Posts Tagged ‘External Wall Insulation

22
Nov
15

SAY HELLO TO your new robot

traveller

I first became aware of the Spread sheet and it’s use in Construction projects in the Thatcher glory years, when Company’s where floating on the Stock Market, daily.  Everyone was becoming a shareholder, bar myself and I still haven’t joined in, today.

I was on a Refurbishment job, in Wincanton, Somerset. My company had recently floated, a vast proportion of staff, had bought in. New Business managers had been taken on. The job had been priced and everything had been assigned a little coloured box within an Excel document. It was going to be done for that price in that amount of time. One price i remember well, was the price payable to fit a door.

A deal had been struck with Travis Perkins, i presume so prices could be fixed,, and volume buying could be worth a discount. Our discount at the time was better than a senior member of Travis Perkins was. All materials for the refit of the door could be obtained there.

My Carpenter and his team came from Yeovil, not too far away. The price for a door fitment, complete with frame, lock, hinges, door handle  and Architraves was £15. I had phoned the person responsible for the price, who had rustled some paper around, “ah yes, the door, i presume he has power tools, he continued,  the door, three hinges, routed, three screws, three minutes, door lock, routed”. He went on and on. “it comes out just over 45 minutes, i have been generous and paid for the hour”. I was enlightened, and dismayed. I informed him the house was old and the door didn’t fit. The frame was easy to alter, the door not so. The price didn’t alter.

The document above is part of another Refurbishment project.  It involves External Wall Insulation and render and as such it should involve the weather. Seeing as the weather is an unknown element there is no space for it on the sheet. The price payable for the system install was the lowest i had expected.

Houses where expected to start and finish on a set day. Partly running through the winter months, i’d mentioned the weather, holding a printed out Excel sheet for the first time in my life. Next Wednesday we would be starting Number 34, but they give a storm coming in. I voiced my opinion, not possible, and was duly stitched up and sacked. My first warning regarding the lengths managers will go too, to protect the spread sheet, even if it’s wildly wrong.

Last week Peter Hansford the Government Minister for Construction issued his recommendations, we/ I await any response. Part of the document mentions training and pay. I have asked for the price to be set by the supplier of the system, like buying a VW car. Sto Track and Rail system costs £? per metre to install to this standard, Alsecco Adhesive free system costs,  £… per metre, to install to a standard. Make them responsible for the training also. You can still add in the price for labour on your sheet, the figure can be obtained from them over the phone or by mail, easy peasy, it will come in an un-editable box.

 

list2All the ECO, Warmer Homes, Green Deal projects have all been guilty of this practice, hence the lowest price ever paid, and the lowest quality, and deviation from the specification, displayed on every street in the country. Hence my arrival on the list, partly shown here. Looking at the list a lot have had correspondence from myself regarding the spread sheet  and it’s operation. Real life excerpts off the shop floor, some in the list like BRE.co.uk went out and had a look, so alarmed where they and others, is why this report is out.

The suppliers need to step up their game, it’s their product on show, after all. Training needs to be in depth, where ever it’s practiced, none of this half a day and home, or NVQ’s on the doorstep. A proper visible achievement, visible by eye. Noted STO.co.uk didn’t have anything to do with any of the subsidised EWI, SWI installs over the last ten years.  They where protecting their quality standards.

Where are we at the moment?, every boss i have had since Wincanton has been looking in the boxes, shaving a bit here and there, none stop.  I’ve been fuming about it since that day. To achieve the required quality, we need to be Robotic in our attempts, the weather needs to be ignored, illness and public holidays. More often than not, it’s un-achievable, set by someone with no  idea of the job involved or just plain greedy/ tight. As we are not going to be saying hello to a Robot just yet, I’m hoping Peter’s report has some effect. I’m rubbing my chin trying to imagine, what..

