels and more. 

Sources: 

http://www.turnerandtownsend.com/media/2389/icms-survey-2017.pdf

https://www.enr.com/articles/45732-india-overtaking-japan-as-worlds-third-largest-construction-market?v=preview

https://www.ice.org.uk/ICEDevelopmentWebPortal/media/Documents/News/ICE%20News/Global-Construction-press-release.pdf

https://www.statista.com/statistics/199054/the-largest-construction-markets-in-the-world/

http://www.turnerandtownsend.com/media/3352/international-construction-market-survey-2018.pdf

https://www.theb1m.com/video/top-5-construction-markets-by-2030

https://www.statista.com/statistics/677079/annual-construction-investment-by-region/

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/uk-business-investment-brexit-gdp-office-for-national-statistics-a8558936.html

https://www.thebalancesmb.com/top-ten-largest-construction-projects-844370

How we can entice young talent into the FM industry?

By Chris Townsend, HR Director, ABM UK

In the facilities management industry, the UK is suffering from a general skills shortage. Young people are typically not considering this industry as a career path creating a skills gap.

Therefore, it is right that we look to apprenticeships as a possible solution to this problem and highlight the important role they play in bridging this gap.

Open career opportunities that call for individuals with engineering skills far outnumber the supply of applicants. The facilities management industry needs people who are open to related careers, to be aware of all the opportunities that this industry is offering them. 

Whether these people are students coming from college, after university or later on in their lives, apprenticeships provide a secure route to upskilling and career progression.

At ABM UK, there are apprenticeship programmes dedicated to security, plumbing, cleaning, gas and engineering. These apprenticeships enable people to develop new skills as well as giving people a great start to working life. In all, there are 10 different courses and our apprentices not only earn while they learn, but have the option to work in a variety of disciplines within facilities services, management, which goes up to degree level and engineering. 

Education and awareness are the equivalent to condition monitoring and predictive maintenance when looking at diversity and the skills gap. By engaging children that are still early in their education we are introducing them to the possibilities of the facilities management industry, this is filling the pipeline of future apprentices. We are also ensuring there is a diversity of backgrounds in our people that will make our business and profession continue successfully. 

At ABM UK we want a pipeline of talented young people who aspire to have a career in facilities management. The individuals in this pipeline will be excited by its potential and would not accept a role in this industry as a back-up if their other career plans didn’t quite work out. We want to make apprenticeships an active career choice, and not a back-up plan. 

So what are we doing to make this happen? We are showing that the industry is about more than oily rags and blue overalls.

Firstly, we invested heavily in setting up our own training centre to ensure apprenticeships and training are at the heart of our business.

In 2018, ABM UK piloted the first ever Junior Engineering Engagement Programme (J.E.E.P) which aims to tackle the perceptions of engineering and facilities management amongst secondary school aged children and their parents. The course of 10 modules, including experiments in conduction, magnets and motors, gives the students an insight into the world of facilities management and apprenticeships. Something they may have never heard of before. When these children leave school, they will be better informed of their choices and may well consider an apprenticeship in this field, and we’re very proud of the extensive range we offer.

And, we’re using our current apprentices as role models and ambassadors. It’s important that young children see people that they can relate to doing really well in these areas, acting as motivation for them to continue to be engaged in the programme.

Take ABM UK former apprentice, Marissa Francis as an example, and an inspiration. She chose the university route, but soon realised it wasn’t for her and chose a different direction – an apprenticeship.

Despite losing her mum and being responsible for bringing up her four-year-old daughter single-handedly, she graduated from ABM UK’s apprenticeship scheme and is now a qualified expert in heating, ventilation and air conditioning. 

We are so proud of everything she has achieved and we’re all delighted that she was named ‘Apprentice of the Year’ in 2017 at the industry’s Heating and Ventilation News Awards.

Alongside the J.E.E.P initiative, as part of our grass roots work, we conducted a piece of research[1] which looked at the perceptions of apprenticeships in this industry amongst 2,000 parents and 2,000 young people aged 11 – 15. A lot of what we found illustrated the perception change work that needs to be done – for example, we found that over a third of parents don’t know what an apprenticeship is. Statistics like this need to be changed. The research also found that a third[2] of parents see apprenticeships as a last resort for young people who fail exams.

