Health and Safety When Working With Machinery

Occupational_Safety_EquipmentThere’s always a lot of publicity surrounding health and safety in all sectors, but, when you’re dealing with heavy machinery and the like, there is perhaps even more need to be careful. There have been a fair few stories in the news recently that have reported tragic accidents, such as occasions where agricultural workers have been crushed under tractors, and even one drastically atypical example from the HSE where a teenager became trapped within a laundry machine, and if we’re to avoid further instances like these then there is a real need to be very careful indeed. Whilst we can’t cover every machinery related safety tip in one article, here are a few general principles…

Maintenance and Moving Parts

Pretty much all of the problems with machinery occur due to moving parts of some description. It’s the moving parts that can trap or crush people, and things like brakes that can fail when something like a tractor is involved. Because of that, machinery of all descriptions should be kept regularly attended to and maintained, just so no dangerous faults start to develop.

Remember Safety Equipment

This is obviously a hugely broad category, including generic ‘safety clothing’ style products from dedicated suppliers like Industrial Workwear, or more specialised safety chucks and the like from Motion Drives and Controls. Whatever the precise details may be though, there’s always a temptation to neglect such measures, and sometimes you can get away with doing so. However, it only takes a single slip up to cause serious injury, so never get lackadaisical with things like this.

Mechanical HEalth and Safety

Secure All Machinery

We’ve already mentioned tractor brakes, but even static machinery needs to be fixed down. All machinery tends to vibrate, and therefore it can easily move. When you’re dealing with mechanisms that are potentially hot or sharp, you don’t want people inadvertently coming into contact with them, so keep machinery secured and ensure a clear space around it whenever humanly possible.

Ensure Proper Training

By far the most common cause of machinery related injuries is people who aren’t comfortable dealing with the said machinery. Because of that, never try to use a piece of machinery that you’re not comfortable with, and equally never expose an employee or colleague to something that’s alien to them either. Similarly, if you are a trained person, never become complacent and cut corners. Once again, you may be able to get away with it, but in doing so you’re not only inviting potential harm upon yourself, but you’re also teaching observers to replicate your mistakes too.

As we’ve already mentioned, there are far too many specifics to mention within one single article, and if this is an area that concerns you then you’d be well advised to check the resources on the HSE website. With so many initiatives ongoing to cut down on things like construction related falls from height and the like, it would be a shame if the same amount of progress wasn’t made when dealing with machinery, so don’t let accusations of ‘health and safety red tape’ blind you to the dangers.

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Is Now the Time to Diversify your Agricultural Business?

Diversification is an increasingly popular option among farming communities across the country. The term typically refers to a process whereby new business activities are added to traditional farming practices, in order to develop new sources of income. According to the government, currently around half of all UK farms practice diversification in some form or another in their farming business, and this brings in an average of £10,400 in additional revenue per farm.

When it comes to diversifying, there are a number of different options available. For example, one option is to consider exploring other forms of agricultural products, such as alternative livestock or non food crops, as well as the so-called “agritourism”.

Whilst this can be a complex process, and is by no means guaranteed to increase returns, diversification can also undoubtedly be both rewarding and worthwhile. When considering whether diversifying is right for you and your agricultural business, there are a number of key factors to take into consideration. For example, you’ll need to think about what impact this might have on your existing farming activities. Perhaps most importantly, is taking the time to plan and establish how much the start-up costs of any new venture are likely to be, and whether this can feasibly be offset by the potential gains you stand to make.

Alternative crops and livestock

If you’re considering diversifying into alternative crops, you need to consider not only the cost of  ground preparation and planting, but also the cost of machinery, as this will likely be one of the most significant expenditures you’ll face. However, it’s worth noting that there are cost-saving options available. A number of agricultural retailers like Cornthwaite Agricultural specialise in used agricultural machinery. Furthermore, if you’re considering growing energy crops, you may also be able to take advantage of available grants to help you get established. Under the Energy Crops Scheme you may be entitled to energy crop establishment grants which can cover 50% of the set up costs for establishing energy crops such as willow and ash.

crops

When it comes to diversifying into alternative livestock, the initial start-up costs can also be significant depending on the facilities you already have access to. Each livestock species will have its own unique requirements when it comes to basic care and welfare. You’ll likely have to consider constructing additional buildings in order to ensure they’re properly housed just take a look at the range of buildings available at livestock housing specialist RE Buildings to find out about what is the best option for your animals. For more information about the different types of alternative livestock and their typically requirements take a look at this handy guide, which has some great information about the practicalities of this kind of diversification.

