The Sunday Times' annual rich list usually makes excruciating reading for the industry, since even our best-paid execs struggle to scrape a place. But its table of the UK's top earners, published last weekend, makes happier reading. The third biggest earner is 77-year-old housebuilder Peter Prowting, whose firm was sold to Westbury for £141m in May, netting the family a huge £88.5m.
Prowting's earnings are only topped by retailing king Philip Green and hairdresser John Frieda. Builders merchant Tony Travers (£48.9m) and another housebuilder, David Wilson (£37.7m), also make the top 20 – ahead of such celebrities as Madonna, Sir Paul McCartney and Harry Potter author JK Rowling. Perhaps the Construction Industry Training Board could use this in its next campaign to convince the next generation that, these days, selling houses is the new rock 'n' roll.
Close to the summit
At last week's urban summit deputy prime minister John Prescott's press office caused ripples by banning the media from the main conference hall. The hacks were banished to a separate room to watch the main events via video link, where the technology inevitably screwed up and covered Prescott's face with a computer tool-bar for the first half of his speech. But at least the socially-excluded press pack was in illustrious company: RIBA president Paul Hyett attended the summit disguised as a journalist, complete with press pass. Was this part of an RIBA cost-cutting drive, I wonder?
Speaking in tongues …
Students of the deputy prime minister's peculiar dialect – known as Prescottish – had a field day at the summit, at which the DPM came up with several new terms to add to the lexicon. There was the Thamesway Gateway for the Thames Gateway and Mywookie for Milwaukee. But he was upstaged by the next speaker, Barcelona mayor Joan Clos, who announced he was going to speak "ScotCat" – a mixture of Scottish and Catalan – and would "invent new grammatical rules" as he went along. Still, conference-goers tell me Clos' English was better than Prescott's.
… and talking plainly
From linguistic inaccuracies to political incorrectness. At a summit fringe meeting, Argent chief executive Roger Madelin addressed the sensitive issue of developing housing for the socially excluded and economically disadvantaged. Madelin's grasp of the jargon was spot-on, until he felt a sudden need to share his thoughts. "I like the poor, but they do have bloody horrible kids!" he said, to much laughter.
At least Prescott showed up at the urban summit: apparently, he's developing a reputation for no-shows. Two-Jags was down to pay a visit to east London's Spitalfields regeneration scheme last week, but a hurriedly scheduled meeting with the Fire Brigades' Union kept the big man away.
It seems his non-attendance was not entirely unexpected at contractor Andy Hill Partnerships. "We didn't waste a lot of time tidying the site," admitted managing director Andy Hill.
Scoring a century
When you think award-winning architect, the names Foster, Rogers and Grimshaw spring to mind. I would therefore like to pass on my congratulations to architectural conservationist Donald Insall Associates, which recently celebrated its 100th award. And it could well be that the practice's 101st and 102nd awards come for the work it has carried out alongside the aforementioned leading lights: with Foster on the refurbishment of the Treasury, and with Grimshaw on the Bath Spa project. If so, this could be proof that we are entering a new era of harmony between modernists and traditionalists.
Building British greatness Who is the greatest Briton of all time? The BBC is asking that question right now in its Great Britons series. Quite rightly, the Association of Consulting Engineers wants a figure from the industry to win – more precisely, visionary 19th-century engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. When I checked on the BBC's website earlier this week, Brunel was in second place – behind Princess Diana. More votes must be mobilised. Visit www.bbc.co.uk/history/programmes/ greatbritons or phone 09011 221066.
I have good news for my journalist colleagues who work for Rupert Murdoch. His firm, News International, has been considering selling its vast HQ at Wapping, close to London's Tower Bridge, and moving east to Deptford. This hasn't gone down too well with the hacks, so they will be relieved to hear that the latest plan is to move the printing press east, but keep the journalists in their central location – to ensure they don't miss out on any of the latest stories.