This week, the industry takes a fresh look at urban regeneration, pay packets, energy performance certificates and even the design of the humble chair

Gone to the docks

Persuading people to invest in the Thames Gateway is no easy sell at the best of times. However, it was particularly unfortunate that the first day of last week’s Thames Gateway Forum at the ExCeL centre in London Docklands, coincided with an almost complete failure of Docklands Light Railway services to the exhibition hall. One delegate, noting the irony of the situation, grumbled: “It’s been impossible to get to an event that is full of speakers telling us how great the transport links are in the Gateway. It doesn’t look good.”

Addressing the chair

Nothing has been left to chance in transforming the way children are taught in Kent. Under the first phase of the county’s £600m Building Schools for the Future deal, architect HKS has come up with some visionary building designs which include open-plan “home bases” instead of classrooms and what are known as “pod-like learning vessels”. The pièce de résistance, however, comes with the design for the county’s very own “Kent” chair. But any pupils expecting some futuristic easy lounger will be disappointed. Early images show a plastic seat with four legs. Radical.

They should be so lucky

Though some newly jobless members of the housebuilding industry may be fuming at their directors’ self-awarded bonuses (see below), they should reassure themselves that it could be worse. The 500 members of staff at Dubai developer Nakheel who were this week given their marching orders must be wondering whether the £10m their former employer threw at the opening party of the Atlantis Hotel last month could have been spent more wisely. Or, for that matter, the rumoured £3m it cost to build its stand, complete with a 40ft model of the proposed Nakheel Tower, at the recent Cityscape conference. If you ask me, the Atlantis entertainment, Kylie Minogue, was the better investment in the current climate.

Mincing their words

Some of the descriptions of the Taylor Wimpey rescue talks have been pretty restrained considering the housebuilder’s survival is on the line. The company kicked things off last month when it described the pace of talks with lenders as “a tad disappointing”. It continued days later when one source said Taylor Wimpey was feeling “pretty grumpy” about the delays. Then last week, a spat between the creditors was described by one person in the know as “some silliness among the banks”. I suppose if Taylor Wimpey manages to restructure its £1.9bn debt it would be “jolly happy”.

The other Paul King

Consultant Rider Levett Bucknall is clearly taking the issue of energy performance certificates (EPCs) seriously. A missive arrived last week urging recipients to heed new legislation surrounding EPCs and their extrovert cousin display energy certificates. And the man to contact if you wish to “stay legal”? None other than Paul King. Does this mean the chief executive of the UK Green Building Council is leading a secret double life? Or, more seriously, is the sustainability industry about to be inundated by an outbreak of Paul Kings? You’ve been warned.

Taking exception

It was nice to see Bellway bosses looking about them when awarding bonuses this year. The housebuilder said “genuinely exceptional circumstances” meant they would tone down bonuses to 55% of basic salaries. For John Watson, the company’s chief executive, that meant a £275,000 bonus on top of his £500,000 salary. The company said this extreme economy had also been prompted by the weaker financial performance of fellow housebuilders. I wonder if the 400 Bellway workers made redundant this year were consoled?

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