Beyond agriculture

Interestingly, a growing number of farmers are also choosing to diversify  out of agriculture and explore alternative sources of income. By converting their old farm buildings for residential use, and as such there are a number of buildings and construction opportunities that can also be explored. According to The Farmer Guardian, it was revealed at a recent national rural planning conference that the number of planning development opportunities have increased significantly for famers since the publication of the national planning policy framework, over two years ago. The introduction of these new rules mean that it’s now possible for buildings originally built for agricultural purposes to be converted for residential use, without the requirement for a full planning application to be submitted. Consequently, some experts have suggested that now is the perfect time to think about converting old and unused agricultural buildings.

barn conversion

Another growing market is the agritourism industry, and a number of individuals are also choosing to convert their existing farm buildings into additional businesses, such as farm shops or tourist accommodation. If you do decide to go down this route then it’s worth being aware that assistance can also be gained from companies specialising in rural development, such as Rural Solutions.

Hopefully this rough guide will have provided you with some food for thought with regards to whether diversification could be for you. You may also wish to research the various funding options available for yourself. For example, the Rural Development Programme for England provides support for rural communities in various ways, including providing funding for business development, to find out more, take look at this handy website.

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Fact or Fiction – It’s a Material World

Materials

Materials might seem mundane to some people, but in actual fact mankind, as a whole, has been fascinated with them for centuries.

No really, it’s true.

Materials 2Still not sure? Well, scientists rigorously classify all materials and elements, separating them according to things like properties, and there’s always a huge buzz around the discovery of a new material. Sounds like ‘fascination’ to us.

Yes, we know; that’s the world of science. That’s not the ‘real’ world. Well, the real world is all about materials too. Construction professionals worry about materials all of the time. The best suited materials have to be sourced for each project, and opportunities to discuss ‘materials of the future’ are always in the headlines. You only have to look at the current focus upon bringing timber buildings back into our cities to see that materials have a huge role to play.

However, isn’t all of that a bit…well…boring? Well, it might be of technical or niche interest, but not necessarily boring. Materials actually pop up in some very informal and, dare we say, ‘trendy’ ways as well, and one of these ways must surely be the obsession with fictional materials that we see in our media.

If you’ve never thought about it, fictional materials are everywhere and in everything. Can’t think of any? Here’s a list of some of our favourites:

Adamantium

Adamantium

If there’s one thing that you can rely on at present, it’s that a new superhero film is never too many months away. Whether it’s Marvel or DC, the once ‘geeky’ adventures of superheroes are now rolling in, and are also enjoying mainstream popularity. If there’s another thing you can bank on too, it’s the fact that they’ll be stuffed full of fictional materials, like Adamantium, for example.

If you’ve been hiding yourself away for the last decade or so, and have yet to come across the X-Men film saga, then you may not recognise Adamantium, but otherwise you’ll probably think of ‘Wolverine’ pretty quickly. Best known these days for being played by Hugh Jackman, Wolverine’s entire skeleton (not to mention his claws) is coated with the indestructible metal alloy ‘Adamantium’. We think it’d be great for some heavy-duty building work, but that might just be us…

Kryptonite

Kryptonite

Be honest, how many of you thought of ‘Kryptonite’ the instant that we mentioned fictional materials. We’re guessing a lot. Well, a few of you. OK, at least one, but you get the point; Kryptonite – the material that holds the power to vanquish the otherwise indomitable Superman – is one of the most instantly memorable of all fictional materials.

Supposedly created during the destruction of Superman’s home planet (Krypton… who saw that coming???), this crystalline material has been portrayed in various colours over the years, but you’ve probably come across it in a fetching green colour. With the new Batman Vs Superman film on the horizon – not to mention Justice League – there’s plenty of scope to encounter Kryptonite again fairly soon. We have to admit, we’re not sure how we could use this material. Any suggestions?