On the shop floor, speaking to an ex boss (ex Green Deal and Eco warrior), only last week. “You can’t do it for £24.50 a metre” he says. He knows that, as I and others have been telling himself and others, since Wincanton. Along the way I’ve had a boss who reckoned he could get EWI/SWI done for nothing, his rendition of the Art of Plastering would have flummoxed any game of Charades. He wasn’t responsible for the Initial figure during Green Deal and ECO etc, the Government department DECC or Suite’s as I call them, where. Now we are left with that price. It was odd how his tone suggested it was a recent event, on the trowel it’s been a ten year slog at least. He had been alarmed at my suggestion of him loosing control of wages. I tried comforting him, “it’s just a box”. I can only try and imagine what the other boss would have thought about my ideas. It didn’t go down well. But it would be a box DECC and others couldn’t alter. He also dumbed down the skills needed. He actually said “it’s not Plastering” I begged  to differ. All in all, not a good chat, estimations of people dented.

Now they are having trouble getting people to do it for the amount they have left in the box. Most fully trained operatives have left the Industry, long ago. I thought this would be the outcome in Wincanton all those years ago after the phone call, luckily an influx of cheap labour has helped bosses shave the box ever tighter, but now they are training up, they want more money. For those who are already trained, this isn’t enough money and hasn’t been for sometime, I Brian (note the Capital) “The Individual” say so.

One other suggestion i have put forwards is bringing back the Clerk of Works on Retrofit projects. Put an end to the in house assessments. The cost of this can go in a box. I will let you know if any of these measures come in too play.

28
Jun
15

Workmanship

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Three pictures from a roof in Bristol. The resident had lived there for 20 years. When they moved in they had a new roof put on, and the insides where totally ripped out and re designed. The first smell i had on entering the house was drains, followed by damp.

On entering the rear garden i noticed the rear of the Georgian property had been pebble dashed, on the far corner it had let go completely, one tap and the whole corner section would have fallen off. The area under picture one was also in a bad state all the way down. The resident had picked EWI mainly to cover it all up. I warned her the EWI would be trapping any damp in the wall, ventilation through the summer was imperative, i hope she was listening.

Originlly the 4” white trim in picture three wouldn’t have been there, it has just been installed as a top cover for the External wall insulation under the Green Deal. The occupant mentioned a wet patch on the floor outside her back door, that hadn’t been there before, so i climbed the scaffold for a look.

Picture one with the damp tile explains the damp patch. The tiles don’t overlap the guttering, (bad roof setup on install) there is also no felt until picture three, where you can see it’s perished. I could have taken a better shot of it but was wondering how the area on picture three was going to be made weather proof by the EWI installers, as their remit ends at the back of the 4” trim with a mastic joint. I looked at the junction between the top and bottom trim, what hope is there that that will do the job, none in my mind.

On picture one with the wet tile, the water was going behind the guttering and running over our trim and down onto the floor below, an improvement on the original setup, where it ran down the wall.

Back inside the house to show her photo one and two, she took me into the kitchen where big damp patches where evident at both ends of the room, one relates to picture one and the other to picture three. Stood there for a minute and the smell  of drains took over, part of the EWI remit is to extend all pipes by 100mm on the outside. On opening her sink cupboard i could see a push fit sink trap system, with all the joints twisted. Push fit connections rely on the pipes being straight, no side stresses or it will leak.

IMG_1962 Imagine if you can how you would connect the white pipe to the original grey exit pipe in the wall without stressing joints. Add in the fact the grey pipe is running uphill out of the wall, which means the system is holding more water than it should, thereby increasing the likelihood of leaks and its 50mm out in two directions. An impossible task. The smell of drains was so bad i wondered how wet the floor was under the unit. On studying the fittings dried on food particles told me it had been leaking for ages. In what was an immaculate house, shoddy workmanship had ruined her brand new kitchen walls and possibly the floor,and possibly upstairs was the same in the bathroom and bedroom. With picture three in mind, i’m unsure if the problem will be totally solved anytime soon without the help of a roofer. A Romanian fake EWI installer won’t be good enough. I say fake as in picture three is not to specification, that 100mm upright bead should be on the trim by centimetres at least. Aluminium expands and shrinks with the weather, in full sun by an alarming amount. It can split a mastic joint in a morning.

