Week 8 – 3/4/2017

Howdy Ags,

Another week in London marked another week of incredible experiences and the creation of memories that are sure to last a lifetime.

Our usual British Life and Culture class held on Mondays with our walking London Encyclopedia Professor Hertz was pushed back to Friday for our trip to Kew, but I’ll get to that in a bit! Instead we walked around the Parliament Square area for presentations of the sites we’ve been researching for the past couple months. Following a few great presentations by Brandon, Tanner, and yours truly we got to experience the Palace of Westminster with our informative tour guide, James. Little did we know that while sharing the history of these various sites with our colleagues; we would be thrust into history itself as the last debates for Brexit were taking place in the House of Lords at Westminster.

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Tuesday marked another day of presentations as we walked and walked throughout London, a typical Londoner thing. We checked out the Temple Church with Blake and managed to get a tour of the inside. As we walked towards The Coat of Arms on an inconspicuous road several police motorcycles came rushing up the street. It’s somebody getting pulled over, it’s a funeral proceeding, no it’s the Queen and Prince Charles casually cruising by! As she passed she smiled, waved, and gave a firm gig’em, although the latter may be up for a debate.

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Wednesday we had our final construction law class, and we discussed different alternate dispute resolutions. It’s incredible just how much we’ve learned from Professor Rodgers these past weeks. We enjoyed studying law so much that some of us debated actually getting into it. But later in the day a stint in the Royal Supreme Court set us back on our feet. There we watched the proceedings on a breach of contract dispute between the government and another federal department. The damages amounted to nearly 100 million pounds , that’s $125 million! Although sadly it is the taxpayers that end up footing the bill for the governments negligence.

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Thursday started at the Institution of Civil Engineers. There we learned what the institution does for the industry, which includes promoting civil engineering careers to youth through various events. They also assist current engineers with through their  vast library and archives of drawings and research journals dating back centuries. They also house the largest lego bridge ever constructed. We then attended more presentations on historic sites by our own personal tour guides Ryan, Victoria, and Emily. After journeying through the gorgeous St James park we reached Buckingham Palace where Ryan spoke about how the infamous palace has evolved over the years. We then strolled to St James Palace for Victoria’s speech. Although royals don’t reside there anymore, it is the place where foreign dignitaries like presidents of the United States stay when visiting. There’s no Trump Tower in London so the old palace will have to do. Also, it serves as the address for the royal family to receive their packages, though I don’t think they order from amazon.com often. Before lunch we walked by the only Texas embassy to exist while it was a republic. The only remnants of it is a plague and statue of the great Sam Houston himself. The building the embassy once sat in is now a whisky store, coincidence I think not. We then journeyed to Kensington Palace where Emily informed us on the interesting history of the residence where Prince William and Kate now live. We then held an impromptu game of frisbee in the beautiful Kensington Park. Which leads me to this question, how many Aggies does it to take to retrieve a stolen frisbee from a dog? The answer: 8. After a ten minute fiasco and several hundred yards sprinted, Blake’s day old frisbee was obtained, but destroyed. At the end of the day we discovered that we happened to visit the Texas Embassy site on Texas Independence Day, I think ole Sam Houston was looking over his fellow Texans on this day.

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Friday we took a train out to Kew, where we met with Professor Hertz and journeyed through Kew Gardens which is the second oldest botanical garden in the world! After lunch at the local pub we toured the steam museum and music museum where a gentleman played many old music boxes and a remarkable instrument called the Wurlitzer, used back in the day for silent movies.

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Over the weekend it was time to study and prepare for our Construction Law exam as well as our Constructionarium project. Can’t believe how fast our studying portion of this semester has flown by, now it’s time to test our knowledge! Until next time…

Best,

Beau

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Week 7 – 2/26/2017

Howdy,

On Monday afternoon in British Life and Culture class, we discussed contemporary Britain as a post-war society in the 20th century. During the lecture, we discussed the causes and effects of World War I and II on the United Kingdom. Consequently, we visited the Imperial War Museum as a class to see weapons of war, memorabilia, and daily goods used during both World Wars first-hand. The Holocaust exhibit was particularly powerful and moving to experience.  Interestingly, the War Museum is located in a building that formerly housed the London asylum for the insane known as “Bedlam”.

