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Curtins’ Civil Engineering Insight Programme begins

Date: 29th July 2021

Curtins’ Civil Engineering Insight Programme begins

Curtins’ inaugural Civil Engineering and Sustainable Insight Programme kicked off on 14th July with 27 budding civil engineering students. The students, who are due to graduate from university in summer 2022, all share in Curtins’ vision and passion for infrastructure and have embarked on the 5 week online programme to discover more about the specialism.

They are undertaking live training sessions with internal subject matter experts and external speakers leading on key modules around:

  • Why infrastructure is so important to society
  • Technical masterplanning and the project lifecycle
  • Digital delivery, BIM and the future of our industry
  • Sustainability, net zero and our responsibility in engineering design
  • Careers and continuous professional development

The programme has been supported by Graitec who have provided access to their online training, as well as the chance to win an iPad for one of the students, based on a reflective assessment.

The scheme will culminate with a careers carousel and personal development planning on 11th August.

For more information on our work experience opportunities and placements, click here.

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Decarbonising Precast Concrete project results launched

Date: 27th July 2021

Decarbonising Precast Concrete project results launched

Curtins have been supporting Akerlof, Forterra, PCE and Accelar on an Innovate UK-funded project to decarbonise precast concrete systems and we are delighted to share the results of the research.

Watch the video and download the report here.

More than 30 experts were involved on this project with specialities in precast design, precast manufacture mixes, offsite construction and measuring embodied carbon. The team’s circular and collaborative approach to promoting innovation in precast concrete systems has resulted in the potential to reduce 40% of the build asset’s embodied carbon across the product (A1-A3) and construction (A4-A5) stage.

The project has been supported by the Ministry of Justice (external stakeholder), where this holistic driven approach involved the team undertaking an initial benchmark exercise on the real-world HM Prison Glen Parva House Block super-structure to identify the embodied carbon intensive packages. Design studies were then developed to target these intensive packages and identify the optimal structural form in conjunction with leveraging an enhanced manufacture mix to reduce material quantities at the product stage (A1-A3) for the build asset. Followed by mapping out the operation activities across the supply chain to reduce the impact of embodied carbon across the construction stage (A4-A5) for the build asset.

The resulting process is technically ready and commercially viable, and ready for adoption across the construction sector, including in private sale and rental residential, student housing, schools, custodial and healthcare infrastructure.

Why is this an important milestone?

Precast concrete is one of the most widely adopted modern methods of construction (MMC), with the UK market forecast to grow by 18% to £2.3 billion by 2024. As whole-life emissions calculations become more intrinsic to the UK’s built environment, precast concrete’s carbon intensive nature at the beginning of its lifecycle will prove problematic for many designers and specifiers of new buildings if no new ways are adopted.

The collaborative team hope that this work will stimulate and form the basis of further advancements with the precast concrete sector and demonstrate the power of collaboration in providing inspiration to other net zero initiatives.

You can watch a video of our recent webinar, exploring the results, here.

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Curtins hands over ownership to its staff in monumental transition

Date: 15th July 2021

Curtins hands over ownership to its staff in monumental transition

After 61 years of independence, we have made the monumental transition to become an Employee-Owned Trust, giving our people an increased ability to influence business decision making and share in the company’s financial successes.

We were established in Liverpool in 1960 in the back bedroom of founder and lecturer at the Liverpool College of Building, Bill Curtin.

“What we’re doing is so aligned with Bills’ philosophy and principal of making sure our people are at the heart of our company,” states Chief Executive, Rob Melling.

Through the new structure, everyone employed by Curtins will have a share in the company’s financial performance and enjoy the benefits from their efforts.

Our former share ownership scheme where staff owned approximately 25% of the business, was first introduced in 2002, shortly after Rob Melling joined the Board of Directors.

That ownership scheme allowed people from outside the Board to also own shares in the business based on certain eligibility criteria, or to be gifted them as a reward for long service. This resulted in us being listed in the Top 50 Employee-Owned Companies for a number of years prior to this transition.

On the timing of this step, Rob Melling comments, “By implementing the transition now, at a time of bright prospects for Curtins, we believe that the stars have aligned to achieve key benefits for our people.”

Curtins employs over 350 staff across our 14 offices in the UK and Ireland. We have maintained our independence since we were founded, which we believe is a strong and compelling reason for why our clients choose us.

“Whilst our staff have always been focussed on delivering what our clients need from us, we believe that being part of the EOT will give our staff an even greater desire to achieve our company objectives, and serving clients is at the very heart of that,” adds Melling.

In order to achieve the transition, members of our Board and other staff shareholders have transferred their shares to the EOT, confident that this is a positive step for the business and the people employed by it.

“We genuinely believe that this is best for the business and our people. For those that don’t get it, my response is just wait and see,” remarks Melling.

Under the new structure, staff will be able to influence business decisions through our employee forum comprising of 28 representatives from across all of our offices.

Ultimately the Board of Directors will still have responsibility for running the business and will be accountable to a Trustee Board, which will include two elected members of the employee forum. The Employee Trustee Directors are Helene John, Office Manager in our Cardiff office, and Stephen Beggs, Director in Bristol.