The research also found the top reasons that parents were not encouraging their child to undertake an apprenticeship. Almost half thought apprenticeships were poorly paid (43%), because they see it as a last resort for those who fail their exams (37%), and a perception that apprenticeships don’t lead to successful careers (17%). Those with experience or working in apprenticeships know that this is not the case. In reality, recruits in this sector are in such high demand that graduate apprentices are earning between £26,000 and £30,000 just a year after qualifying – usually before they’re 20 years old – and they have no debt. 

Initiatives like the J.E.E.P show students at a young age what they are capable of academically. Sometimes we excel at physical tasks rather than sitting in a lecture hall. Showing students the benefits of an apprenticeship could make a massive difference to their life and career path.

Following the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in 2017, businesses are coming together no matter what industry, towards the same goal which is to educate the youth through apprenticeships. There is no question that this means the future is looking bright for apprenticeships in the UK, however, it is clear from the research ABM UK conducted that the perceptions around apprenticeships still need to change.

[1] Commissioned by ABM UK and conducted by Censuswide the research comprises 2,000 British parents of children aged 11 to 16 and 2,000 children aged 11 to 16 in April 2018. 

[2] 36%

GUEST BLOG: Insights on protective equipment & how it can impact your business

All businesses that employ staff will be familiar with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Last year, the PPE Directive 89/686/EEC was replaced by the Regulation 2016/425 in a bid to improve health and safety at work.

As many businesses operate within the UK and neighbouring countries in the EU, many managers will be wondering what this means for them. Opposed to the former directive, the new regulation is a binding legislative act that must be applied in its entirety across the EU without requiring separate national legislation.

There have been tremendous changes in regard to working practices, especially as technology continues to advance, making processes more efficient — this includes equipment and workwear. Because of this, changes were required and expected to occur around PPE after it first came into action over two decades ago.

Not too long ago, the PPE Directive was only a focus for manufactures who put their own products on the market. However, this new regulation that was put into action on 21stApril 2018 will involve the entire supply chain. As a result, anyone who is part of the supply or distribution chain must abide by PPE and meet the standard requirements that have been set out — while also having an understanding that only products that meet the standards will be made available on the market.

What are the standards?

  • Making sure PPE complies with the essential health and safety requirements.
  • Making sure technical documentation has be drawn up.
  • When compliance has been demonstrated the EU declaration of conformity has been drawn up and a CE mark affixed.
  • Retention of documents for ten years.
  • Sample testing.
  • Duty to take action in relation to non-conforming PPE.
  • Labelling requirements.
  • Providing instructions and cooperating with the national authority.

There is a one-year transition place currently in place, which is set to end on the 21stApril this year. This means that the former Directive and current Regulation are still applicable to businesses, meaning you must be prepared for when the Regulation is the only one that matters. However, any EC type-examination certificates and approvals issued under the Directive will remain valid until the 21stApril 2023 unless they have an earlier expiry date.

PPE Categories:

When it comes to workwear, and their determined use, here are the categories that businesses must understand:

Category I (simple design)

This is all about minimal risks, and workers can assess the level of protection needed themselves. This could include the use of garden gloves, footwear or ski goggles for example.

Category II (neither simple or complex)

Including workwear such as dry and wet suits, clothing in this category don’t fall within the first or third set of categories.

Category III (complex design)

Aimed to protect employees against mortal danger, these items are complex in design and prevent any irreversible harm. To give you an idea, this could potentially include harnesses and respiratory equipment.

Staff and their PPEP compliance

Businesses will look to implement the correct PPE workwear, but are staff willing to wear it? Figures have suggested that 98% of employees have seen colleagues not wearing PPE when they were supposed to, with a further 30% saying this happens on a regular basis. Excuses varied as to why employees were not wearing the appropriate workwear with some suggesting that it looked unattractive, made them too hot, was a poor fit and was not very practical which should most definitely not be the case for such corporate workwear.

But why is it so important? Did you know that 9% of all injuries are head injuries because 84% of such occurrences have not been wearing the proper headwear? Or that 50% of construction workers experience a serious injury during their career? If workers wore proper safety eyewear, injury could be reduced by up to 90%.

