This week, BIM-hating zombies lose the battle for the industry’s best rock band, how to build from peanut shells, plus the pain of legacy contracts, financial investigations and burst appendices

Worth a buck or two

My attention was drawn to a “blog” this week on the world’s most expensive homes. Hosted by a website entitled The Most Expensive Homes, it features several magnificent buildings, including London’s Kensington Palace Gardens, valued at about £200m and owned by Lakshmi Mittal, he of ArcelorMittal – the world’s largest steel producer – and one of India’s richest men. But topping the list is Buckingham Palace, valued at $1.55bn, or £1.2bn. Home to Her Majesty the Queen, the palace has witnessed much in its 300-year history, including a scrape with the Luftwaffe during a bombing raid in the Second World War. It’s also had its share of upgrades over the centuries, but the imminent – not to mention controversial – £369m refurbishment programme should see it through the next few hundred years. Value added? I should coco.

Out of time, out of money

It’s easy to think life was simpler before newfangled apps and mobile devices became the modern addiction. But the limits of early 1990s technology had some surprising frustrations, as architect Ken Shuttleworth revealed to a colleague of mine the other day. Back in the mists of time – around 1994 – after Shuttleworth had helped Fosters win the redesign of Berlin’s Reichstag parliament building, the practice shipped a load of computers to Germany for the project. A year later Fosters received a phone bill as thick as the old yellow pages: it turned out that the computers’ internal clocks were set an hour out and had been dialling back to the UK every minute to check in with Blighty. Who says we don’t like to keep lines of communication open with our friends in the EU?

Carry on contracting 

Contractors must wonder at times whether it’s all worth it. Spie UK, the former Matthew Hall M&E business that was once part of Amec, is the latest firm to turn in a thumping loss thanks to the curse of all builders everywhere: legacy contracts. I think we can rename deals of this sort as “how on earth did we ever end up with this job?”. Cenkos analyst Kevin Cammack puts it another way: “Contracting … the gift that keeps on giving.”

A rubbish result

We’re all in danger of drowning in rubbish of one sort or another, so I was delighted to read of a prediction by Arup that “organic waste”, such as bananas, potatoes and maize, could in future be used as building material. A report by the firm suggests partition boards made from peanut shells and insulation from waste potatoes could be a good outcome for everybody, both economically and environmentally – although I suspect no unwanted spuds were ever used in Urban Splash’s Chips building in Manchester.

A welcome return

I see Mitie’s chief executive Phil Bentley has returned to work after being out of action with a ruptured appendix. Some wags might be tempted to say the firm’s recent performance has ruptured the insides of its shareholders, given the £43m annual loss posted earlier this year and the news it is being investigated by the Financial Conduct Authority over the timing of a profit warning. Still, it’s good to see the chief executive return, and Mitie’s shareholders must be hoping the Project Helix restructuring initiative to turn around the firm’s fortunes eventually manages to come up with a similarly clean bill of health.

Bim zombies

BIM bam bop

The hippest cats in the industry converged on Scala in London last week for the annual Construction Rocks battle of the bands charity bash. Some 17 bands entertained hundreds of friends, colleagues and the merely curious to an array of cover versions in support of LandAid. My favourite ensemble was a 13-piece outfit named Public M&E (a play on words, or so I’m told), who coincidentally won Best Band with a medley of soul and pop classics. An honourable mention must also go to the BIM Zombies (pictured), whose pathological hatred of all things BIM came across in their punk-influenced set. Asked by a judge what exactly BIM was, one band member replied: “How long have you got?” Quite.


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