Melling adds, “As an Employee-Owned Trust, I believe that the company and the individuals who work within it will flourish in a truly collaborative structure.”

To mark and celebrate the transition, Curtins commissioned an artwork by a Liverpool-based artist, Olga Snell through local art organisation dot-art. The kaleidoscopic digital collage will be displayed in the reception area of our head office in Liverpool.

Olga commented about the commission, “When I’m working on collages like this with lots of elements about the subject I like to call them Totems – so this is the Curtins’ Totem, a collage ‘structure’ as a metaphor for the company, the work they do, their inspirational story and ethos.”

The transition to an Employee-Owned Trust was officially signed and declared on 14th July 2021, paving the way for an exciting and more collaborative future for our business and our employees.

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Curtins shortlisted for Consultancy of the Year

Date: 15th June 2021

Curtins shortlisted for Consultancy of the Year

We have been shortlisted for the Consultancy of the Year at the Insider Wales Property Awards 2021.

The awards will celebrate the achievements of property and construction companies, deals, developments, advisory firms and individuals across Wales. The finalists were chosen by Insider’s panel of independent judges.

The winner will be revealed at the Property Awards ceremony, which are to be held at Cardiff City Hall on 15th September.

View our awards

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Curtins appointed to South East Wales Technical & Professional Services (SEWTAPS) Framework

Date: 15th June 2021

Curtins appointed to South East Wales Technical & Professional Services (SEWTAPS) Framework

We are delighted to announce that Curtins has been appointed to the South East Wales Technical and Professional Services framework (SEWTAPS) in Lot 2 – Civil and Highway Engineering Consultants as well as Lot 8 – Geotechnical Consultants.

SEWTAPS is a 4-year framework operated by Cardiff Council covering a wide range of infrastructure and consulting services open to all Public Sector organisations.  This award is a fantastic opportunity for Curtins to be involved in supporting some of Wales’ upcoming ground-breaking projects.

Speaking about the appointment, Dean Saxton, Technical Director, Curtins said: “I’m thrilled to share that we have been successfully appointed to the SEWTAPS framework. Curtins have provided over 30 years of service to public sector clients within Wales and this framework will provide us with an opportunity to continue in our delivery; with a focus on social value and championing low carbon solutions.

SEWTAPS enables Curtins to be appointed by direct award or mini-competition.

Please get in touch if you would like to know more.

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Dean Saxton joins the panel for The Race to Net Zero seminar

Date: 14th June 2021

Dean Saxton joins the panel for The Race to Net Zero seminar

Dean Saxton, Technical Director in our Cardiff office is set to be a panellist at “The race to net zero: How Welsh education can power out of the starting blocks”.

The seminar is part of the Education Buildings Wales Conference, which is taking place from 21st-25th June.

Speaking alongside other industry experts Dean will be discussing the challenges faced by the construction industry when approaching sustainable design and will be drawing upon direct experience from within the healthcare sector and how this may be applied to the education sector.

Dean will also be joined by Padraig McMorrow, Architect and Passive House Consultant from IBI Group, and David Buick, Regional Director of Aecom who will also look at what needs to be addressed to drive the greatest change to create the sustainable buildings and estates of the future.

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Photography competition for Mental Health Awareness Week

Date: 26th May 2021

Photography competition for Mental Health Awareness Week

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week 2021, we ran a photography competition with our staff on the theme of nature. There were dozens of outstanding and uplifting photographs that reminded us all about how engaging with nature can benefit our wellbeing.

Our winner was Edward Heukers, with his breath-taking image, ‘Climbing with the Kea’s’ – a rare type of mountain parrot.

We have collated all of the entries into photobooks for each of our offices and our four holiday lodges, so that everyone can enjoy them and be inspired to spend time with nature.

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Curtins involved in UK project to decarbonise precast concrete in construction

Date: 17th May 2021

Curtins involved in UK project to decarbonise precast concrete in construction

Curtins are delighted to be providing engineering support to a Innovate-UK funded project to decarbonise precast concrete. The research project is led by Akerlof, Forterra and PCE Ltd and is supported by us, Accelar and grant funding from Innovate UK.

The UK’s built environment sector is turning its attention to the embodied carbon in buildings, which – according to the World Green Building Council – accounts for 11% of our national total emissions. Concrete, whilst a default choice for many structures, is acknowledged as a carbon-intensive material and a focus for an industry challenged to develop a roadmap to net-zero. AMA Research has forecast that the precast concrete sector will grow by 18% to £2.3.bn by 2024.

A collaborative team, led by design-for-manufacture experts Akerlof alongside leading UK materials manufacturer Forterra and superstructure and façade construction specialist PCE, supported by Curtins as engineers and sustainability consultants Accelar, has collaborated to research and develop processes that significantly reduce the emissions of pre-cast concrete methodology and materials. Funded by Innovate UK and supported by Ministry of Justice (MoJ) as part of its future capital programmes, this pilot project is aligned to the UK Government’s strategic commitment to developing low-carbon infrastructure, decarbonising the economy and securing better outcomes for the environment.