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On Tuesday morning, we visited the offices of Faithful & Gould for a presentation by Director Andrew Constable about how the company functions. We had the unique opportunity to hear a young employee, Vasiliki Papagiannopoulou, discuss her journey as a graduate student before working full-time with Faithful & Gould. We then heard Marietta Chatzinota, a professor at a local London college, discuss how important sustainable construction materials and methods are to the industry and for the longevity of a general contracting firm. After leaving the office of Faithful & Gould, the class then went on a site visit to one of their projects – “R7 Kings Cross” with Project Director Sean Andrews.

Tuesday evening was spent at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) at Parliament Square. The presentations started off with in introduction to RICS, including its membership. This ranged from participating in real estate to finance, and lead into clarification on the role of “surveying” as it is known in Britain with an overview of growth in the United States. RICS develops standards for these members to follow in order to unify construction practices. At the end of each presentation, a group discussion was held at round tables to delve deeper into each topic.  At the end of the presentation we went to the top of their building on Parliament Square for a great photo opportunity.

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On Wednesday, we had class as usual with Professor Rodgers, covering construction insurance. We went over Commercial General Liability, Builder’s Risk, Umbrella Coverage, OCIP’s and CCIP’s. As always, we looked for examples of vocabulary, ethics and law that we learned about in class that day within the local Evening Standard newspaper. We also discussed our experiences during the previous week with locals and how what we are learning about construction law applies to the British industry.  We always conclude by discussing those matters that we deemed interesting from the previous week.

On Thursday morning we began our oral presentations of the research papers we have completed.  First up, we went to the Jewel Tower to hear Elizabeth Carl’s oral presentation about this iconic structure in England. Ryan Montgomery’s next presented his research into the Elizabeth Tower and the famous bell within referred to as Big Ben.

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Later Thursday afternoon, we went to a John Sisk & Sons construction site with project director, Bob Henderson. This project was a historic refurbishment of the Royal Academy of Arts. John Sisk & Sons have faced many challenges on this project due to the age of the structure, the laws governing its refurbishment, the price of the artwork within and having to work around the existing active art gallery site and academy.  Winds in London that day topped 50 mph and we learned that under those conditions all the tower cranes being used automatically stop, raise their booms vertically and go into “free-wheeling” status to prevent stress on their moorings.  This was truly an amazing thing to see across London as there are dozens if not hundreds of tower cranes in operation.

On Friday, we went as a class to Windsor Castle. Windsor Castle is by far the largest plot of land containing a castle that we have seen. As soon as we arrived at the train station, we hurried through security towards the Chapel of St. George to witness the changing of the guard. We heard a band only rivaled by the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band itself playing in the distance as soldiers marched to the guard station. After a long ceremonial procession, the guard was changed and the band marched off. Following the changing of the guard was Austin’s oral presentation focusing on the Round Tower at Windsor Castle. Immediately afterwards, we all filed into St. George’s Chapel to see the exquisite fanned vaulting within the gorgeous chapel. It was awe-inspiring to see the craftsmanship involved in constructing the structure. The chapel also houses the graves of many English kings including Henry VIII and one of his favorite wives.  I was particularly fascinated by the detail used to carve the choir paying homage to the knights of England. After leaving St. George’s Castle, we walked through the elegant rooms of the Royal Estate. We were completely blown away by the size of the hallways and the furnishings within.

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We look forward to yet another week in London as we get closer to finishing up our academic portion of our study abroad trip. Thanks and Gig ‘Em!

God bless,

Tanner Epps ’17

Week 6 – 2/19/2017

Where has time gone! It feels like we just got to London yesterday, yet here we are with only two weeks of class left. It is such a surreal feeling to know that we will all be starting our internships very soon.

Monday was our weekly class with Professor Hertz in which we discussed British historicism, exoticism, and globalization. After our class lecture we went to the National Gallery, which presents artwork from all over the world. Professor Hertz pointed out paintings that reflected how society was continually trying to reconcile science with religion.

