This week we look at surgical masks for coronavirus, a dog with a taste for construction and a developer going vegetarian

Not to be sneezed at

Hansom new 2008

While I hear Chinese investors might be being politely asked to steer clear of their schemes in London because of the coronavirus, a Preston sheet piling specialist has donated 2,000 surgical masks to former suppliers in China. Because of the impact of the virus, it is becoming harder to get hold of the masks and the country has made an appeal to firms across the globe to supply them. The firm’s managing director Andrew Cotton adds: “This has been hugely appreciated and we would urge others to do the same.”

No fool her

Persimmon, the under-fire but still hugely profitable housebuilder, has gone and hired itself a new non-exec director in the form of Joanna Place, latterly the former chief operating officer of the Bank of England. She joins on 1 April, chairing its corporate responsibility committee and sitting on its remuneration committee. Given her 30 years of experience in areas such as finance, regulation, property and procurement, I’m guessing she’ll be keeping a tight rein on bonuses.

Vegging out at work

My environmental credentials are tip-top, as regular readers will know, and so I raised a glass of Soil Association-approved bubbly to staff at developer Igloo Regeneration who have opted to go vegetarian to save the planet and haven’t been putting through expenses for meals that contain meat. Lest some think this a somewhat draconian policy, it is, I understand, self-policing. But as one staffer behind the move admitted: “If you decided you really wanted a bacon sandwich, that’s fine, but the company won’t pay for it.”

Expect fog

Firms in this industry are forever having to put up with more fiendishly complex ways to reinvent the wheel – and by that I mean bid for work. A new one has cropped up: dynamic purchasing systems being used by a number of local authorities. Questioned over what that exactly is in plain English, an architect friend began confidently enough. “It’s like a framework,” he said. “But I’m not too sure after that.” If I knew how to do emojis, it would be a face-palm.

On the move

Dave Smith, who earlier this month swapped heading up Balfour Beatty’s £300m southern business to become non-exec chairman at the soon-to-be-renamed AMCM, popped by recently. He tells me that he began life selling ad space for advertising bible Campaign, owned by Michael Heseltine’s publishing group Haymarket. Smith gave up his Piccadilly office after a year, joining McAlpine as a QS in 1980 just one day after being interviewed for the role by a man who smoked a pipe throughout. How times change. His first job was to help build the Founder’s Arms pub on the riverfront at Blackfriars. Sounds much more fun.

The Trump effect

In the lead-up to Donald Trump’s two-day visit to India earlier this week, all hands were on deck in the western city of Ahmedabad where the US president landed. For example, workers were racing to finish a 6ft high, 200 yard wall in front of a slum along a road near the airport. Municipal commissioner Vijay Nehra said it was just a coincidence, the wall was always going to happen … Perhaps they’re hoping to land a deal on the Mexican border. Other “coincidental” preparations included buffing up the Taj Mahal, resurfacing roads, laying pavements, fixing street lamps and so on. Perhaps Trump could come and visit some of the London roads I cycle on and maybe those long-standing potholes might magically disappear.

A dog-eared copy


Not everyone seems to love Building as much as I do. The office pooch at Eastbourne architect Challinor Hall doesn’t seem to be our biggest fan. I can only assume his owners were so enthralled by our fascinating content, the loveable rogue had no choice but to destroy it in order to attract their attention … Mind you, there’s always plenty to chew on in Building.

Send any juicy industry gossip to Mr Joseph Aloysius Hansom, who founded Building in 1843, at