Years ago there wouldn’t have been any white trim, we would have extended the roof to cover the EWI and some. A dumbing down of the EWI trade to enable bus loads of untrained low paid foreigners to help the big company’s rinse as much money out of the system as possible before it gets closed, means house holders are not getting a good deal. The Green Deal is a bum deal for so many.

11
Sep
14

A career in the EWI industry

This week Labour’s shadow energy minister Jonathan Reynolds said Mark Group’s job cuts were “devastating news” and the government “owed the people who are set to lose their jobs an explanation as to why their policies have had such a terrible effect”.

I’ve been in the EWI industry for 30 years at least and been laid off so many times i’d given up counting. It’s always been affected by government elections, especially if it’s gone the Tory’s way and no-one ever gave me an explanation. 15,000 workers are expected to be left in the industry in 2015, how many of these are Foreign workers, will they have learnt how to  do it by then?

ewi1 Would you pay £6,000 for a finish like that? i think not.

I thought the Green Deal was going to be a boom time for workers and company’s, i thought work in the South West would finally come on stream and thought it would see out my career close to home.

British Gas are still in Plymouth cladding Cornish units, a handfull of UK workers are still there in amongst sub contract company’s doing the work . But the vast majority are foreign. Trained operatives who’ve been in the industry for over 10 years are being hassled over minor faults whilst the foreigners can lash it on any old how and then your boss says the ten foreigners are quicker than your gang of two. On my last employment in Plymouth foreigners where exploited in the office on day one. How much can you do it for? £18, stavros is doing it for £13, i can give you some houses at £12 if your desperate, which probably explains why some where on £8 mtr all in at the wall. Boom time? not for the workers. What’s an £8 a meter finish like quality wise?

There was talk of starting 300-400 apprentices in Plymouth at the start of the 8000 house project, it’s a local housing association, why didn’t they demand it happen. As far as i know not one apprentice got a start.

A national training company posted a link this week asking if anyone knew of a company in Plymouth who would take on 6 keen 16/18 yr olds for EWI fitting. Who’s got the time to stand and watch youngsters as they need watching, If they see foreign workers dobbing it on will they follow suite? The foreigners have been allowed to do it any old way and told to cover it up quick. If they went for lunch they would foam around any open junction on the boarding to stop you looking down behind the board to see if it was fitted to the specification.

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It stopped you finding boards like that. The line just visible on the left is their way of blocking my view after someone in the office asked where all the foam was going.

IMG_1224 I think this was the only house i managed to get taken off, after this one cover it quickly came into operation. Imagine the time difference it takes between applying five dobs and doing it correctly. No system i know of allows dobs as the fixing method anywhere in the world. These Romanians had been in Germany and Ireland before the UK. Standard practice after this one was to board and mesh it in a day with a big gang. As fast as the boards went on someone would follow pinning which isn’t allowed as the adhesive is still wet and banging in the pin will pull the board in. The very top picture explains what’s happened in behind. They might even start the mesh coat. If not then they will prime and topcoat on day two, if the sun is shining and the mesh looks dry they will top over it. This year down in Plymouth during the summer, houses where being done in a day, the bosses loved it as they coloured in their spread sheet, the trained operatives where made to look slow by doing it the right way. On the next day the subcontract foreigners are first in the queue for materials, so they can finish a house in a day, you don’t get yours until lunch time, making the spread sheet argument even better.

To see a Romanian trying to replicate this with an 8” scatting shovel was a highlight of the year. When i turned my back they went back to dobbing it on. The shot above is the correct way to do it just in case your thinking of a career in EWI.




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