Astonishingly, 25% of workplace injuries were to do with a staff members hand. This could be reduced by 60% if gloves are worn. 25% of employees are exposed to noise that are higher than the recommended level too, but such damage can be reduced 99% by wearing the right type of hearing protection.

Learning from this, it’s important that employees learn more about PPE and why it has been put in place. However, businesses must also take away from this article that workers feel uncomfortable in the PPE workwear that has been distributed to them – you must strike a balance between safety requirements and comfort to ensure that staff wear such equipment when needed.

This article was provided by tailored uniform specialists, Dimensions.

Sources:

https://ec.europa.eu/growth/sectors/mechanical-engineering/personal-protective-equipment_en

https://www.bsigroup.com/en-GB/blog/Built-Environment-Blog/ppe-directive-changes/

http://www.hse.gov.uk/toolbox/ppe.htm

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2018/390/made

https://legislationupdateservice.co.uk/news/new-personal-protective-equipment-regulation/

https://outlook.office.com/owa/?path=/mail/sentitems

GUEST BLOG: Working towards sustainability in FM

By Biffa

The clearest definition of sustainability within the FM industry is the focus on long-term environmental goals during decision-making and a notion of total waste segregation, closed loop recycling, and working towards the circular economy.

Currently for England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, there is little legislation requiring businesses to fully segregate and recycle waste, however much of UK businesses must comply with a simple ‘Duty of Care’ when it comes to disposing of business and commercial waste* and as such, waste is moving higher up the agenda in FM tenders.

The CSR and green credentials associated with effective waste management are strong, and many clients are increasingly driven by sustainability targets and are asking more of their FM professionals when it comes to providing the most carbon-efficient and environmentally positive solutions.

The best strategy that FM professionals can adopt is education, ensuring clients and all employees working on site, are fully aware of the recycling solutions available – this is applicable not only to internal recycling options, but also the transfer of waste and maximisation of external bin capacity in order to ensure operations are running as efficiently as possible.

This is where the opportunity to look at using new and innovative waste management solutions, tailored to a client’s individual needs, comes into play.

An informative approach must be taken when assessing the unique needs of a business, and Biffa is able to provide a bespoke on-site service, with dedicated contract managers available to be on hand to influence, enable and guide decisions on waste management for facilities.

These contract managers provide regular facility assessments face-to-face, offering cost cutting solutions and ways to streamline processes.

GUEST BLOG: Facilities Management firms need to streamline efficiencies ahead of Brexit

By Drey Francis, Director at Engage Technology Partners

While the Brexit ‘deal’ remains up in the air and the uncertainty continues for UK businesses, employers in the Facilities Management field are understandably nervous.

As an arena that has undoubtedly been heavily reliant on European talent to fill demand in a skills short environment, the potential to have an increasingly limited pool of staff to tap into is certainly a concern.

In fact, our recent pay data revealed that the Brexit vote has had a direct impact on hourly rates as businesses look to retain staff. According to the statistics, since the vote to leave the Bloc in 2016, hourly pay for skills-short roles has increased, with maintenance positions in particular noting an uptick in money. Handymen and mechanical maintenance professionals reported the greatest increase in the three years since the vote at 13% and 10% respectively, while electricians saw a 5% rise in hourly rates.

Given how sparse some of the talent for these roles is in general, it’s perhaps no wonder that employers are turning to financial incentives to attract staff. However, this isn’t a sustainable approach.

Of course, we still need to wait and see what happens in terms of the agreement on the Freedom of Movement for the UK, but action can be taken now to improve staffing efficiencies in order to better cope with the expected upheaval in Spring 2019.

So where can FM businesses streamline activity to better weather the storm that lies ahead?

Identify the right areas to improve

There’s long been a trend across the industry to limit supplier margins in order to reduce expenditure – a tactic that many will likely turn to as times get tough. However, the true results of this approach aren’t as impactful as you might perhaps be led to believe, and I would argue that this isn’t a sustainable strategy in a talent short market.

Margins have long been on a downward trajectory in recruitment, but when you consider that you ‘get what you pay for’, is this really the right tactic? Yes, identifying where there are inconsistencies in mark-ups will be a beneficial cost-cutting exercise, but only if done while also looking at the wider picture.

