Monday, 25 November 2013

The Queen's Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education 2013

I enjoyed a very pleasant evening recently at St James’ Palace, London (no less) where I was attending a Reception to announce the Prize-winners in the tenth round of the Queen’s Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education. 

Invitation card
These awards, presented biennially, recognise and celebrate outstanding innovative work within UK higher and further education institutions and its beneficial and practical effect.  They are the highest form of national recognition open to a UK academic or vocational institution.

The winning entries (of which there were twenty in total on this occasion) represent work by individual departments and research groups, major infrastructure and enterprise projects, vocational and technical training programmes and the application of cutting-edge research.

Entries undergo a rigorous process of independent external assessment.  This includes review by national and international experts and specialists covering the relevant disciplines, reference to government departments and UK devolved governments with a particular interest in the fields of work under consideration and, to professional and other bodies and sources. 

I was proud several years ago to be invited to be one of the members of the reviewing body – known as “Readers” – of which I understand there are about 350 or so in total and something of the order of half of us were present at the reception yesterday evening at the Palace.

The “Readers” are effectively the early-stage adjudicators/judges and are asked to study several different submissions, assess their merit and also to suggest any areas where further information in support of the submission might be requested.  The best submissions from these initial rounds then go forward for more rigorous assessment by the main judging panel.

This year, I “read” two submissions – one from a Northern Ireland College of Further Education which had promoted a scheme to encourage its students to become involved at a detailed level in construction schemes for local charities and public bodies and the second submission (talk about being off at a tangent) was for a University’s programme to assist the training and development of elite athletes in the run up to the London Olympics and beyond.  One of their star athletes involved in the programme was not other than double Olympic Champion, Mo Farah.  Unfortunately, neither of these submissions sufficiently impressed the later round judges sufficiently to win one of the Prizes.

Winning institutions in this round focused on applied research in a range of areas including amongst others:-

·         Multidisciplinary work on environmental, ecological and economic challenges: Cardiff University; Cornwall College; Newcastle University

·     Innovation in surgery training, human anatomy and forensic ID and ground-breaking applications in archaeology: The University of Edinburgh; University of Dundee; University of Leicester

·         Manufacturing techniques and processes and industrial design: Loughborough University; The University of Manchester; University of the Arts, London

I was fortunate to speak briefly with one of the winners from the University of Oxford, a neuro-physician, who had pioneered practical and cost-effective improvements in the prevention of Strokes, and also, with Peter Chenery, the Chief Executive of the Royal Anniversary Trust, which sponsors and promotes the Awards.
Prize winners
I also bumped into a couple of Past-Presidents from the Association of Building Engineers, Arwel Griffith and Diane Marshall (it was Diane who had the dubious honour of draping the ABE Presidential Chain of Office around my own neck in the House of Lords in May 2008).  I didn’t get the chance to speak for very long with Arwel, but had plenty of time to do so with Diane – who I haven’t seen for ages it seems – and shared a taxi back to Kings Cross after the Reception was finished.

As a footnote, Anne has been telling everyone that she was especially impressed when I was originally asked to be a “Reader” for a set of Awards primarily aimed at the “Education” sector…….apparently she believe that this constitutes some sort of official recognition that not only can I “read” but apparently therefore, I also must be “educated”!

Hmmmm… about damning with faint praise!

Rhys Taylor

Monday, 18 November 2013

Association of Building Engineers annual conference 2013

Anne and I, along with our good friend and colleague Robin Brown, Director of our Associated Company RBA Consulting of Arksey, Doncaster, were very pleased to be able to attend this year’s ABE Annual Conference at the Windmill Village Hotel, Coventry, on 14th-15th November.  This was the 51st Annual conference that the ABE has held and marked another major milestone in the Association’s history – the awarding of a Royal Charter – as, from 1st January 2014, the Association of Building Engineers will henceforth be known as the “Chartered Association of Building Engineers”.
Lady Godiva
The formal presentation of the Royal Charter will take place on 6th December at Gray’s Inn, London and will be carried out by HRH The Duke of Gloucester and I have been invited to attend that event, also.