The Decarbonising Precast Concrete (DPC) project builds on the learning from recent research-based studies on ways to both reduce concrete used and apply lower-carbon concrete mix types, crucially applied against a real-life project. Through collaboration the integrated team have addressed gaps along a typically fragmented value chain, to enable iterative testing, robust data capture and detailed analysis at each stage in engineering an optimised system. Benchmarked against the performance of the MoJ’s existing delivery methods, the project outcomes are intended to be transferable to other sectors and development types, including student and rental housing, and major health and education infrastructure.

Traditional concrete manufacture is a fuel-intensive, electro-intensive and therefore CO2 intensive process, using cement, said to be responsible for as much as 8% of the world’s CO23. While addressing its material makeup to lower manufacturing and embodied emissions is critical to decarbonising, the pathway to net zero relies upon a holistic view: with intelligent design that minimises material use without affecting a structure’s integrity, as well as an understanding of a product’s transport and installation emissions.

The DPC project is therefore made up of three stages:

  1. Design Solution Optimisation – minimising material use at the source
  2. Material Development and Testing – incorporating use of novel cement and/or clinker substitution technologies and admixtures
  3. Production and Logistics Review – identifying opportunities for improvement in carbon emissions.

John Handscomb, Founding Partner, Akerlof, says, “We urgently need to find ways to decarbonise the delivery of the UK’s future infrastructure and buildings, with solutions that are commercially competitive. This pilot brings together innovators from each stage of the process to tackle this challenge directly through a real-life project. We are extremely hopeful that in demonstrating significant carbon reductions we will be able to formalise a project model that can enable others across the industry to apply to their development pipelines, to deliver better outcomes.”

Stephen Harrison, Forterra CEO, says, “This is a UK team, backed by UK innovation money, trialling a way to help UK construction lower its carbon emissions – a vital focus to keep our climate goals within reach as recovery measures stimulate the sector to increase building.”

Simon Harold, Business Development Director, PCE, says, “By looking in the round at one important aspect of delivering today’s buildings, we are confident we’ll find a relatively simple, cost-effective and eminently scalable way to reduce carbon emissions, benefitting our clients’ communities as well as contributing to the UK’s efforts to hit its net zero carbon target.”

Gareth Jones, Head of MMC & Technical Services, Ministry of Justice, says, “This study demonstrates how collaboration through the supply chain can bring subject matter experts together to develop innovative solutions for decarbonising. We look forward to utilising and embedding such solutions in the MoJ’s New Prison Programme.’’

Jonny Voon, Head of the Sustainable Innovation Fund at Innovate UK, added, “Decarbonisation of concrete manufacturing is fundamental to helping the UK government achieve its Net Zero ambition of slashing emissions by 78% by 2035. Innovate UK is proud to support the project and an exciting consortium with their world-leading efforts.”

The pilot’s findings and recommended future methodology, expected to be released in June, will be shared with the sector to enable it to consider a more holistically-sustainable approach as it ramps up delivery of new buildings and infrastructure post-pandemic.

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Podium webinar on Modern Methods of Construction

Date: 27th April 2021

Podium webinar on Modern Methods of Construction

On 22nd April, we went live with our webinar on Modern Methods of Construction in Healthcare. More than 550 people registered to attend the event, which forms part of our webinar series.

In the session, Director at Curtins, Andy Macfarlane discussed what the UK government’s “presumption in favour of Modern Methods of Construction” means for the design of healthcare projects.

The construction industry and healthcare are both in a period of transformational change. The principals of standardised design, pre-manufactured value and MMC are quickly becoming key drivers in how healthcare projects are designed, manufactured and assembled, partially led by the UK government’s announcement to favour tenders comprising offsite construction.

This webinar provided the background to MMC and discussed what it could mean for the design of healthcare projects.

To watch the webinar recording, please click here

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Curtins presents at AUDE Conference 2021

Date: 25th March 2021

Curtins presents at AUDE Conference 2021

We are pleased to confirm that Curtins will be exhibiting at the annual AUDE Conference and speaking on the topic of Modern Methods of Construction during the week.

The Association of University Directors of Estates (AUDE) conference, which is taking place virtually this year from 12th – 16th April, comprises an exciting programme of informative speakers from the estates and facilities world.

Our presentation: 

On Thursday 15th at 11am – 12pm, Andy Macfarlane, Director in our Liverpool office and Dan Evans, Executive Director in London will be presenting on How Modern Methods of Construction can add value to HE developments.

The construction industry and education are both in a period of transformational change. The principals of standardised design, pre-manufactured value and Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) are quickly becoming key drivers in how projects in the education sector are designed, manufactured and assembled.

The talk will introduce the background and terminology around MMC, explore how it can applied to modern education projects and discuss Curtins’ MMC Options Appraisal toolkit. It will also consider how design options can be compared to MMC categories, and how additional technologies can be integrated into traditional construction techniques to add value to the scheme.

To find out more about AUDE and view the speaker programme, click here.