Tuesday, we had a meeting with Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB). We learned how it is at the heart of a management career in construction. Since 1834, CIOB has been the world’s largest and most influential professional body for construction management and leadership. We will also visit the offices of the Royal Intitute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) next week. These Royal Charters are given by the monarch to promote the practice of building and the benefit of construction for society. The members work worldwide and their qualifications mark the highest levels of professionalism, providing assurance to clients for built assets. Our meeting with their office showed us the advantages of being a part of their institute. When our semester ends, we can say that we were part of these two institutes and it will benefit us all around the world. We met a young man that was 24 years old and already known as one of his company’s best employees because of the skills and connections acquired from these institutes. After we accepted to come on this trip, we opted to become student members of CIOB and RICS in order to learn more about them.

Later that day we all went to the Technology and Construction Court. Past London study abroad programs had met with them before so they had a good understanding about Texas Aggies. We sat in a courtroom with a judge, barristers and professional expert witness. They described the different proceedings that take place during a case. From the judge to the barrister, there was someone there to talk about what his or her job entails. The experience here was very interesting and they were very impressed with our knowledge of law.

Wednesday, we had our Construction Law class with Professor Steve Rodgers. We had two assignments to turn in: Vocabulary #2 and the final draft for the research assignments that we were assigned when the semester began. Towards the end of that class we went through our vocabulary as a class and we all got a much better understanding of what these words meant and why it is important to know them. Construction Law class never fails to teach us all the information we can absorb over a few hours while having good class discussions.

Thursday, we had a visit with PRP Architects in a part of London south east of us called Blackheath. The commute there was a new challenge because we had to travel outside our zones on the tube. A lot of us added add a balance to our Oyster card in order to be able to make it all the way there on the tube. The other half of the group got delayed on a train and ended up having to take an Uber there to make it on time. This company’s business plan was very advanced. They build all new “future-proofed” homes for elderly people. They said that it was all about giving older people a better choice in housing as they age. Elderly people want to stay independent in a suitable home as they get older. Few companies know as much about housing design for the elderly as PRP. They have over 100 awards to their name and after seeing their job site we clearly understood why.

Later that day we went to the Embassy Gardens-Phase 2 project and were hosted by the Irish company, Ballymore. This was a very fun site visit that happened to be right in front of the brand new United States Embassy that is almost completed. This project is known as one of the most important regeneration stories in London for the next twenty years. The relocation of the U.S. and Dutch embassy made this area a target for business because developers knew that the former derelict area would be forced to become much nicer looking and desirable. The architectural style is very distinctive and modern. Complexes here consist of apartments amongst landscaped public squares, parks, gardens, business facilities, and the world famous sky pool. When Phase 1 of the Embassy Gardens was completed, it set record sales values. The second phase is projected to be even more successful as the project consists of up to 1,750 new homes, and over 20,000 square meters of office workspace spread over eight building plots rising up to 23 stories in height. We were all very excited when we saw their marketing apartments of what the finished products are going to look like. The apartments were very upscale and it interested all of us to maybe look into living there if we were to work in London after college. Shortly after, they showed us a sheet of the costs for each apartment and I lost all interest when I saw that they start at almost one million British pounds. That may be a little bit over our budget right after graduation.

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Building of the new U.S. Embassy at Embassy Gardens

This was probably one of the longest days as a whole that we have had this semester. Fortunately, our professor took everyone in the group out to dinner at a place called L’Antica Pizzeria. This Italian restaurant has been widely regarded as the best pizzeria in the world. After a long day of meetings and learning about multiple job sites, some good pizza with everyone’s company was good therapy.

Friday, we had a trip to the greatly anticipated port town of Dover, England. A bus picked us up at our apartment complex, and off we were on a road trip for the day. This small town has multiple attractions such as Dover Castle, the busiest seaway in the world, the White Cliffs of Dover, and it is only 22 miles away from France. As a class, we had a tour through the castle with one very funny guide. It had a lot of history about battles with France and why it was the commanding gateway to the realm for nine centuries. We decided to eat lunch at a small country restaurant down the hill from Dover Castle that ended up being very tasty. A few of us, including myself, then decided to go hike the cliffs of Dover. The cliffs were a very beautiful site to see, but also a little scary if you got too close to the edge. After a good hour-long hike it was time to head back to London and get to rest after our long weekdays.

