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Alumet's  Dry Wall Beam fast-track cladding system in action
Alumet's Dry Wall Beam fast-track cladding system in action

Alumet systems
Alumet’s Avon Dry Wall Beam presents a compelling case for the effectiveness of off-site manufacture.

This fast-track cladding option, and alternative to blockwork for the inner leaf of cavity walls, can be delivered as a complete unit, in flexible sizes, direct to site. Combined with the fact that it can be erected in almost any weather, this explains why it reduces construction time for the inner leaf by up to 65% and the overall building construction period by up to 40%. Independent research has also highlighted annual running cost savings of 48p/m2 of walling compared with brick and block construction.

The beam has also performed impressively in air-leakage tests, as it creates an impermeable envelope around the building. This allows internal works to get under way immediately and offers further cost savings for early completion. This has persuaded big-name clients to take it up; for example, HBG Construction put in a £2.6m order for its work on St James’s Hospital in Leeds.

Runners up

Abbey pynford
Much of the UK’s new housing, particularly in the growth areas of the South-east, is being built on shrinkable clays or contaminated brownfield sites. With this in mind, a foundation system that allows for ground heave and provides ventilation for gases is a valuable addition to the market. Step forward Abbey Pynford, whose Housedeck system has been adopted by many volume housebuilders. Cost-effective and environment-friendly, Housedeck could put new heart into Britain’s foundations industry.

Angle ring company
Angle Ring has been a pioneer in steel bending for the past 50 years; in the past 12 months, however, it has made exceptional progress in the spiral and 3D bending of structural sections, and this has opened new avenues for the design and construction of feature steelwork and spiral staircases.Structural beams, channels, hollows and tubes can now be curved to accurate spiral profiles with minimal deformation – as can be witnessed on the dramatic arches of Tipton Sports Academy in the West Midlands.

Hotchkiss has used 3D technology to create a virtual ductwork world. Its current package allows the firm to import and export ductwork layouts into various formats and carry out a walkthrough in true 3D. It also carries out automatic clash detection to avoid avoidable delay. The firm then uses CAD-CAM software to automatically transfer data from drawings to fabrication machinery. This, and other software developments, has greatly accelerated the production cycle on large projects such as the Royal London Hospital and Heathrow Terminal 5.

Armed with a £60,000 government grant, a three-man team from Shellform set themselves the small task of developing an environment- friendly, off-site manufactured, insulated housing envelope, complete with prefabricated services, without the need for a separate structural frame. What they came up with was the Shellform panel – a highly insulated cast-stone external facade panel, with gaps for service runs, that can carry a vertical load of 35 tonnes per metre width. The team hopes the system could soon slash the cost of housebuilding.

Stent foundations
The point at which a project is most vulnerable to a serious cock-up is probably in its earliest stages, where demolition, earthmoving and piling operations can all take place concurrently.

In an effort to improve this, Stent developed SHERPA, an IT system that wirelessly connects site staff to a server containing all design data and schedules. The benefits of the system have already been demonstrated on megasites such as Wembley stadium and the redevelopment of King’s Cross.