In my view, the greatest area of improvement across Facilities Management lies in the often lengthy and quite frankly, inefficient, administrative, recording and resourcing processes. Too often there is a lack of automation and data sharing that is causing significant ‘wastage’ in FM operations.

For example, compliance checks can often be duplicated as information is not stored in one centralised location. Resourcing mangers can also face budget overruns due to inefficient record keeping, with off-PSL agencies used to fill last minute demands when in fact the required staff could be found in other areas of the business. And with many recording tools often being used separate to payroll systems, the entire resourcing management process can become overly complex and the chance of errors occurring is increased.

Don’t forget the candidate experience

Perhaps more importantly, without a truly joined up approach, many candidates and employees are facing an experience that perhaps doesn’t resonate well with their expectations. With budgets pushed lower, the risk for people to be treated as commodities rather than the valued individuals that they are is increased.

And, of course, the limitations of some administrative processes can see staff paid late or not enough due to timesheet or filing errors. The result is a disgruntled workforce that is less engaged with your business and subsequently, more likely to steer clear of your business in the future. A less than ideal situation given that automating admin processes can often be relatively simple to implement.

And herein lies the biggest consideration for FM businesses: how much is it costing you to find out how much it costs? With a disjointed administrative process, it is arguably costing decision makers to find out where there are budget overruns and where savings can be made. All in all, money is being spent to look at how money can be saved, before any concrete action is taken.

But that doesn’t have to be the case – often it is the small efficiencies that can have the greatest impact.

For FM businesses, now really is the time to look at developing a joined-up approach to resource management before the chaos of Brexit truly hits home.

GUEST BLOG: Clamping down on your business’ energy costs in 2018

By Flogas

Energy bills are becoming a bigger focus for businesses around Britain — with the average organisation spending around £4,000. Becoming energy aware (and energy smart) can not only help businesses boost their bottom line, it can also dramatically reduce their carbon footprint – making for a more profitable, greener company all round.

The cost businesses are facing

Cost has changed over time, which has led to this newly found focus on energy supply. For most SMEs, gas and electricity charges now make up a considerable chunk of their monthly outgoings – taking a hefty portion of their profits. The majority of UK businesses are using between 15,000 and 25,000 kWh of power per year, but annual consumption figures for large business and industry can reach in excess of 250,000 kWh.

How will this impact the final bill? The latest data shows that businesses in the UK are spending an average of £3,061 on their annual electricity bills, and an additional £856 a year on gas. Small businesses in particular fare slightly better – but with the average electricity bill for an SME reaching £2,958 (and that’s before putting business mains gas into the equation), it’s still a considerable outlay.

A plan for cost reduction

Many industries will benefit from the right energy supplier and there are plenty ways to create a plan.

  1. Becoming more aware of your energy use

Before you make any core decisions around your energy plan, you must assess how much you actually use and how much it is currently costing you. The average unit prices in the UK are currently 14.36p per kWh for electricity and 4.25p per kWh for gas, with standing charges on top of this. Finding out your business’s annual usage figures – and knowing when your contract is due to come to an end – means you’re well equipped to accurately compare your current supplier’s prices with others on the market.

  1. Look at a range of energy suppliers

Research into other energy suppliers too. Ahead of your contract ending, it’s worth finding out how much switching could save you. And, whether you use a broker, online search or go direct, make sure you don’t limit yourself to the Big Six. Switching to a smaller business energy supplier could mean significantly lower bills, and benefits like better customer service.

  1. Analyse your current contract agreement

There’s plenty of energy suppliers willing to give you a better deal, so make sure you look at your current one before any renewals. For example, an extended fixed-term contract could help protect you against future price rises, giving some valuable peace of mind and making budgeting easier. Or there might be an additional discount on offer if you opt for a Direct Debit payment plan.

  1. Get a smart meter

Talk to your supplier about fitting a smart meter. That way you’ll know exactly how much your business energy supply is costing you day-to-day – and because you only pay for what you use, there’s no need for estimated billing or meter readings. As well as saving on monthly charges, it can also help you wise up to your company energy use and make better decisions on where you might be able to curb your consumption. Energy management software can also help provide useful insight for larger businesses.

  1. Find out where your energy is being used

There’s always room for improvement when it comes to your business’ energy use. It could be as simple as making sure computers are switched off outside of office hours, or putting your lights on a timer, but encouraging employees to find more efficient ways of working is a great place to start. Some companies even introduce incentive schemes to help foster better habits, offering staff tangible rewards for greener behaviour.