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Five of the boys living life on the edge (literally) at the White Cliffs of Dover!

Only two more weeks of fun and adventures before we start our semester internships!

 

Cheers,

Brandon Compean ‘18

Week 5 – 2/12/2017

Howdy Aggies!

Whew, week five has flown by! By now we are all somewhat assimilated to the London culture and its entirety. Cold weather, grey skies, numb feet, and occasional light, flakey snow is no longer out of our norm. Our schedule has become second nature and the tube lines are easier to navigate. Taking the Northern line to the Piccadilly line to class every Monday and Wednesday is like riding a bike. Granted, the “Citymapper” app does come in handy for most destinations we are traveling to each week. Now I will share a little about the experiences our group encountered throughout the week.

Monday, as always, started with Professor Hertz’s British Life and Culture class in Russell Square. We took the first two hours discussing imperialism, colonialism and mercantilism and how it shaped the United Kingdom in a historical context. Shortly after our tea and coffee break, our class began our adventure down the Thames River for a history lesson.

Tuesday, we awakened bright and early and suited up (formally!) for our visit with Anthony Lavers, a legal counsel from the White & Case law firm. A small group and myself made our way towards Broad Street on a bus through the traffic ridden streets to their office building around 9:00 am. The other group of Aggies took the tube route. The lesson to be learned here is never take the bus, the tube always wins. When we arrived, we were greeted with the usual coffee, tea and a snack before our meeting with Mr. Lavers. Anthony Lavers began by giving brief background of the company. White & Case began as a financial law practice in New York, but is now a global law firm that has expanded their practice to various branches of law and is now regarded as a Tier One construction law firm. Anthony explained that they are involved in numerous disputes in the front end of project development for construction. Two-thirds of White & Case’s clients are in the middle east, which is where many Oil and Gas clientele are located. White & Case is mainly affiliated with large corporations like Saudi Aramco. Otherwise, White & Case is involved in four other construction sectors such as power, metals and mining, infrastructure and property. Anthony Lavers said, “power is real big money, especially nuclear right now.” He continued to say renewables are also upcoming, especially wind power as it has surpassed coal energy as the second largest power provider in the EU. Anthony continued his presentation by describing the various contracts he encounters depending on the market. The most popular contract he faces is an “EPC contract” (Engineering, Procurement, and Construction) or “Turn-Key contracts,” which is similar to Design-Bid-Build contract in the States. These are more common in the oil and gas sector because most of the owners will not take on the responsibility and risk involved for these styles of build. There is also a EPCM which is a form of the EPC contract, but there is a managerial contractor that is solely there to support the project and shift the risk away from the contractor. These are less common, but are still evident in the global industry. Anthony explained that being confronted with different contracts from all over the world is always a new challenge and there is never a boring day. There are “boiler plates”, which is a term used to describe standard forms of a contract that are used over and over without negotiation, but reading the fine details is where majority of the mistakes are made by his clients. Wrapping up his presentation I asked what his favorite project that he dealt with and he answered the Nord Stream Pipeline. This is a natural gas pipeline that was built underneath the Baltic Sea that stretched from Russia all the way to Germany.

After his presentation, we went home for a small break and then met back up at 6 pm for a Society of Construction Law meeting.  The first speaker was Adam Robb, a barrister of Essex Chambers, who did a presentation on the SCL (Society of Construction Law). Adam broke down the two obligations of a builder, process and outcome. As for the process, it is imperative to exercise reasonable skill and care. In other words, take pride in your work and maintain high standards. As for the outcome, shoot for a lifetime of twenty years in every aspect. If you are involved in both obligations in a contract you need to make sure to clarify which one has precedence. The next speaker was Brady Heywood who talked about the causes of catastrophic failures, why they happen, and who’s to blame. Most recently, he talked about the De Grolsch Veste Stadium project in the Netherlands in 2011. Long story short the structure of the building was insufficient and collapsed killing two people and injuring nine. The underlying cause why Adam said this system failed was due to trust between parties. This resonated with me because when you are working as a team on a project, you need a foundation of trust between each party. If one party breaks that bond, then accidents happen and it can sometimes be catastrophic.

