Kisiel Group’s view of the collapse of Carillion

Sustainability in the construction industry has taken a bit of a knock with the news that Carillion has gone into receivership.

Although not entirely unexpected, it is important that the government does not prop up a failing business that is no longer viable. To do this would indicate that mis-management can be rewarded.

The government are offering advice to employees and suppliers of Carillion to try to reassure them following the winding up order and the appointment of the Official Receiver. It will be a big shock to the approximate 20,000 employees in the UK and it must be remembered that this impacts not just on the employee but also their families. I also have huge empathy, as Managing Director of an SME construction company, with the impact on a large number of construction sub-contractors facing uncertainty about work contracts and if they will be paid for the work already undertaken. It is likely that some of them will also end up in receivership. So, the impact will be far reaching.

This highlights the issue that sub-contractors will also be owed money in retentions, even though they have finished on the contracts providing skilled services and this is already under consideration by government with their consultation deadline of 19/1/18.

Annie Summun, my General Manager, attended a meeting only last week at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), to discuss the very relevant issues around payment frameworks, withholding of retention payments and a review of the adjudication process. It appears that many large companies withhold retainers unfairly from their sub-contractors, impacting on the cashflow for the smaller companies, either as they do not have the funds available and wish to delay the cost of borrowing or if they have the funds they are using the money to bolster their balance sheet.

Speaking to one of the Master Builders, Kevin McLoughlin, who attended the meeting at BEIS, he advised that the collapse of Carillion had impacts for his company who had been working with them on 3 contracts: staff are temporarily taken off work, he is likely to lose money that is owed to him and he has also lost his forward order book.

Another participant, Terry Wilkinson, said that he accepts that there is a need of ‘larger’ companies to manage the large infrastructure projects but the contract needs to be split up into smaller main contractor units. There is a need for change and surely it is time for the government to have a re-think.

So, should we not now be looking to SME companies to be taken more seriously in the procurement process for construction projects. SME companies are varied: some are specialist, some are more generalist, of differing sizes and offering different skill sets, whilst some are involved in infrastructure projects in the public sector, others are building new housing or undertaking renovations for private clients. Talking to a local councillor from Tooting recently at our stand at London Build, he said that SMEs are more adaptable than large companies and ‘quality’ is a key aspect of their work. So, we have a wealth of skills to be tapped.

As the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) have stated, ‘The Government must learn from Carillions’s demise and assess its over-reliance on major contractors.’ Brian Berry, Chief Executive of FMB, helped to promote SMEs by saying that ‘The Government needs to open up public sector construction contracts to small and micro firms by breaking larger contracts down into smaller lots. That way, it can spread its risk while also reaping the benefits that come from procuring a greater proportion of its work from a broad range of small companies’.

SMEs are the future of the construction industry and I would urge you to support us at every opportunity you get to create a sustainable future.

Choosing The Right Natural Paint

Sustainable building products have seen remarkable improvements in the last decade. Historically, these products have prioritised safety over quality, in an effort to appeal to the environmentally-conscious market.

Thanks to recent developments in technology, green companies have improved the quality of their products to rival those used traditionally. This has been true for natural paints. While the demand for sustainable paints has not yet reached the mainstream levels, its popularity has seen tremendous growth over the last decade.

Why Are Traditional Paints Harmful?

Traditional paints contain a high level of VOC’s or volatile organic compounds. These carcinogenic chemicals have been linked to a host of environmental problems like indoor and outdoor air pollution. Further, those working around active VOC’s have an increased risk of cancer.

Proper disposal of paint is an additional source of concern. The EPA averages that 10% of all paint purchased is unused. The excess can either be processed at a hazardous waste facility, costing nearly €7 euros for every 5 liters disposed. The paint that is irresponsibly discarded can contaminate more than 250,000 gallons of drinking water underground.

Making the Switch

Companies looking to make the switch from traditional paint to a natural choice should decide which type of eco-friendly paint is best for their project. Low level VOC paints are available from most commercial companies. In recent years, these products have become very popular. While reduced VOC’s offer a great improvement, it’s important to check the formula list. Consumers should inquire about the ingredients, especially if the can is lacking a label.