Mithril

Mithril

Anyone who has immersed themselves in the works of J.R.R Tolkien should be familiar with ‘Mithril’, but of course the film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit have brought this material to a much wider audience. For your information, Mithril is also known as ‘Moria Silver’ (Moria being the place where it’s mined) or ‘True Silver’, and it’s perhaps best described by Bilbo in The Fellowship of the Ring as being ‘light as a feather, and as hard as dragon scales’.

Actually, Mithril (or sometimes ‘Mythril) pops up all over everywhere these days. It’s running amok in the world of Warhammer, and is in video games such as the Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts and Elder Scrolls series, but as far as we know good ol’ Mr Tolkien was the first to describe it. Given that Gandalf describes a single Mithril coat of mail as worth ‘more than the value of the Shire’ (a sort of ‘town’ for Hobbits, in case you haven’t read the books…in which case go and do so…now), we’re thinking that Mithril jewellery would go down well in the modern world.

 

We’re starting to run out of space here, but we still have so much to say about fictional materials! In brief, here’s a few more examples before we get herded back to our box:

Vibranium

Vibranium

Seen the Captain America films? Ever wondered just how the said Captain’s shield allows him to deflect the hammer of the God of Thunder, block seemingly all gunfire, slash through metal bars and fall out of a 15-storey building unharmed? Because it’s made of Vibranium, of course! Therefore, it absorbs all vibration and does other funky stuff too. Admit it. You knew.

Minecraft

Nether Brick

Minecraft, eh? What’s all that about? Well, we’re not experts, but plenty of people out there are. As far as we can gather, it’s a game that lets you build whole environments out of small textured cubes. We should give it a try sometime. One of the blocks is also called a Nether Brick; a brick which handily allows you to build in the ominously named ‘The Nether’, in view of the fact that it’s non-flammable and immune to ‘Ghast fireballs’. Whatever they are.

Unobtainium

Unobtainium

We’ve just heard about this. Technically this exists in real life. According to Wikipedia, it’s a term that’s used when you’re theoretically considering a material that’s perfect to meet your every need, except for the small drawback that it doesn’t actually exist. So…the concept is real…but the material isn’t…yeah, we’re confused too.

 

Vantablack 1

To finish with, we’ll briefly touch upon one final material.

It’s called Vantablack, and it’s the blackest material that’s ever been.

It absorbs nearly all light around it. 99.6% of it in fact.

As well as making things like telescopes super-sensitive, it’s also great for making military equipment ‘invisible’ (sort of).

By the way…you remember we were rambling on about the ‘real world’ at the beginning of this article? Did we mention that this ‘Vantablack’ is a real thing? Despite sounding like something that would be at home alongside Vibranium in the latest adventures of Captain America, this material was discovered by US scientists relatively recently. So yeah, the next time you stumble across some fascinating ‘wonder material’ in the world of fiction, spare a thought for the real world materials that we have. They really aren’t too shabby. Who knows, in a few years time, perhaps some of these fictional materials will have real world equivalents.

Hey, we can dream right?

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Dangerous Construction Materials

Construction has always been recognised as a high-risk industry; although it accounts for only around 5% of all employees in Britain, it accounts for 27% of all fatal injuries at work and 10% of all major injuries, according to figures from the HSE available at http://www.hse.gov.uk/Statistics/industry/construction/construction.pdf.

Whilst many of these injuries and accidents are the results of falls or other accidents, construction workers also face the fact of occupational illnesses from the materials that they work with. These are the materials that you need to be aware of.

Asbestos

Asbestos1USGOVAsbestos is a natural mineral which has been used for centuries because of its fire-retardant properties. However, it is also extremely dangerous, because the microscopic fibres that it’s comprised of are easily inhaled; once inhaled they cause irreparable damage to the lungs and can lead to lung cancer, mesothelioma and other diseases. According to the experts at the Asbestos Advice Helpline (www.asbestosadvicehelpline.com) 1% of all men over 40 in the UK have been affected in some way. The use of asbestos was banned in the UK in 1999, but it is still present in many buildings which were built before then, leading to complications with demolition and extension work.

Silica

Highway road workers use high power sawsLike asbestos, silica dust can be very harmful if inhaled. Silica is found in a wide range of construction materials, including many forms of rock such as granite, sandstone and marble. Cutting, grinding, drilling or otherwise working with any material which contains silica can produce silica dust, and over time the inhalation of silica dust can lead to silicosis. With both silica dust and asbestos, it is possible to reduce the risk by using an FFP3 respirator mask, which you can get from specialist suppliers like www.protectivemasksdirect.co.uk.