As is always the case with ABE Conferences, there are two essential elements to the event, these being the opportunity to receive presentations from leaders of the construction industry (all contributing towards one’s annual CPD Requirement) and also, to meet up with old friends and colleagues from all round the UK and overseas.
Beryl Menzies, Kate Ilott & Kate Denne
This year’s seminar speakers included Jack Pringle (Chairman, Construction Industry Council), Claire Curtis-Thomas (Chief Executive, British Board of Agrément), Dr Peter Bonfield OBE (Chief Executive, Building Research Establishment) and speakers from various other organisations including EC Harris, BB7, CIC, HSE, Association for Project Safety, Association of CDM Co-ordinators, Laing O’Rourke, BM Trada and the NHBC.

The conference was formally opened this year by the ABE’s new Patron, the Earl of Lytton.  Lord Lytton, who is himself a practising Chartered Surveyor, was already an Honorary Fellow of the ABE and has been a major contributor to numerous Government working parties and advisory groups, including one which in the mid-1990s led directly to the Party Wall etc Act 1996 being brought into force in England and Wales.
Jim Charlton & Robin Brown
The closing presentation of the Conference was by the ABE’s Chief Executive Dr John Hooper, assisted by the two Deputy Chief Executives Kate Ilott and Kevin Blunden, who brought the Conference Delegates fully up-to-speed with the arrangements for the change to Chartered status for the Association and of course, it members.  Subject to maintaining at least their required minimum CPD (Continuing Professional Development) requirements of 35 hours annually, corporate Members and Fellows will be able to register with the Engineering Council as Chartered Building Engineers. 

The highlight of the social side of the Conference was the black-tie dinner on the Thursday evening, which was attended by over 150 delegates and guests.  Those members attending the dinner who had already registered their wish to be “upgraded” to chartered status and, who had also registered their CPD records up to date, were presented with their new Certificates and also, their Certificates as Chartered Building Engineers; however, the certificates are of course, forward-dated and will not come into force until 1st January 2014.

Antony & Patricia Wedge

Lisa Griffith, Anne-Marie Wadood, Christine Samuels & Colin Bell's partner, Karen

We thoroughly enjoyed the evening – meeting many old friends and a few new ones as well.  It was especially good to once again see several ABE Past Presidents, including Beryl Menzies, Pat Reddin, Robert Biggs, Ken Blount, Nick Himmans, Colin Bell and Immediate Past President, John Humphries.  Also there was Past President Arwel Griffith, who received a Distinguished Service Award in recognition of his many years service to the ABE at both regional and national level, including for several years as the ABE’s Honorary Treasurer.

On the Friday morning, whilst the delegates were attempting to sober-up after the Conference dinner, their partners (Anne included) were taken on a tour of Coventry City Centre including the Cathedral.  I can recall my Mother telling me that she was in service in a large house in Hereford during the 2nd World War and she could remember being taken to the top of a local hill to witness the orange glow from the fires that raged in Coventry following a bombing attack by the Luftwaffe.  The old Cathedral was gutted by the fires and a new Cathedral was later built alongside the original – the ruins of which now form a monument to those who perished in the conflict.
Coventry Cathedral

Coventry Cathedral

The conference included a trade exhibition with a dozen or so stands promoting their first class services & products to the conference delegates.  It was especially good to meet up with a few old friends amongst the exhibitors also, including the ABE Yorkshire and Humber Regional Chairman Basil Parylo on the LABC stand, and Paul Shepherd and Jonathan Thomas on the Wykamol Products stand.

All in all, it was as always, a thoroughly enjoyable – albeit rather tiring – few days away from the office routine and we can’t wait to repeat the exercise once again, at a future event.

Rhys Taylor

Monday, 21 October 2013

Senghenydd memorial service 14th October 2013

Anne, myself and our Daughter Amy were down in South Wales last weekend, to attend the dedication service and unveiling of the Welsh National Mining Memorial, which has been erected to commemorate all those miners who have lost their lives in the numerous pit disasters within the principality.

The memorial has been erected in the village of Senghenydd (a few miles north of Caerphilly) where at 8.10am on 14th October 1913, the single worst pit disaster in UK history, and the third worst in world history occurred.  A massive explosion ripped through the Universal Colliery, claiming the lives of 439 men and boys as young as 14 years old, in the process rendering about 300 women widows and leaving some 500 children in the village without a Father.  The explosion was apparently so violent that the cage was blown back up the full height of the shaft, in the process decapitating the banksman at the surface.