For those looking for a completely natural choice, VOC-free paint is an excellent solution. Natural paints are:

  • 100% VOC free
  • Biodegradable
  • Made with minimally processed ingredients

Companies like, Nutshell Paints produce and sell paint that is chemical free and odourless. By relying on natural ingredients like clay, milk, and marble, the company offers a wide range of colors tinted by natural pigments.

Natural paint offers an effective solution for companies looking to decrease the amount of harmful chemicals used during their projects. Employees and clients will benefit from the decreased levels of air pollution and carcinogenic substances. Lukasz Kisiel of Kisiel Ltd continues to research new technology, like natural paint.

“I’m motivated by technology that is sustainable and practical,” Lukasz states. Kisiel Group continues to find purpose in green development. “It’s critical to our environment. And it is what a client deserves.”

Innovative Concrete Solutions

The EU’s goal to reduce carbon emissions by 40% by the year 2030 has invited the research for sustainable solutions across the world. Like many industries, the construction sector has two options: pay the rising carbon taxes or develop innovative technology to reduce the emissions. Lukasz Kisiel of Kisiel Ltd supports the discovery of sustainable solutions and anticipates that building practices in the future will rely on materials that are safe for the environment.

Today, the industry is fuelled by new solutions aimed to reduce carbon levels. Cement, the foundational material used in every project lies at the heart of the debate. After water, cement is the most used substance in the world.

The cement-making process involves a large amount of expended energy and high heat. To start, limestone is finely crushed, then mixed with clay. This mixture gets roasted in a kiln at temperatures nearing 1,500 degrees Celsius. During the heating process, the limestone’s carbon gets released into the air; contributing to more than 5% of the global CO2 emissions each year.

In recent years, sustainable cement has surfaced, giving companies the opportunity to try out the greener techniques.

The former London-based startup, Novacem, has produced a green cement that actually traps carbon gas in the process of cooling. By replacing limestone, the carbon-dense mineral used to produce traditional cement, the company eliminates the release of gas completely. Nikolaos Vlasopoulos, chief scientist at the start up Novacem discovered the solution in 2009.

“I was investigating cements produced by mixing magnesium oxides with Portland cement,” Vlasopoulos said on MIT’s technology review. The company’s green technology rights have since been purchased, but there is hope that enough interest will fuel its investment.

Novacem’s solution is exciting on many levels. First, it eliminates the release of any gas in the process. Second, the innovative solution works to absorb existing gas in the atmosphere. While the success of the product relies on its acceptance in the industry, green advocates hope that companies will prioritise sustainability over high tax rates.

In a previous post, Kisiel highlights another innovative concrete solution: permeable concrete. Permeable, or pervious concrete, absorbs and redistributes rainwater. This technique is as durable as traditional cement, however, its ability to store water beneath its surface could eliminate the need for storm water retention facilities. Pervious concrete is more similar to soil and decreases a host of problems that concrete presents, like flash flooding, water pollution, and disturbances in the ecosystem.

While concrete’s production process is the main source of gas emissions, it’s also important to note that the volume of concrete produced contributes to its high carbon footprint. From streets and sidewalks to buildings and schools, concrete remains the most heavily used substance in the construction industry. While developing sustainable techniques is an excellent start, it’s also important to focus on ways to reduce its demand.

3 Ways to Practice Green Living After Construction Is Completed

Sustainability is an important part of the building process at Kisiel Ltd. In a previous post, we’ve outlined the top green practices that the construction industry can utilise during the build, renovate, or demolish phases. At Kisiel Ltd, we believe that sustainable materials, technology, and practices offer present and future benefits. By implementing green practices, like installing cool roofs or choosing natural paints, we’re providing an investment to both our clients and our environment.

Many clients ask us what happens after we’ve completed a project? In an effort to promote green living, we’ve outlined three ways for residents to remain active supporters of the environment. These tips will help guide residents to live a healthy lifestyle.

