While Willmott Dixon employees escape with their jobs, Make’s staff avoid being crushed by a steel tree and Gordon Brown dodges Mandarin quantity surveying manuals

Non-complex communication actualisation

BAA will have had better months, what with revelations about looming job cuts and the odd crash landing at Heathrow. On top of all that, it now has to deal with the Plain English Campaign, which has launched a devastating intervention into the debate over whether or not to expand Heathrow. It has described the wording of a recent consultation document on Heathrow’s additional runway as “atrocious” and refused to attend any further meetings as a result. On the other hand, it does sound as though the problem has solved itself …

A bit close to home

“You’re fired!” is probably a familiar phrase in the offices of housebuilders these days, but staff at contractor Willmott Dixon can rest easy when they hear it from John Frankiewicz, their chief operating officer. Apparently, it’s all part of the company’s long running “project innovator” scheme. The aim is to encourage staff to come up with ideas that Willmott can use to its advantage. The whole thing culminates in an event that apes TV’s “The Apprentice”, in which Frankiewicz ruthlessly sorts the wheat from the conceptual chaff. At least they can come back to work the next day.

Chinese whispers

I hear that the practices of our nation’s noble QSs are being emulated in China. So taken are the Chinese with our auspicious methods of adding up bills of quantities that they have actually translated SMM7, the standard method of measurement, into Mandarin. No wonder Gordon Brown was so keen to get out to Beijing last week.

Credit: Scott Garrett

Nerves of steel

A gigantic tree-like column greets visitors in the lobby of Make Architects’ new building at 55 Baker Street in west London. The imposing steel support was erected by a Liverpool ship building company. This lot are used to bolting together 10,000-tonne boats, so the majestic column struck them as “cute”. However, John Puttick, the project architect, tells me that there were some nerves during the installation of the structure, which supports the building: “Expedition Engineering, said it would either fail in the first two hours, or not at all,” says Puttick. “There weren’t many people around when it went in.” Thankfully, the engineer’s calculations were right, and Make’s cute column remains.

Division of labour

Michael Thirkettle, the chief executive of McBains Cooper, tells me he’s kept in check at home by a system of “pink and blue jobs”. Pink jobs are any his wife is happy to do, while blue jobs are deemed to be ones for men, and can include anything from taking out the bin, to DIY. McBains’ logo is blue, but I’m assuming that doesn’t mean there are only jobs for boys …

Guerrilla developing

It must be frustrating when a planning decision goes against you, but it seems one developer has reacted particularly badly. Clifford Gardner simply ignored Wandsworth council when it refused to grant him permission to build a restaurant and bar in the vaults of Putney bridge in south-west London. He is now facing prosecution for drilling large holes in a grade II-listed structure.

I understand this is not the first time Gardner has been in trouble with the authorities – back in 2005 he was struck off by the Architects Registration Board for practising architecture without insurance. To see the pictures of his attempted river view restaurant go to building.co.uk and search for “Putney bridge”.