The failures of 19th-century property developers, BAA’s cunning way of working to budget and Jamie Oliver’s efforts to reform school dinners all provide some lessons this week

A lesson from history

Trawling through past issues of this journal, I found many column inches devoted to the Cundy family in the first half of the 19th century. The father was a surveyor during the development of Grosvenor Estate land in central London. But his sons were less fortunate. James died young, while his brothers Joseph and Thomas – known as the Cundy brothers – engaged in speculative development in Belgravia. In the 1840s they were hit in the by the Victorian version of the credit crunch. Joseph was declared bankrupt and many of his projects were unbuilt. So, the Cundy brothers were developing in expensive parts of London until they were undone by speculative development. Now why does that sound so familiar?

Justice for Kevin Nind

Earlier this year, the readers of Building’s website were so incensed at the treatment of Nigel Gray, the Sussex builder who was so fed up with not being paid he demolished his own work, that they felt inspired to comment online. “Perhaps the BBC will consider a programme called Rogue Customers now,” wrote Kevin Nind, back in April. Someone was clearly paying attention – we hear Endemol, the creator of Big Brother, is producing a show for Channel 4 called Cowboy Customers, about builders like Gray. Sorry Kev, but there’s no copyright on web comments …


A new departure

Cost-cutting at BAA is now so bad that even the top brass are feeling the pinch. A mole tells me the policy at the airports operator is that no more than £150 can be spent on leaving parties – a wise edict, given how many of BAA’s capital projects team have checked out in recent months. Not even Andrew Wolstenholme, the man so widely lauded for delivering Heathrow’s Terminal 5, was exempt. I hear a hat had to be passed around the office to raise the money for his leaving gift – a book about the construction of T5. So much for on time and inside budget.

Raynsford to the rescue

Gordon Brown may style himself as the man for a crisis, but the real deal is former construction minister Nick Raynsford. Margaret Beckett, the housing minister, had been due to give the keynote speech at last week’s NHBC annual lunch, but had to withdraw at the last minute when a three-line whip called her to vote in the House of Commons on anti-terrorism laws. Enter Raynsford, with an eleventh hour performance. In the event, he was able to vote anyway. However, this does rather beg the question: why was Beckett’s vote deemed to count for more than Raynsford’s?

The naked subcontractor

Refurbishment – for long the least sexy topic on the sustainability agenda – is set to have a makeover with the help of Grand Designs’ frontman Kevin McCloud.

Paul King, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council, is planning a roadshow with him to get people excited about insulation. “I want him to do for existing stock what Jamie Oliver did for school dinners,” says King. I feel warmer already.

Something on your face?

It’s difficult to hide behind a canape – something a group of men realised last week as they tried to cover up their upper lips with mini duck pancakes at an event held by law firm FSI. They were all sporting comedy moustaches for “Movember”, the month of hilarious facial hair, to raise funds to help tackle prostate cancer. “We want to achieve end-twirling status before the end of the month,” says team leader Richard. He adds, though, that his ’tache has been a woman-repeller. “It is doing nothing for my luck with the opposite sex,” he admits. But they’ve already raised £600 for charity – help out at