1. Practice Minimalism

A minimalistic lifestyle is one of the easiest ways to help reduce the waste on our planet. After your build is complete, take the time to enjoy your empty space. Notice its unique details; celebrate its architectural design. By showcasing the bones of a building, residents are able to reduce the amount of physical furnishings or decor. Ask yourself: What home furnishings do I use on a regular basis? Can I live without it?

If you already live in a furnished space, try testing out one room in your house. Remove clutter, clean well, and evaluate the flow of your large pieces. Individuals are often inspired by the refreshing new layout that they’ll continue the process in other rooms of their house. When simplifying a space in your home, you’ll create a calming retreat where you can relax and recharge.

2. Focus on Lighting

This is an easy fix that yields impressive results. We recommend that residents adopt a conscious effort to utilise natural lighting. During the daytime, homeowners should look for ways to harness the sun’s power. Try fully opening the blinds or the curtains instead of switching on a lamp. By reducing your energy usage, you’ll save money on your electricity bill. You’ll also help conserve the earth’s fossil fuels.

At night, when natural lighting is no longer an option, users should strive to buy energy efficient bulbs. On average, these bulbs offer dramatic savings to consumers by reducing the amount of energy emitted. In a traditional bulb, 90% of the light’s energy is released as heat. Not only is this a waste of money, it also leaks energy into our compromised atmosphere. Check out this tool to calculate the amount of money you’d save by switching over to more efficient options. Finally, it’s an important reminder to turn off the lights, day or night, when not using the space.

3. Consider Switching to Natural Cleaners and Soaps

At Kisiel Ltd, we are in the business of building elegant, sustainable projects. We also work hard to renovate spaces to their former glory. When cleaning new or old spaces, we like to employ natural detergents and cleansers that are both effective and safe for users and the environment. This chart illustrates common symptoms that chemical cleaners can cause. While the market offers a variety of effective, natural cleaners, consumers can also use common household ingredients, like diluted white vinegar. It is a powerful agent against bacteria, stains, and unwanted aromas.

Green living is an important part of the construction process before, during, and after the build. We hope that these helpful tips will encourage homeowners to reach for green practices when maintaining their spaces.

Sustainability Begins With Cities

Julie Hirigoyen, the chief executive of the UK Green Building Council, the sustainability organisation responsible for the industry’s supply chain and clients, contends that the city-led retrofit and energy initiatives could prove to be one of the defining features of the built environment green agenda in the near future.

The organisation held a Birmingham Summit last week. The summit included 100 public and private sector decision makers from the city and other parts of the country, who gathered to debate the future of sustainable cities. This event is similar to the one that took place in Manchester last year.

Hirigoye believes that we are in the midst of a shift towards seeing cities, rather than regions or nations, as the organising principle on retrofit, renewable energy, and smart cities.

As owner of Kisiel Ltd., I am committed to working with other leaders in the community to build a more sustainable city. “The construction industry plays an instrumental role in creating a more sustainable future. It is important for management within the construction industry to prioritise environmentally-friendly practices and encourage other industries to do the same.

It also appears that we are trending away from the power of Westminster to “city regions.” There are already six devolution deals in place in England, including one for Birmingham and the West Midlands, agreed upon last November.

“We’re gearing up our activities with cities in line with the devolution agenda. This scale provides a better lens to think about sustainability. It’s difficult to achieve a really sustainable outcome when you’re working on one building plot, you need a system-level approach,” Hirigoyen said.

She further emphasised the importance that city-level initiative compliments, rather than replaces, national policy. “The retrofit agenda needs to be addressed through both national policy and city-wide schemes. But city level authorities and the scale of the city certainly offers an opportunity to think about the housing retrofit challenge,” she continued.

The growth of these initiatives is great to see following the recent failure of the Green Deal, a key policy initiative that was designed to cut emissions from the UK’s domestic building stock, as well as the scaling back of incentives on renewable energy.

On a broader scale, the COP21 Paris Agreement renewed the focus on the built environment, with a number of different organisations launching a Global Alliance for Building and Construction. Their shared mission is to build greater climate resilience into cities and infrastructure.

Furthermore, one of the members of the COP21 Paris agreement, UK-GBC launched its own commitments to reduce its operational emissions, upskill the industry, and support and challenge its members.