The ceremony was very well attended and was reported on both local and national TV news and the large crowd plus about 300 dignitaries were very well entertained before and during the ceremony by my good friends of the Aber Valley Male Voice Choir, led by Choirmaster Geraint Evans (I’m sorry Mark Langrick, but with great respect, I’m afraid its absolutely true that no-one does male voice choirs like the Welsh).  Mind you, I suppose I am biased, as I had the opportunity to sing with them a couple of years ago at a charity event. 

The actual memorial takes three forms – a circular “walk” with paving flags inscribed to mark each of the many individual pit disasters, a memorial wall to which have been fitted a series of ceramic tiles – one each for every individual who was killed in the 1913 explosion and also each of the 81 killed in an earlier explosion at the same pit in 1901 - and finally, a statue, depicting the spirit of Welsh miners (and I feel , of coal miners everywhere) in never leaving behind one of their colleagues, if at all possible.  

Whilst the ceremony was in itself quite poignant, the most chilling moment came for me and for quite a few others standing nearby, when at the very end of the ceremony the original steam hooter from the old pit was sounded.  The noise was absolutely chilling and made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck…..just think of how it must have sounded to all those poor womenfolk 100 years ago and what they must have thought, when they quickly realised what had happened…….

For many years, the Mining industry suffered a reputation for having just about the worst safety record.  In fact, the truth of the matter was that the construction industry had an even worse record in terms of the number of individual accidents causing injury or death – it was just that the numbers affected by each individual incident were inevitably much lower than at these significant mining disasters.

In an attempt (a successful one by and large) to improve the health and safety record of the construction industry, the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations were brought into force in 1994 and these were substantially re-vamped and updated in 2007.  The CDM Regulations provides a straightforward but comprehensive framework of safety rules which have to be applied to all construction projects in this country.  Larger projects in addition, have to be notified to the Health and Safety Executive and a CDM Coordinator has to be appointed to oversee the Health and Safety aspects of the project and to ensure that the CDM Regulations are adhered to.

Taylor Tuxford Associates will be pleased to provide advice to all Clients at the commencement of a project in regard to the potential impact of the CDM Regulations and in regard to Construction Health and Safety in general.

Commercial over…..

So, I can hear you wondering, why on earth did Rhys and his Family trail 200 miles down to South Wales and back again, just to see a statue being unveiled?

Very simple – my dear late Mum Doreen was born in Senghenydd on 2nd July 1916 and her elder Brother Edward was born in the village on 13th October 1914 – precisely 364 days after the disaster.  And most pointedly, their Grandfather (my Great-Grandfather) Edward Gilbert was one of the 439 who perished on that October morning, aged just 55 years.

We were very proud to represent the Yorkshire elements of the Gilbert ‘clan’ at the ceremony and also paid a visit to pay our respects directly to Great Granddad, who rests in the nearby cemetery in Penyrheol.

Rhys Taylor

Friday, 13 September 2013

Chamber Means Business

On Wednesday 11th September 2013 we were very pleased to be exhibiting at the Barnsley & Rotherham Chamber of Commerce ‘Chamber Means Business’ annual event held at Tankersley Manor in Barnsley. This business-to-business exhibition celebrates the best of business in Barnsley & Rotherham.

Taylor Tuxford's Exhibition Stand

With over 30 businesses and organisations from numerous different areas of the business community exhibiting, delegates were able to explore ways to develop their own operation.

It was a great opportunity to raise our business profile, generate sales and network with companies from our local area.

There were a number of workshops running throughout the day which were free to attend for delegates visiting the exhibition: -

  • Oxley & Coward Solicitors, Employment Update 2013

  • BT, Taming today’s technologies

  • SYITF, Are you missing out? Export opportunities on your doorstep

  • The Source Skills Academy, Customer service

  • Barnsley College, Apprenticeship schemes

During the morning session the Mayor and Mayoress of Rotherham, John and Kath Foden visited the exhibition followed in the afternoon by the Mayor of Barnsley, Ken Richardson escorted by the BR Chamber President Owen Gleadall.

Rhys Taylor, Owen Gleadall and Cllr. Ken Richardson

We were very pleased, at the end of the Exhibition, to be able to present Helen Lindley of Swinton Commercial with her prize from our business card raffle.

Michelle Tuxford presents Helen Lindley with her prize

BR Chamber is to be congratulated on hosting a successful exhibition and our thanks also go to the staff and management at Tankerlsey Manor for their hard work.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Our philosophy

The first few weeks of the calendar year have traditionally always been very busy here at Taylor Tuxford Associates, as domestic property owners start to thinking…...shall we have that extension built this spring/summer?