Coal Tar

A by-product of the coal gas manufacturing process, coal tar was commonly used as a binding agent in the construction of roads and asphalt surfaces prior to the 1980s. Because it can contain carcinogenic material including benzo(a)pyrene and other polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbines, any work that requires digging up such material is regulated. Tests must be conducted beforehand to assess it in order to see whether it would fall under the auspices of the Hazardous Waste Regulations, and whether it can be re-used or has to be sent to a specially designated landfill site.

These three examples are responsible for the majority of illnesses, but other materials used in construction can be equally dangerous. It’s important for any construction worker to be educated about the risks that surround them so that they can take the right precautions and avoid contracting workplace illnesses from the hazardous materials they come into contact with.

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Materials and Surface Finishing

Surface finishing plays a number of key roles whenever it is used, and most material constructions are not considered to be ‘complete’ without some form of surface finishing coming into play. Surface finishing usually serves a dual purpose; it improves the aesthetics of a material, and it also protects that material from various environmental hazards. Most materials benefit from surface finishing in some shape or form, but wood, plastic and metal are perhaps the most notable examples.

Wood Finishing

Wood

Before wood can be finished properly, it usually needs to be sanded to a much smoother texture, otherwise whatever finish you apply will simply highlight the imperfections. This process might require you to begin with a powered finishing machine from a supplier like Finaids, and then end with a fine grain sandpaper; essentially you work through your options to achieve the best finish.

Once this process is accomplished there are a variety of techniques that can then be used. Wood paints are obviously one of the first and foremost, but there are obviously many others like varnishes, lacquers, oils, stains and sealers. The finishes can be used to infuse wooden surfaces with a matt, satin or gloss aesthetic, colour it completely or protect it from risks like fire, moisture or pest damages, and the exact one you use will depend on the goal you have in mind.

Plastic finishing

Plastic

Comparatively, plastics require less finishing than woods, as they are manufactured with an already high-standard of surface finish. For example, an injection moulding machine produces products that already have polished finishes or even textures in their designs, but some plastics still require polishing or protecting to keep their finish.

If this is the case, the process requires that the plastic should be sanded with progressively finer grades of abrasive paper; however, metal polish and buffing wheels are also not uncommon. These are by no means the only methods that can be used though, as techniques such as flame polishing are available from specialised services like Sentinel Plastics, and can be used to give plastic an almost ‘glass-like’ appearance, so it is a very flexible material in terms of finishes.

Metal finishing

Metals

The finishing processes for metals are perhaps the most complex out of all these three materials. Because irons and steels rust, coating in grease, oil, paint or even plastic is absolutely vital, or the metal will degrade at a frightening rate. However, metal finishes are about far more than just achieving a better appearance through buffing and brushing, or even protecting the material from rust, as a lot of other properties can be attained.

Metal plating can be used upon many materials, including other metals, and it can serve to improve durability, withstand corrosion and reduce friction (among other things). Similarly, sand or bead blasting might be called upon to yield an extremely clean texture, powder coating can be called upon to fashion a textured surface, whilst hot blackening creates a surface that resists abrasion. Quite simply, if you can think of a property, the chances are that some form of metal finishing process can be used to achieve it.

Materials are, of course, the backbone of industrial activity, but without surface finishing treatments and the like they would never excel to the same degree that we expect them to in modern times. Effective surface finishing can make or break a project or product, so never make the mistake of neglecting it.

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DIY or Get a Bloke In?

We all like to turn our hand to a little DIY from time to time, there’s a great feeling of accomplishment when you step back and admire your handiwork, thinking to yourself ‘Yes! It was I, who put up those shelves’. However, there are times when you may find yourself saying ‘Why did I think I could do this myself?’, as you survey the devastation wrought upon your own beloved home after your ham-fisted attempts to ‘remodel’.

DIY

Sometimes you need to know when you’re punching above your weight, swallow your pride and enlist the help of a qualified professional.

Blocked Drains

If the sink isn’t draining, then the problem may be relatively easy to solve. Maybe there’s some grease stuck in the u-bend, no problem! You can simply lay down an old towel, get under the sink, unscrew the collar of the pipe and clear the blockage manually. Maybe even pouring some caustic soda down the plug hole will do the trick!