Hirigoyen is excited by this progress and plans to monitor the progress, saying that “we will be certainly trying to track members’ progress against the pledges. Organisations tend to measure things slightly differently, but regardless of what they measure, we’ll be looking at the trends over time.”

The Most Used Green Technologies of 2015

The use of green technology within the construction industry has been on the rise over the past several years. In 2015, we saw sustainable growth in this area, with World Green Building Trends reporting that 51 percent of firms show a commitment to incorporating sustainability into more than 60 percent of their work for the year. Although there is still plenty of work to be done, these numbers show that the industry is moving in a positive direction. With that said, let’s take a look at some of the most used green technologies that helped construction become more sustainable in 2015.

1) Cross-Ventilation Technology

Sometimes just tweaking a building’s existing design can help save on energy and benefit the occupants by taking advantage of on-site light and air. One of the newest and fastest growing trends for buildings in cities and business districts is DMCI Homes’ Lumiventt Technology. This technology first became popular within the Philippines. The name for the technology plays off the word “lumen” meaning light and “ventus” meaning wind. This architectural design allows for the free flow of natural light and air into high-rise buildings. The Lumiventt Technology uses a three-story high garden atriums every five floors, in addition to vents at both sides of the building. This simple design allows for a breathable building that lets air flow throughout with ease.

2) Water Reuse and Supply Technologies

Buildings use 13.6 percent of the world’s portable water: this translates to 15 trillion gallons of water per year. Systems that are designed to improve water efficiency are working hard to lower water usage by 15 percent. Jerry Yudelso, green building expert and author of “Dry Run: Preventing the Next Urban Water Crisis, “fresh water shortages call for awareness and actions in the face of this water crisis.” The goal has been to achieve net-zero water use in buildings. To achieve this goal, buildings will need to utilise water conservation fixtures that efficiently manage water consumption, rainwater harvesting, greywater reuse to make use of recycled water, and on-site sewage treatment to remove contaminants from wastewater. These are technologies that currently exist, but the challenge that remains is improving their efficiency and incorporating them into a single system that can produce net-zero water usage buildings.

3) Low-Emittance Windows and Smart Glass

The green version of windows are low-emittance windows: they are coated with metallic oxide to block the sun’s harsh rays during the summer and keep the heat inside during the winter. In addition to serving the conventional function of windows, low-emittance windows aim to significantly lower HVAC costs. The next step for low-emittance windows is likely to be smart glass, also known as electrochromic glass. This glass uses a small amount of electricity, charging ions to control the amount of light that it reflects. Essentially, this glass tints during the sun’s peak hours and returns to transparent at night.

4) Cool Roofs

Cool roofs, similar to the green windows, help to reflect sunlight and heat away. The roofs are made of special tiles and reflective paint creating high levels of solar reflectance and thermal emittance. The buildings will absorb less heat and keep them cooler, leading to lower energy costs and more comfort for the occupants.

5) Sustainable Construction Materials

The construction industry has understood the importance of integrating biodegradable, recycled and sustainable materials for many years. We have a limited supply of natural resources on our planet and the construction of buildings consumes large volumes of these resources. Through the use of more sustainable materials, ithas helped to strengthen the construction industry and improve the environment at the same time. Biodegradable materials, such as natural paints help to eliminate indoor pollution and decompose naturally without contaminating the earth. Another great trend within the industry is the use of recycled resources, such as steel, which replaces of timber for beams.

“It is so vital that the whole construction industry joins together in helping to develop the use of green technologies so that we build a better environment to pass on to future generations” explains Lukasz Kisiel.  “At Kisiel Group, we strongly believe in adopting ‘green’ principles and we encourage our clients to include appropriate technologies in the construction processes on their projects.”

Government Considering Plans To End Solar Subsidies

The Department of Energy & Climate (DECC) is considering plans that aim to end subsidies for some new solar farms by 2016. The department is also undertaking a review of the entire feed-in tariff (Fit) structure that has led to the installation of panels on 1.5% of UK homes.

The termination of the subsidy programs has been met with a great deal of controversy, as proponents of sustainability believe that the a failure to continue the program could have negative consequences regarding climate change.