  1. Save

Always think of the bigger picture when it comes to energy consumption and try investing in equipment that understands the importance of efficient energy use.  While this approach might come with a heftier price tag in the first instance, any piece of kit that helps save energy on your everyday operations will pay for itself and more in the long run.

*Statistics from BusinessEnergy.com and article brought to you by gas mains supplier, Flogas.

GUEST BLOG: Managing changes to access control panels

As with all technology, access control panels have changed rapidly and frequently over the years. These changes have occurred both to physical access control panels, and digital access control such as smartphones.

Together with 2020 Vision, providers of the latest security solutions such as Cloud CCTV storage, we look at these changes in the past and use this information to predict future changes…

Advancement in technology

Keypads

We’ve come a long way since locks and keys! The way we entered restricted areas has changed over time — and it all started with the famous keypad. Similar to what we now see on ATMs, these were used to access locked areas and would require an individual to type in a specific numerical code to enter. The passcode would usually be around four to six digits long. But was this a viable method to protect a business? At the time, it was a revolutionary idea — but as times progressed, anyone could obtain the code and enter even if they weren’t authorised to do so. This was classed as a non-intelligent reader.

Card Readers

Keypads, however, became outdated technology with the introduction of card readers. Usually, a magnetic strip would be attached to the card which a staff member could then swipe through a narrow slot in order to gain access. However, such cards are now available with a bar code reader, a proximity reader, smart card readers, and biometric readers — tailoring each to specific business requirements.

IP Door Readers

The next stage of advancement came from IP readers, which could be accessed by card or by smartphone signals sent via Bluetooth. Biometrics are now also common in IP readers — unlike card readers and keypads, IP readers can operate independently as they hold an internal memory and if the details you provide do not match what the IP reader has knowledge of, you will not gain access.

The aforementioned changes took place in under 50 years. With such quick development, what’s next for access control panels?

Accessing smartphones

Most smartphones offer a variety of different ‘lock-screens’ as their access control panel. The use of passcodes is still common amongst most devices and are similar to keypads in terms of security. Biometric access, through the use of the fingerprint, is something that is relatively new and has revolutionised the way we get into our phones. However, in 2017, the iPhone X was released which saw tech-mogul company, Apple, introduce facial recognition as the main route to gaining access using a 3D sensor that can recognise the phone owner’s facial features. We suspect that this will be implemented across more smartphone devices in order to compete for the title of being the most accessible and the easiest. However, convenience and simplicity whether facial recognition, fingerprint scanning Bluetooth, and even a short PIN code come at a price they simplify access not only for the authorised user, but also for a potential attacker. So when it comes to implementing an Access Control System always seek the advice of an experienced security integrator.

What does the future hold?

We forecast that the fledgling technology of ‘eyeball recognition’ software will open the way to the next stage of access control panels. As no two people are the same, DNA ensures that access is being granted to the right person. Even in extreme and unlikely circumstances, if someone was to obtain your eyeball, they would still be unable to gain access.

Where imagined technology from movies once seemed out of reach, we are now seeing said technologies become reality. But moviemakers were unaware of how secure they would actually be. In “Diamonds are Forever” in the James Bond franchise, 007 tries to gain access through a ‘copy’ of the required fingerprint. Realistically, if this was to occur, there would be smudges on the fingerprint which would lead to alerts being made and a fail in gaining access.

In “Demolition Man”, we witnessed a group of criminals trying to escape prison with the use of a dead warden’s eye. In reality, this would not get past any sort of IRIS scan, as there is a detection process which determines whether the person is alive or not and a dead person’s pupil would not be responding to any light that is around.

Where do you see access control systems in the future? Will movies this year predict even greater possibilities? And the bigger question is: will they be brought to life? With the evolution of access control happening frequently, and becoming more intelligent, we are sure to see new additions soon.

Sources:

http://securecomminc.com/2014/06/19/the-evolution-of-access-control-systems/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keypad

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Card_reader

http://www.tech-faq.com/access-control.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IP_reader

https://www.isonas.com/news-education/the-evolution-of-access-control/

https://www.eyelock.com/index.php

http://www.digitus-biometrics.com/blog/biometric-security-in-movies/

 

GUEST BLOG: The most advanced buildings in the world

Technology is pushing the boundaries across the world, and the construction sector is seeing the same revolution.