On Wednesday, we set out for class at Russell Square for Professor Rodgers’ Construction Law class at 1 pm. In class, we talked about the contract we were assigned to outline. We discussed the different components of a contract and identified the critical clauses. For example, we had to locate and state if there was a Paid-When-Paid or Paid-If-Paid clause. In the contract, it outlined a Paid-When-Paid clause which basically means that the subcontractor will be paid no later than a certain amount of time after a receipt is given to the Contractor from the Owner/Client for the subcontractor’s work. Other terms like Retainage, which states that the Contractor is liable to withhold a percentage of their payment until their work is approved by the Contractor and Owner/Client, was also used. We spent about three hours outlining the 21 assigned clauses, various terms and highlighting the numerous flaws written in this exercise. Next week we will be discussing different construction law vocabulary we were assigned and turning in our historical landmark essays for review.

On Thursday, our class met with another American based company, Hines, to tour their new student housing project in Kensington. This week marked the 51st week of this 77-week student housing project. We were greeted and taken to their meeting room where they prepared a presentation about their housing facility. David, the person that led the tour informed our group of the options that each student could choose. In London, they usually have their own small persona dwelling that consists of a mini kitchen, bathroom, shower, and study area. This option is called a studio and is generally the more popular choice. The other option that is less popular is a normal flat or what they call it, a cluster. This option usually comprises of 6-8 bedrooms with individual toilets in each room, but they share a common living space and one larger kitchen. According to David, the 6-roomed cluster is more space efficient. For student housing projects like this one, they usually do a design and build process. This process is more timely and efficient for meeting deadlines quicker. This project also achieved excellent on the BREEAM rating scale. BREEAM is the European equivalent to LEED in the United States, which is a sustainability rating. This is the second best rating of their BREEAM scale. Contrary to the United States, Hines and many companies utilize solar panels on their roofs as well as utilize this space as a green space filled with grass, flowers, and bird baths to help achieve this rating.

On Friday we visited the Churchill War Rooms at 9:30 am. The tour was full of interesting exhibits of important political figures such as FDR and old remnants of Winston Churchill’s life. The museum also had various of other exhibits that talked about WWII and life in Britain. What I found interesting was the propaganda exhibits and learning about the effects it had on people’s point of view of Winston Churchill and the Allied powers. We spent a couple of hours going through the museum and then went home.

This week was interesting and full of fun adventures! Until next week! Gig ‘em!

’18 Kyle Cicio

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Week 4 – 2/5/2017

Howdy!

Four weeks down, fifteen to go! Time has continued to speed up while we have been here. We are now in the rhythm of going to class Monday and Wednesday and site visits Tuesday and Thursday. This week has stood out to me as one of the more exciting and eventful weeks, so I am glad I get to share what all we learned and had the incredible opportunity to visit.

Monday, we started the day with Professor Hertz’s British Life and Culture class. We discussed the British political system and how it differs from the U.S. Our class then took the tube to the Victoria and Albert museum, the world’s largest museum of art and design. It is an educational hub that houses five museums and five schools. Hertz took us to the exhibition that explored Europe’s material culture from 1500-1900’s. Hertz explained that most of the items we would see belonged to the wealthiest people at that time. Some of these items included ceramics, wood carvings, and tapestries that were absolutely stunning. We learned that tapestry is the most prestigious art form because of the time and patience it takes to complete one. We also saw the flamboyant fashion of the men, such as Albert, and women at the time. We ended the tour looking at sculptures of influential people, such as the famous composer Handel, and the paintings of artists’ such as Gainsborough. The tour was fascinating and several students are planning on returning later in the semester to check out the other exhibits offered.