Householders who were planning to install solar panels next year could find the financial incentives to do so no longer exists. Lukasz Kisiel contends that, “the government’s review of the whole feed-in tariff (Fit) structure for the installation of solar panels is likely to lead to a reduction in the subsidies which will discourage homeowners in the future from using this method of sustainability.”

The government believes that the move is necessary to protect consumers and keep bills down. According to Amber Rudd, the energy and climate change secretary, “We need to keep bills as low as possible for hard-working families and businesses while reducing our emissions in the most cost-effective way. Our support has driven down the cost of renewable energy significantly. As costs continue to fall it becomes easier for parts of the renewables industry to survive without subsidies.

When the Fits were launched in 2010, a typical large domestic photovoltaic system cost between £15,000-£18,000 to install. The early adopters were promised 41.3p per kilowatt hour (kWh) generated for 25 years, plus savings on their electricity bills worth up to £160 a year. Incomes and savings of more than £30,000 were promised for a £15,000 investment.

The prices of these systems began to fall over the past five years, and they can now be installed for around £5,000-£6,000. The government has responded to this reduction in price but cutting the income paid accordingly.

Although the cost of installing a PV panel has reduced significantly, the discontinuation of the subsidies program altogether will most likely eliminate any financial incentive households have to install solar panels. This plan could put a halt to all future installations of solar panels.

This would be an unfortunate scenario, considering how much progress the country has made over the last five years to help fight climate change. The removal of the solar energy subsidy programs appears to be a step in the wrong direction, at a time when climate change is increasingly becoming a more serious problem.

The 2015 Paris Climate Conference, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, has aimed to achieve a legally binding an universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C. The forum is looking for the cooperation of over 190 countries in its efforts to address climate change.

“I would like to see the government taking a longer view on sustainability especially within the energy field so that plans can be made for the longer term and not short term quick fixes,” says Kisiel.


Promoting Sustainability: Carbon Action 2050

The construction industry plays a vital role in creating a more environmentally-friendly society and more sustainable planet. In order to create a more sustainable planet, it is important for the construction industry to build more sustainable buildings with more environmentally-friendly methods.

The Chartered Institute of Building has been an influential player within the construction industry, working to promote the science and practice of building and construction for the benefit of society. One of the CIOB’s current initiatives is Carbon Action 2050.

The Carbon Action 2050 is an initiative created to provide guidance to the built environment sector on how to cut carbon emissions by applying the best practice to project design, construction, maintenance, operation, retrofit, and waste management. The goal of Carbon Action 2050 is to help the Institute, its members, and the construction industry as a whole reduce carbon emissions from the built environment.

There are many challenges that lie ahead for the construction industry. Globally, the built environment accounts for around 30% of total greenhouse gas emissions and the construction industry uses about 32% of the world’s natural resources. In the UK alone, CO2 emissions relating to the built environment account for a total of 256 million tonnes. This is the single largest contributor to CO2 emissions.

Through the Climate Change Act, the UK is working to reduce CO2 emissions to 80% of their 1990 levels by the year 2050. There are currently five-year carbon budgets in place, which help the industry gradually decrease emissions of CO2 and reach their 2050 goal.

In order for the UK to reach these CO2 emissions goals, the construction industry will need to do more than build more new sustainable buildings. One of the greatest challenges the industry is retrofitting the existing building stock. There are currently around 26.7 million homes in the UK and 70% of them will still be standing in 2050. It is vital that effective tools and practices are put in place in order for the construction industry to prepare the existing building’s for the future.

The Chartered Institute of Building and the Carbon Action 2050 provides the industry with practical information that can be used to overcome these obstacles. This information is vital to the construction industry, which is constantly evolving, as it provides simple and practical steps that help everyone play their part.

It is important for people within the construction industry to be familiar with Carbon Action 2050 and stay up to date with its evolving resources. Carbon Action 2050 is more than just an initiative to comply with legislation. The action plan will help to improve efficiency. cut costs, and breed innovation within the construction industry.

You can view Carbon Action 2050’s expansive page of resources here.

