This week, lessons have been learned all over the place: the RIBA continues to take tips from the UK’s first female architect, while the rail minister seems to have ascertained it’s alright to go massively over budget

Hansom HT

Off the rails

Sometimes lessons are learned the hard way. The Sheffield-to-Rotherham “tram-train” - whatever that is – being a case in point. A pilot project to “test the technology”, the costs of the scheme accelerated as quickly as, er, a runaway tram-train. In July 2016, with the project already two years late, an advisory board recommended its scrapping, as “lessons of using tram-trains in the UK had already been learned” (presumably that they are a terrible idea?). Undeterred, rail minister Paul Maynard kept his hand on the lever, and the tram-train kept chugging along. It is due to reach its destination in May next year, already four times over budget. Perhaps the lesson is that expensive trials of new rail technology are fine, regardless of our straitened public finances. Roll on HS2 …

What’s in a name?

Older readers might remember when it was the all the rage for builders to be given a support services listing on the stock exchange - the reasoning being that their shares were priced higher at this rating rather than being listed as a humble contractor. Road builder Alfred McAlpine was one that springs to mind. I thought of this as I made my way through Costain’s most recent trading update. The firm described itself thus: “[Costain] deploys technology-based engineering solutions to meet urgent national needs across the UK’s energy, water and transportation infrastructures.” It’s all a bit of a mouthful, I think. How about just saying “civil engineering contractor”?

Even Google doesn’t know everything

My hack went over to King’s Cross recently to listen to trade minister Greg Hands discuss a new initiative to get UK construction bidding for work as one UK team across the globe. Finding the building proved a bit tricky, mind, as it didn’t come up on a Google maps search. Funnily enough, the event was held in a building opposite the planned European HQ Lendlease is set to construct for the tech giant – so it begs the question whether Google’s maps function will be able to recognise its own building when it opens in a few years’ time.

Ethel’s legacy

Last week saw the inaugural Ethel Day down at the RIBA, in honour of Ethel Charles, the first woman admitted to the institute 119 years ago. It’s a new annual event to celebrate the achievements of women architects. Anyone promoting diversity falls under scrutiny to see if they practise what they preach, so how did the RIBA do at its “Change in the City” international conference the same week? The highlight was a panel of leading architects chaired by former Cabe director Sarah Gaventa, who drew the audience’s attention to its six-strong make-up, which included architects Sir David Chipperfield, Odile Decq, Ma Yansong, Elizabeth Diller and Amanda Levete. Gaventa said: “One boy, one girl, one boy, one girl – and then we ran out of boys.” The RIBA is walking the walk as well as talking the talk.

Lest we forget

Engineer Cundall has been busily mapping a network of forgotten tunnels and trenches that were dug on MoD land on Salisbury Plain. They were found following surveys at the Larkhill site ahead of 400 homes being built for returning soldiers from posts overseas. The trenches represented British and German front lines, built for training prior to sending troops to fight on the Western Front. There was an added element of surprise because a century ago genuine grenades were used to create a realistic experience - and all those years later, half of them were still live.

Kickabout for a good cause

Downwell Surveyors Cup 2017

Potter Raper were the winners of the Downwell Surveyors Cup 2017

Five-a-side football is a simple game for surveyors – 10 players kick a ball around for half an hour and then Potter Raper wins on penalties. At least, that was what happened in the annual Downwell Surveyors Cup this month, where the consultancy defeated Arcadis in the final after drawing 3-3 in normal time. So Potter Raper walked away victorious with the trophy – or possibly swam, by the look of that picture. One consolation for Arcadis was Peter Nelis being named player of the tournament, while everyone was a winner for raising £1,685 on the day for Jonjo Heuerman’s For Nanny and Bobby Charity.

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