We’d say definitely give a blocked drain the DIY treatment. However, bear in mind it could be the symptom of a much more serious problem; what if the waste pipes are damaged, what if leaking drains are causing subsidence? Then you might be in over your depth, time to get the professionals in. Try the people at www.drain-inspections.com

Fitting Gas Appliances

Do not try and DIY this one, please. It might seem easy; how hard can it be to hook the cooker up to a gas pipe and turn the tap. Much more difficult that you’d anticipate, and there’s a million other things to consider that you will not have thought of, unless you’re a fully qualified and registered gas fitter of course?

Gas Explosion

We reiterate, don’t try to DIY anything involving the mains gas supply, the consequences could be fatal. Hire a properly Gas Safe Registered Engineer, you can find a local specialist here www.gassaferegister.co.uk

Painting & Decorating

Well surely this one is a doddle and completely safe. It’s certainly quite safe unless you’re planning on drinking the paint or are especially clumsy up a ladder, but whether it’s easy or not depends entirely on how skilled you are. Not everyone is creative and a dab hand with a paintbrush, but we’d definitely say that decorating your own home is worth an attempt!

Wonderful Painting

If you doubt your abilities then go for a simple colour scheme, with solid colours. Work methodically, carefully masking off the areas you don’t want to paint and use a roller to avoid brush marks and apply an even coat of paint. You shouldn’t have too much trouble with this. Hanging wall paper on the other hand can be quite a tricky endeavour.

We say try your best with decorating, don’t rush it and you should get a good result. However, if it looks terrible after you’ve given it your all, then pick up the phone and get the professionals in. A good starting point for locating tradesmen in your area is www.ratedpeople.com

The secret to success with DIY is to know your own capabilities and limits, plus knowing when to admit defeat and get help from somebody who really knows what they’re doing. There’s no shame in getting a professional in to help you with something you don’t fully understand, you wouldn’t attempt surgery on yourself… Would you?

 

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Stay Safe when Welding at Home

When most people think of the word DIY, it’s probably putting up a set of shelves that springs to mind, not welding. However, there’s no reason why you cannot try your hand at welding at home, but be aware that it is potentially very dangerous, and as such appropriate safety precautions must be taken.

MIG welding (metal inert gas welding) is a commonly used technique for fusing together two pieces of metal. An electrical arc generated by a welding rod reaches extremely high temperatures and is used to create the welds.

Welding

Industrial welders would typically use specialised welding power supplies and separate arc welding rods, but for the DIY user or enthusiast there are self-contained MIG welding units available for a reasonable price. However, the same safety procedures apply to these home use devices.

Specialist MIG welding gas is also utilised, shielding the molten pool of the weld from the oxidising effects of the atmosphere, resulting in a cleaner and more durable weld. The gas used can also alter the nature of the arc itself.

Take Precautions

If you’re going to be using a MIG or arc welder then you will need a welding helmet to shield your eyes from the incredibly bright light of the arc, which can easily burn your retinas, plus to protect your face from flying sparks and slag from the metal.

Welding helmets are widely available and most modern helmets are equipped with auto-darkening glass filters, meaning the viewing window will tint as soon as the arc is generated, leaving the welder’s hands free.

Welding Sheild

3M welding shields are well known for their quality and reliability.

Adequate Protection is Vital

A protective leather welding apron, thick insulated leather gloves with coverage to the elbow and heavy boots with insulating soles are also vital for the welder. The heavy leather will protect the user from burning sparks, whilst also reducing the impact of a shock should you accidently come into contact with the electrode.

Prepare Your Working Station

Ensure that the area where you’ll be working is clean, tidy and free of flammable materials, as the heat and sparks generated by a welding arc pose a serious risk of fire. It’s also important to carry out your work on an appropriate bench; a steel welding bench is preferable and a wooden table, no matter how sturdy, is certainly not recommended. Have a fire extinguisher ready to hand.

Also, a circuit breaker between your welding unit and the mains is advisable.

We hope that you’ve now garnered an insight into the safe conduct required when using welding equipment at home. There is a great deal of highly detailed information at www.mig-welding.co.uk, an extremely useful resource for those who are interested in become competent MIG welders.