The UK Looks For New Retrofit Initiative After Unsuccessful Green Deal

The Green Deal is considered to be a huge disappointment, however, there is a new mass retrofit initiative that is slowly building support. This new initiative, which began in the Netherlands, has made its way to the United Kingdom and has gained support among contractors.

The Green Deal was abandoned by the Conservative government earlier this year. This government scheme was originally set up to help homeowners pay for double-glazing, solid wall insulation, boiler upgrades and other projects that would help save homeowners money on energy bills. Unfortunately, the Green Deal was not effective.

With the funding now pulled on the Green Deal, the UK has been searching for a plan to retrofit the country’s existing housing stock. The Netherlands think they have the solution to this problem. They have tackled the issue by following these four principles:

1) Provide high quality, warranted, guaranteed energy performance

2) Use non-intrusive methods, so that refurbishments are all carried out within one week

3) Maintain affordability, with the retrofit financeable from energy cost savings

4) Improve the look and feel of the house overall

The third principle — the concept of paying for energy efficiency upgrades via savings made on energy bills — may look similar to the underlying principle of the Green Deal, however, that is where the similarities end. Under this initiative, energy bills are replaced by an energy plan, with the loan repayments included.

“The main reason the Green Deal didn’t work is that it wasn’t particularly green or a deal in a commercial sense, because there was no energy performance contract,” stated Arno Schmickler, Energiesprong UK programme director.

This new initiative has achieved a great deal of success thus far in the Netherlands with social housing. The United Kingdom plans to follow in these footsteps.

Energiesprong has retrofitted almost 1,000 homes to date, with a total of 110,000 planned already. They are intently focused on targeting social housing within the UK.

“We’ve started working with the social housing providers because they manage over the long term, with 100-year perspectives on their properties, and have asset management strategies of 25 to 30 years,” Schmickler says.

This initiative is still in the early stages and only time will tell if this strategy will prove to be more successful than the Green Deal. Energiesprong believes that there is a great deal of promise and potential and if they can achieve economies of scale by working on appropriate property types.

If Energiesprong proves to be successful, many people in the UK stand to benefit from lower energy costs and society as a whole will be a step closer to a more sustainable planet.

To learn more about this new retrofit initiative, check out this article.



Understanding Sustainability In Construction

In order to create a more environmentally friendly planet, everybody needs to play a part, including the construction industry. It is important for the construction industry to implement sustainable practices in order to tackle some of the critical environmental issues of our time, including diminishing natural resources, conserving energy, and creating less waste. In order to support sustainable construction practices and successfully implement them, it is important to have a solid understanding of what sustainable construction really means. I found this great article on sustainable construction and thought it was important to share some of its key points.

Buildings play a vital role in creating a more sustainable future. According to OECD, buildings in developed countries account for more than 40% of energy consumption over their lifetime. Furthermore, for the first time in history, over half of the world’s population now lives in urban environments which further compounds the problem. We need to build more sustainable buildings to secure long-term environmental, economic and social viability.

As humans, we need to take the proper steps to meet our present day needs for infrastructure without compromising the ability of future generations to meet these same needs. The construction industry, and people as a whole, have a social responsibility to be more efficient in our practices and more cognizant of how our decisions affect the future.

Here are some areas where the construction industry needs to continue to improve:

1) Innovation

The construction industry needs to continue to innovate and develop new practices which help to conserve resources, energy and waste. This involves finding new materials and methods for building, mechanical systems, and much more. Here are some examples of where the construction industry is already making great progress.

2) Resource & Environmental Performance

Construction projects need to demonstrate a more sensible use and management of natural resources. Project plans need to be environmentally-conscious when making decisions on anything from land use to recycled materials. Understanding our social responsibility when it comes to constructing buildings and becoming more resourceful will help to minimize the industry’s ecological footprint.

3) Economic Viability

Understanding the long-term consequences of our present day decisions will help the construction industry make a lasting contribution to the economic and environmental well-being of our world. We need to implement technologies that will make projects more affordable, reduce operation costs of buildings, and increase the return on investment of projects. Implementing sustainable practices will help secure a more stable economic future.