Buildings can be planned to a finer detail than ever before, and architects can take their constructions to the next level, with easy access to information such as materials, building use, and climate. Oasys, providers of retaining wall solutions, has joined us to explore some of the best builds from around the world… 

Burj Khalifa in Dubai

The Burj Khalifa (pictured, above), sometimes called the Burj Dubai, stands at a staggering 2,722 feet and holds the crown as the tallest structure in the world. Starting construction in 2004 and finalising the project in 2008, many decisions had to be made to ensure that this neo-futurism structure was able to serve its purpose, acknowledging that it would be a free-standing building and understanding the hot climate it would be situated in.

Desalination plants provide Dubai with fresh water from sea water, which is then pumped to the Burj Khalifa and other skyscrapers through underground networks. When the water hits the Burj, it is distributed to every corner of every floor on every level. However, with 163 floors, this can become a complicated process, which shows us just how special the Burj Khalifa actually is in terms of design.

The structure was created by four architects, who realised that using one pump to send the water to the skyscraper’s heights would be dangerous due to the pressure that could cause the pipes to explode. To counter this problem, they came up with a plan to help the water flow up the building in different stages.

Starting from the basement, the next stage for the water is on the 40th floor reservoir. This then continues to a series of 200,000-gallon tanks until it reaches the top of the building. As the water reaches the top, the water then travels back down under its own weight — it is said that 946,000 litres of water are supplied per day which also helps the building stay cool in the hot climate.

As a desert city, keeping the building cool is a priority. Therefore, another water supply — an ice-chilled water system which is the first of its kind to be used in the Middle East — has also been implemented to enable substantial energy savings.

Taipei 101 in Taiwan

Next on the list is the previous tallest building in the world, the Taipei 101. Platinum certified for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), the building didn’t just focus on beating the then-tallest structure record. Up until 2016, the structure had the fastest elevator on the planet, which could travel from the 5th to 89th floor in 37 seconds!

Taiwan is no stranger to different buildings, housing everything traditional buildings and hyper-modern designs like the Tuntex Sky Tower. But what makes it so spectacular? Starting construction in 1999 and ending in 2004, the Taipei has 101 floors (if the name had not given it away) and is 1,666 ft in height — but the environmental factors that took over its design has changed the way we build for good.

Taiwan is frequently hit by natural disasters, and architects must keep this in mind when designing buildings. When it comes to Taipei 101, the structure can withstand high winds of 134 mph, which is due to the model prioritising resistance through the use of curtain walls, protected glass and high-performance steel. The walls can provide heat and ultraviolet protection by blocking external heat by 50%.

The building is supported by eight mega columns of 10,000 pounds of concrete per inch, along with 28 other steel columns. Within Taipei 101, there are outrigger trusses every eight floors which connect to the columns within the exterior to ensure secure resistance from probable natural disasters in and around Taiwan.

Apple Park, Campus 2: California

Apple, one of the biggest tech companies in the world, has recently moved premises. Worth a staggering $234.7bn, the company, which is now one of the biggest on the planet, was able to invest a further $5bn into a new building and move its tremendous workforce into a circular futuristic structure. The new office-space, which opened in April 2017 midway through construction, is made up of 175 acres — and is even bigger than The Pentagon.

With a roof made entirely of solar panels, it goes without saying that the building is super-energy efficient. The solar panels are capable of generating 17 megawatts of power (75% during peak daytime) and the company has aims to make the complex entirely powered by renewable energy in the future. Another four megawatts are powered through the use of biofuel and natural gas within the complex, using Bloom Energy Servers which are popular within the Californian region, with Google, Yahoo and Wal-Mart using them, too.

Natural air control, heating, and ventilation (HVAC) has been a top focus point for the design team of this building. To achieve this, air is allowed to flow freely between the inside and outside of the building, which can help assist for nine months of the entire year — highlighting the importance of such features in the DNA of design.

It will be interesting to see how technology continues to advance projects that require the balance of design and vital survival features. For example, London is set to have 13 new skyscrapers by 2026 — we know that these will be designed to uphold the ethical requirements for a modern-day structure.