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Tents, Yurts and Prefabs: A History of Temporary Buildings

Throughout human history, one of the most basic considerations has always been the need for shelter. Early tribes led a nomadic lifestyle, as hunter-gatherers, following prey animals wherever they roamed. This meant that their shelter had to be temporary in nature; something that could easily be erected when needed and taken down when it was time to move on. Even today, when most of us lead far more settled lives and permanent buildings are the norm, there is still a need and a use for temporary buildings throughout the world.

800px-Saami_Family_1900The earliest kinds of temporary shelter were, naturally, made from the materials that our hunter-gatherer ancestors had to hand. This generally meant animal hides and wooden poles, which could be gathered from nearby trees. From these, it was relatively easy to make tents, and many cultures throughout the world have different and often unique forms. The Saami people of Scandinavia built lavvu, the reindeer herders of Siberia built chum, and native tribes of the Great Plains in Canada and America built tipi. Modern tents such as those made by Vango use modern, waterproof materials rather than animal hides, and have replaced the wooden poles with lightweight, durable alloy poles, but they still often use the same basic principles.

Igloo_in_Alert,_NunavutIn other parts of the world, different materials might be used to make temporary shelters. The Inuit, for example, often used the most abundant material in their Arctic territory to make snow houses. Whilst the Inuit word iglu refers to a house or home built from any material, to outsiders it has come to refer almost exclusively to these snow houses. Small igloos were often built as temporary shelters for one or two nights, whilst larger ones might be built for semi-permanent residences.

YurtAs tribes began to settle in one place for longer, shelters began to be used for longer periods. More durable forms began to be used; for example, the goahti of the Saami, which was often constructed larger than a lavvu and which, because of the large size of the curved poles used, was not so easily transportable.

The yurts of Central Asia are also of this type; designed to be portable yet durable, they can be put up in just a couple of hours yet are sturdy enough to be occupied on a long-term basis. Their use was recorded in ancient times by Herodotus, but they are still in use today – with yurt-type structures often used for “glamping” holidays.

800px-Prefab_20060625In modern times, although we have plenty of choice when it comes to permanent dwellings, temporary buildings are often used in circumstances where a building is needed quickly. This was quite notably the case in England after the Second World War, when affordable housing needed to be built on a large scale to accommodate the families made homeless by the Blitz. Many of these “prefabs” were made from metal, such as aluminium, in four panels which could be quickly and easily transported by lorry to anywhere in the country. Although they were designed to last only five to ten years – the intention being to replace them quite quickly with permanent homes – many were in use for much longer than this, with some still inhabited today.

The portacabin which we are all familiar with today has been in use since the 1960s, often used on construction sites and to provide emergency office space, pop-up shops, information offices and temporary classrooms. This is not a need which has ever gone away, of course, and today companies like Excel Modular offer a range of different portable and modular buildings to suit a wide range of uses.

Cardboard_Cathedral_way_up_highOf course, temporary buildings are not solely used for dwellings and small buildings; many famous buildings and large structures have been designed to be temporary. Many of the venues used for London’s 2012 Olympic Games were temporary, and following the Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand a cardboard cathedral was constructed, providing a stunning yet temporary place of worship until a permanent one can be completed.

With tents, yurts, portable buildings and even cardboard constructions in use around the world today, it seems clear that the story of temporary buildings is far from over!

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The Building Stones of Britain

Britain is a beautiful and diverse island with a variety of natural materials that make strong, durable and attractive building materials. From limestone to sandstone, granite to slate, there are a range of British stones that can be found today in any truly British building, and many of them are still available for use in modern construction.

Limestone

800px-St_Pauls_aerial

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St Paul’s Cathedral in London is one of the best examples of Portland stone; a white limestone which is quarried on the Isle of Portland just off the Dorset coast. While it seems quite likely that Portland stone has been used since Roman times, its use became popular in the 14th Century, when St Paul’s, the Palace of Westminster, the Tower of London and the first stone London Bridge all made use of it. The appeal of Portland stone is that it balances durability with ease of use – it is strong enough to resist weathering but also allows for easy cutting and carving by stonemasons. It is still quarried to this day, and used around the world, including in the new BBC Broadcasting House in London.