Tuesday, our group met outside Anglo Educational Services (where we have class) to take minibuses to Sir Robert McAlpine’s construction firm. Beth, the assistant site manager, gave a PowerPoint presentation that explained their company and the project, Quadrant Four, we visited right after. Beth said their company prides itself in doing work the right and ethical way. She said that they have lost projects because of this due to the fact that “some clients don’t give a toss.” Beth then went on to explain Quadrant Four. She said it is part of the Crowne Estate’s redevelopment of Regent Street. This means that the client or owner is the Queen of England, which we all thought was really cool. The project revolves around the refurbishment of a 1934 building that was once an Art Deco hotel but will now be 48 high-end apartments. The work to make this transformation happen involves adding two levels with a terrace (which will be 7 duplexes), remodeling some floors, and renovating the existing facades. Beth said the goal is to retain as much stone as they can and any new part is faience. Faience is a new term we learned. It is a 3D cast that allows you to mold a shape however you want. They are using it to get as close to the original stones as they can. The process involves the stone being kilned twice, which involves a lot of twisting and contorting. This means the product will not be a squeaky clean one because it is being heated, cooled, and expanded. Beth said the tolerances for faience are pretty high because they realize the building is not perfect originally so it does not have to be perfect now. Abi, the environmental and sustainability analyst, picked up the presentation and discussed the sustainability organogram (organizational chart) used for the project. She explained how the company is focused on gaining a 70% or above in sustainability. One way they are achieving this is by employing 40% of its people locally (20 miles from the project). Abi stated the biggest risks and difficulties of the project include watching out for asbestos, since it is a 1934 building, and debris during some demolition. A significant factor they have had to consider is the fact that there is a live high-end gym (where Prince Harry works out) on the first two levels of the building that they cannot disrupt. After the presentation, our group went to the site to discuss the scaffolding taking place. Beth discussed the “scaffolding strike” by referencing the putting up and taking down of the scaffolding. It was a good thing someone asked for clarification because we took it literally as a labor strike about scaffolding. We then had the chance to weave our way through the scaffolding, which was fun and a little tricky because some spaces were really tight.

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Our group then loaded back up in the minibuses and headed towards Wimbledon, another project of Sir Robert McAlpine. We were honored to visit this “top secret” project where McAlpine is building a fixed and retractable roof above Court No. 1, which is only used for Wimbledon. McAlpine is also adding two more tiers to the court and are replacing Court 19 with a two-level open plaza. Additionally, they are enlarging the seats in the bowl, which will reduce the seating capacity by 360. To do all of this, McAlpine has to remove the existing roof and install eight steel roof trusses to support the new roof. This new roof will be completed by April 2019. In the meantime, they have to continue putting up the cranes and taking them down every summer so as not to interfere with Wimbledon. The unfinished parts of the roof will be painted green too so they are not a distraction for the players. We learned that nothing is permanent on the site except for the grass and main stadium. No one is allowed on the grass, and electric fences have been put up to keep the foxes out. We enjoyed learning about and visiting this site. We all took lots of pictures, but were told we could not post them anywhere until the project is completed due to confidentiality considerations.

Wednesday, we had our Construction Law class from 1-5pm. We discussed various topics, including how Lloyd’s method of insurance is different from American insurance companies such as State Farm. This was helpful to discuss since it gave us some background information before we headed to Lloyd’s the next day. We also did an activity where we looked for law vocabulary and Who, What, When, Where, Why and How sentences in the daily newspaper.

Thursday, our group met at CBRE, a company that provides real estate services such as consulting and debt management. Matt Wilderspin gave a PowerPoint presentation that gave an overview of what CBRE does and how it started. He told us that CBRE was established in 1773 and focuses on the investor and occupier. He said that research is key because you have to be able to look at the market and tell the client where to invest in real estate. Interestingly, some of their big clients include Time Warner, Warner Bros., Google, and Facebook. Matt then discussed that 2017 looked like it would be a year of refurbishing due to finances. He stated that buildings are becoming more and more mixed scheme, meaning it contains some residential aspect to it. This is due to the fact that local governments mandate this and because London’s population is continuously growing as more and more people are retiring in the cities to be close to theatres, etc. He went on to talk about the UK market trends and how they have recently needed more project managers to do all of these projects. He said that CBRE has hired secretaries who possess great management and people skills to fill these vacancies. Matt also discussed terms such as procurement (single and double state) and joint ventures. He explained how joint ventures are similar but also a little different to Public Private Partnerships. It was neat to see terms we had learned in class applied out in the real world.