To be honest, the first couple of weeks was unusually quiet – most likely because of the snow lying on the ground, which a couple of years ago also seemed to persuade people against picking up the ‘phone to call us.  But, as soon as the snow properly cleared, the ‘phone started buzzing and we have been really quite busy over the past 2-3 weeks.

That’s not to say that we have been filling our coffers with fees, however…..we have been working on another project for BBC TV, on another of their “DIY SOS The Big Build” series.  We aren’t yet in a position to place much in the way of detail about this project onto the website, because apart from the expected restrictions on advertising that the BBC are encumbered with, at the time of writing, the recipient Family has not yet seen the finished product for themselves – what the show calls its “reveal day”, which is scheduled for Thursday 21st February.

On a similar topic, the programme with which we assisted the DIY SOS programme last May in Blyth near Worksop, was finally aired on BBC1 last Wednesday evening.   There were concerns at this end – mainly from Rhys – that the interview he did in front of the cameras with Mark Millar would be cringingly embarrassing.  In the event, his fears were not realised, as the interview appears to have ended up on the cutting room floor.  Evidently, the man supplying the liner for the broken drain made for much more entertaining TV!

It has always been a part of Taylor Tuxford Associates’ philosophy that we will strive to make as big a contribution as we can afford towards community projects and we are currently engaged upon several other projects in the area either on a voluntary basis or at the very least, at reduced fee levels, as our way of putting a little something back into society.

So, if you are reading this blog and you know of an individual who has a construction or property-related problem, or perhaps a community group who may need the services of a firm of Consulting Structural Engineers, Building Engineers and Architectural Designers, please put them in touch with Taylor Tuxford Associates and where possible let’s see if we can perhaps make a difference.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

2012 review

We would like to send to all of our clients, colleagues, friends and families our very best wishes for a peaceful and prosperous year in 2013.

We have been looking back upon a successful 2012, which – in the midst of one of the gloomiest financial and business periods that most of us can remember – has seen Taylor Tuxford Associates continue to punch above its weight in the construction sector.

One of the highlights of the year for us has been the launching of Taylor Tuxford Associates’ new Website, which we hope you are all finding to be more informative about our range of services as well as being more attractive to the eye and easier to navigate through.  We would like to take this opportunity to give our sincere thanks to Will and Charlotte Shu of Mookat Web Solutions ( for all of their help in putting the Website together.

Also, in December, Taylor Tuxford Associates passed another small milestone in the form of its 600th individual project since the company was formed in 2009.  We should like to thank all of our individual clients for their tremendous support over the past three and a half years in enabling us to accomplish this impressive number of projects.

Over the past year, as well as providing a service to (literally) hundreds of domestic customers, Taylor Tuxford Associates has added several important new names to its portfolio of corporate clients, including amongst others: Lincoln Electric, Imperial Tobacco, CVS Ltd, Auburn Ainsley, S3 Renewables, SCX Special Projects, Maltby Town Council, Irwin Mitchell, Furniss White Foundries, CKD Galbraith and Heaton Park Estates.

We should also like to thank our repeat/regular corporate clients for their continued support this past year, including amongst others: PDR Group, South Yorkshire Housing Association, The DL Company, Innes England, Fernie Greaves, Time Architects, Evolution Power Tools, Oxley & Coward, Tierney & Co, Walker & Co, Thoresby Estates, Fitzwilliam (Wentworth) Estates, GFP Construction and CS Surveying and Architectural Services.  If we have inadvertently missed anyone out, please accept our sincere apologies.

Going forward, in addition to our hopes for continued commercial success, Taylor Tuxford Associates proposes to continue to punch above its weight, by making positive contributions to the local/regional construction industry.  To that end, Rhys continues to serve as a member of the Property and Construction Sector Group which provides input and support to the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (SCR LEP).  Rhys has also been invited - for the fifth consecutive year - to chair the judging panel for the forthcoming 2013 LABC Building Excellence Awards. 

Michelle meanwhile, continues in her role as the elected Yorkshire and Humber Regional Secretary of the Association of Building Engineers and as such is actively involved in arranging suitable and appropriate Continuing Professional Development (CPD) opportunities for our professional colleagues in and around the Yorkshire and Humber Region.