Dopers are no longer welcome at this column, which has adopted a demeanor almost presbyterian in its unsmiling seriousness. Which makes its neon-pink roller-skating tomato that much odder …

Out of the frying pan, into the jail cell

Atkins’ dedication to safety got them into a spot of bother in the Middle East, I hear. Staff at the company’s Qatar office were shocked to discover that their building had no fire warning system. So, like the enterprising engineers they are, they fashioned a sophisticated system whereby a fire marshal would, in the event of a conflagration, bang frying pans together. An impromptu test was carried out, and employees duly flooded the street … only to be accosted by police, convinced they were a riot in progress.

Nigel Griffiths: the wilderness years

To the wilds of Norfolk last week to visit the Constructionarium, where student teams were building small-scale replicas of such projects as Arup’s Kingsgate footbridge in Durham and the Swiss Re tower, with Nigel Griffiths, the former construction minister, in attendance. Griffiths, lest we forget, resigned from the government in protest at the renewal of Trident, and his standing appears to have suffered. “It’s a great pleasure to be invited … well, anywhere, really,” announced the diminutive Scot. Griffiths’ star should be waxing soon, though – a certain Gordon Brown was the best man at his wedding.

Credit: Scott Garrett

Nor, indeed, did they inhale

Alas, I may have got carried away with my incendiary anecdote last week about the Construction Confederation’s brush with psychotropic substances. I have been assured that whatever Home Office-approved testing was going on, it was an exaggeration to suggest that everyone at Tufton Street was puffing on wacky baccy. The last thing we’d want to do is impugn their professionalism, so please accept a puff on our peace pipe, fellows – and rest assured there’s only tobacco in this one.

Green coach gets on the bus

Word reaches me that carbon coach Dave Hampton has quit as deputy chair of the Construction Industry Council’s sustainable development committee. The reason, it seems, is that the group was not “moving with the carbon times”. Hampton wanted it to back an initiative called contraction and convergence. The others said no. So, now Hampton is free to focus on his new role as spokesperson for the Chartered Institute of Building.

Alright for some

Guests at British Land’s Broadgate Tower topping-out ceremony were treated in a manner befitting its status as the City of London’s third tallest building. The event was hosted in the comfortable, fully-clad 16th floor rather than on the roof. Here guests could enjoy their champagne while watching a video link to the roof, where Murray Coleman, the Bovis Lend Lease boss, was grappling with a huge spanner.

Did you see what I saw?

Alistair Barr, of Barr Gazetas Architects, got two gigs for the price of one when he was asked to design Peninsula Square in front of 02, the former Millennium Dome, which was launched in a flurry of entertainment last week. As well as designing it, he got to play in it with his rock band. He was in good company: other acts included a stilt-walking juggler, a fire-eater and, of course, a neon-pink-and-blue tomato on roller skates.