Sandstone

800px-Edinburgh_Castle_from_the_south_east

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Edinburgh_Castle_from_the_south_east.JPG

Many towns and cities throughout Britain have made use of sandstone; in Edinburgh, it is particularly noticeable. The castle, Holyrood Palace, and many of the townhouses in both the Old Town and the New Town were built from sandstone taken from the Craigleath Quarry. Now closed and infilled, a retail park stands on the former quarry site; however it still offers a fascinating insight into the area’s geology. While Craigleath has closed, many other quarries throughout Britain still offer sandstone, including the St Bees quarry in Cumbria, which produces a distinctive red sandstone that is popular in walling, masonry and more.

Granite

800px-001SFEC_TOWER_BRIDGE-200705

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:001SFEC_TOWER_BRIDGE-200705.JPG

Granite may be the most ubiquitous stone in British building; from iconic landmarks like Tower Bridge (built using Cheesewring granite from Cornwall), to banks and town halls up and down the country, it has been used for centuries. Granite from Cornwall, Cumbria, Leicestershire and Scotland has seen widespread use; Aberdeen’s buildings used granite so extensively that it’s often been called the Granite City. Today, most granite used in the UK is imported, although there are still a few quarries left in the UK.

Slate

St_Oswald's_Chambers,_Chester

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:St_Oswald%27s_Chambers,_Chester.jpeg

Slate has long been used in Britain as a roofing material; because slate has two lines along it which can easily be broken (the cleavage and the grain) it is easy to split into thin sheets, which in turn can be made into roofing tiles. It also has a very low water absorption index, which makes it resistant to frost damage – perfect for cold British winters. Cornwall, Wales and Cumbria are all well-known slate producing districts, each producing different shades of slate. St Oswald’s Chambers in Chester, the Grade II listed building shown above, uses Westmorland green slate in its roof; this type of slate is particularly popular, and still available today through reclaimed slate merchants.

Whether you choose to use new stone from a British quarry or source reclaimed materials for an authentic period look, using British stone building materials is an ecologically friendly alternative to importing from around the world. With so many varied and attractive stones available here on our little island, why look elsewhere?

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‘Building’ on Economic Success

Growth figures in the UK are, at long last, beginning to show a sustained and progressive upturn, and it certainly seems as though the UK economy is regaining strength. Recent financial figures suggest that the stabilisation of the economy has helped in allowing us to avoid a triple dip recession. This is good news for all industries, spending is on the up and with this will bring further stimulation for the economy, as the excess spending leads to more jobs. A huge 1.7% drop in unemployment was recently announced too, meaning that over 160,000 more people are in work than they were in 2012, with an increased workforce and demand heralding economically stable times.

brick layingOne sector that has seen significant growth is the construction industry, and the statistics for last year show that there were increases in both new work (5.1%) and repairs (5.6%); all pointing to a positive economic outlook. The increased demand for houses has seen building of new houses hit a five year high in 2013, with over 64,000 new builds in the UK.

The increase in new builds has even begun to outstrip the supply of the vital materials that are needed to build new homes. One material for which the demand is incredibly high is bricks. During the recession many brick-works were closed due to lack of demand, so this renewed demand has put strain on those that remain. BBC news  reported today that the Claughton brickwork has been re-opened due to the high demand, and is helping to ensure that there is no let up in the rate at which new houses are being built.

Brick suppliers are reporting a marked increase in demand, and there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel at long last for the British economy. This increase in building work is not only important for the construction, but allows all other types of business to develop quickly and expand to take full advantage of the recent growth too.

Other industries that provide vital operational construction equipment to the industry have seen the recession slump turn around, and business is positively booming. With the growth being manifested so strongly in a sector that is so instrumental to success, it is a sure sign that the worm may finally have turned for the UK.

growth forecastMany will still be sceptical at this growth and say that the figures are stated only to prompt a little good morale. This scepticism is misplaced though, as the growth has been steady and consistent throughout the last two years. Recent growth forecasts reasonably predict further growth in 2014, and a rate of 2.2% has been predicted by the IMF.

All this positive economic news has done wonders for the British morale, and people are finally able to feel the end of the recession. The times have undoubtedly been tough throughout the recession but, as ever, Britain’s steely resolve and excellent work ethic have seen us emerge as a more cautious but equally formidable financial power.

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