Sources: https://www.airah.org.au/Content_Files/HVACRNation/2010/March2010/HVACRNation2010-03-F01.pdf

http://www.burjkhalifa.ae/en/the-tower/construction.aspx

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taipei_101

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_Park

GUEST BLOG: Is it true that women are not fairly treated in construction?

Recent research has found that one in five UK construction businesses have no women in senior positions, which is a cause for concern. But, what does the overall situation look like for women in this male-dominated industry?

Here to discuss women in construction and what the future may hold to create a more equal playing field is Niftylifts — a leading supplier of work platforms for a range of UK manufacturing and construction businesses…    

Women in construction: is gender inequality an issue?

When it comes to gender equality, it appears that the construction sector is not faring too well. According to Construction News, 50% of all construction firms claim they have never had a female manager. What is even more striking is that, when asking the women who did work within the industry, 48% claimed they had experienced gender discrimination in the workplace, with the most common example of this (28%) being inappropriate comments or behaviour from male colleagues. These are figures that prove that the industry still needs to enforce more regulations to change attitudes towards women in the industry and encourage equality.

How do construction firms handle equal wages? Nearly half of construction companies (42%) do not monitor equal pay between gender in the business and 68% were not aware of any initiatives to support women transitioning into senior roles. Furthermore, according to Randstad, 79% of men believe they earn the same as their female colleagues in the same position. However, 41% of women disagree — highlighting the need for better pay transparency within the industry to dispel perceptions that men are earning more.

The future of female roles in construction

But what do construction employees think about women’s roles in construction? 99% of roles in construction are filled by men, but 93% of construction workers believe having a female boss would not affect their jobs. In fact, they believe it would have a positive effect by improving the working environment.

All over the country, every sector is feeling the pressure of ensuring gender equality — could this help improve matters for women in construction? According to Randstad, female employees are anticipated to constitute just over 25% of the UK’s construction workforce by 2020. Also, employing more women could help ease the pressure of the sector’s low workforce numbers. With the industry raising concerns that it is experiencing a shortage of skilled workers, 82% of people working in construction agree that there is a serious skills shortage. If demand is expected to require an additional million extra workers by 2020, women could account for a significant portion of that — especially in senior roles, which have previously been bias towards their male colleagues.

By 2020, there will be more women in senior roles within this industry — if research and predictions are to be trusted. In 2005, there were just 6% of women in senior roles within the UK’s construction industry, but by 2015, this rose to 16%. It’s also vital to consider progression, so that we can ensure women get the chance to develop their careers. Back in 2005, 79% of women in the industry were dissatisfied with the progression of their careers. However, in 2015, this number more than halved to just 29%. Some of this progression was even attributed to the fact that almost half of women in the industry (49%) believe their employer to be very supportive of women in construction.

Ranstad reports that there remains a tendency within the industry to exclude women from male conversations or social events, with 46% of females experiencing being sidelined. A further 28% said they had been offered a less important role and 25% reported being passed over for promotion. While there are clearly changes to be made, there are a handful of positives regarding women in construction. Three quarters of female workers say that they would recommend a construction job to a female friend, daughter or niece, and there has been a 60% increase in the average annual salary for women in the construction sector in the past decade.

If progress continues and more focus is on gender equality, there’s no reason why women should not have better paid and more fulfilling roles in construction. But, there’s still a long way to go. Hopefully, by 2020, we can report further positive developments, making roles more attractive to females and providing a solution to the lack of skilled workers in the industry right now.

Sources

https://www.randstad.co.uk/women-in-work/women-in-the-uk-construction-industry-in-2016.pdf

http://rg-group.co.uk/whitepaper-women-and-the-construction-industry/

https://www.constructionnews.co.uk/analysis/cn-briefing/women-in-construction-what-do-the-numbers-say/10029022.article

https://www.constructionnews.co.uk/best-practice/skills/trad-ceo-there-is-a-definite-prejudice-against-women/10028845.article?blocktitle=Women-in-construction&contentID=20127

https://www.constructionnews.co.uk/analysis/editors-comment/tackling-gender-diversity-is-an-education-for-us-all/10028849.article?blocktitle=Expert-opinion&contentID=7125