This week, we at Building Towers have judged a book by its cover, asked a silly question (with matching answer), noted the differences between fools and enjoyed a little tale about a Heron and a Fox

A word to the unwise

Many would agree that there’s no shortage of bad advice in the industry, but now someone has thoughtfully written it down in one handy volume. Barry Ashmore’s the Little Book of Crap Advice For Specialist Subcontractors is filled with such gems as: “When pricing variations, over-measure quantities. Don’t worry about having to justify the cost: QSs can’t count.” Ashmore follows this up with: “Conceal the fact you have over-measured from your boss. You can be sure he will see the funny side when he employs expensive consultants to resolve the account.” Visit for more hilarity, and search for “challenge the chief” to put question to construction tsar Paul Morrell. Has he been told, I wonder?

Non-uniform day

We can confirm that the division between architects and contractors is alive and well. At last week’s indoor cycling event at Modular Lighting there were lots of blazers, cords and asymmetric haircuts, all clearly belonging to architects. But who was the lone suit with the spiky hair? “Are you an architect too?” I asked. “Do I look like a [expletive deleted] architect?” he replied. Good point, Mr-Sir-Robert-McAlpine-and-Proud-Of-It.

Foolin’ around

We who toil on this publication are naturally tickled when our April’s fool stories take readers in, but our inbox tells us most of you aren’t fooled for long. Unless, of course you work for Lexis Nexis. A reader at Brent council tells me he recently received a “procurement update” from the information provider that contained our 1 April tale of a legal battle between Vinci and the Wurzels. At least I think it was an April fool …

The fox and the heron

The fox and the heron

The topping out of the Heron Tower last week required some top notch diplomacy skills from Heron International boss Gerald Ronson and Skanska chief executive Johan Karlström as they thanked the team for all their hard work. During the traditional name check they, somewhat vaguely, credited “the designers”. It’s easy to guess why. While Kohn Pedersen Fox officially won the scheme, Lee Polisano, the firm’s former London head, subsequently led a walk out to set up PLP Architects. With both now on the job, it probably made sense to keep credits loose, especially as Polisano and KPF chairman Gene Kohn, who haven’t spoken since the split, were both at the event – albeit on separate sides of the room.


Question of the week: will Birmingham’s only krautrock-influenced band made of builders survive? The Cubes, led by singer, guitarist and former Birmingham Development Company director Neil Edginton, may not have had much time to practice recently, given the collapse of the scheme from which the band drew its name. I do hope that the rumoured wrangling over the price of the cladding at the Birmingham super-development hasn’t led to artistic differences in the band … more than half of its members are, after all, from German cladding company Haga.

The great escape

Our industry has not been unaffected by the volcanic ash covering northern Europe this week. Building has been inundated with stories of Dunkirk spirit from plucky building bods. A rousing cheer, then, for Simon Rawlinson, partner at Davis Langdon, who escaped from Malmö by hiring “the last coach in Sweden” to get an overnight ferry to Hull – an ordeal in anyone’s language. Meanwhile, McBains Cooper boss Michael Thirkettle was stranded in the Algarve, juggling family and work commitments by internet. Others struggled to Calais by rail, to be told the boats were taking cars but not foot passengers. The design team from Electra Lighting was rescued by a relative, who drove over after their BA flights were cancelled. Their saviour? A pilot from the same airline. Now that’s customer service.