At 2:00pm, our group met at Lloyd’s of London. We were taken to a room to hear a presentation on the history of Lloyd’s and to understand how their business is conducted. Lloyd’s is described as being “the world’s insurance company” but is in fact not an insurance company at all – it just provides a building where insurance companies do business.  It is known for having the best reputation in the world in regards to assessing risk and having the money to pay up when claims come in. It is important to understand that Lloyd’s is just a building; it insures nothing and takes on zero risk. It all started in 1688 with Edward Lloyd who had a coffee shop next to the Tower of London. He would give out lots of information to these wealthy voyagers before they set sail on their ships. Business owners therefore came to this coffee shop to persuade these wealthy voyagers to protect themselves before setting sail. This was a new concept for people to give a total stranger money to pay up if their ship sank. Lloyd would charge these underwriters (people who would sign their names under the sum they are insuring) to do business at his place of business. This is what still takes place at the Lloyd’s of London today. The brokers come in, on behalf of the client, to negotiate with the underwriters. It is convenient for them since all of the underwriters are in the same location, but they have to pay for this luxury. Brokers have a “conflict of interest” because they are trying to get the cheapest premium for their client to be happy but also want a bigger percentage so their boss will be happy. While Lloyd’s focuses on insurance, they also focus on reinsurance. This is a new term for us, and it is when insurance companies insure themselves above what they say they can pay up. This is 37% of what Lloyd’s does. The presentation concluded with the speaker saying that anything can be insured there except financial guarantees, war, and life insurance. Interestingly, Lloyd’s has insured some remarkable aspects of history, such as Hurricane Katrina and the London Olympics. After the presentation, we were taken on a tour around the building.

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Friday, our group headed to the Tower of London. Most of us, including myself, went on a tour Wednesday instead in order to head to Dublin, Ireland for the weekend. The tour on Wednesday was cut a little short due to the rainy weather. However, we were able to go in to the stunning Royal Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula and the Crown Jewels. Some of us are planning to go back to get the full in-depth tour.

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Until next week! Cheers.

Emily Christians ‘17

Week 3 – 1/29/2017

Well another week has flown by. I feel as though we have lived in London for months rather than the mere three weeks we have been here. We are becoming Londoners more and more each day: navigating the tube, jogging through city parks, and visiting local pubs.

Monday we were off on another adventure with Professor Hertz. After our lecture for the day, we walked to St. Paul’s Cathedral. We learned that the cathedral itself and the surrounding area were bombed during World War II.  Thereafter, Prince Charles commissioned the rebuilding of the buildings surrounding St. Paul’s. His requests were to maintain the original layout of the streets around the cathedral and maintain a maximum height for the buildings as well.

After St. Paul’s, we went to Bank Station where we stood stunned at the Bank of England. The design and detail of the area was incredible especially for a financial district nearly a thousand years old. Professor Hertz related a story about a mob that attacked the Bank of England in the 1700’s. During the attack, the bank employees used rubber bands to slingshot their inkwells at the intruders. After killing two mob members, the rest of the group fled the scene. Following the attempted robbery, the building was then built much higher and larger to prevent any attack from occurring.

Tuesday, we visited a company called Carillion at their project for King’s Cross Station. They are in the process of creating what will be the “new King’s Cross”, a fresher, more modern take on the previously blighted area. We toured one of the residential buildings that included two or three bedroom flats. Some of us found the floor to ceiling shutters for the balcony very innovative. They operate automatically and immediately close when high winds are present.

Below: 1. UK Construction Science students visiting Carillon’s project at King’s Cross. 2. Students at the top of the Scalpel Building. (Featured photo at the top: A panoramic photo at the top of the Scalpel Building.)

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Wednesday, we had our Construction Law class. Assignments for our second rough draft of our architectural essay and our vocabulary assignment were due. The vocabulary law terms were helpful because the following day we would be visiting a law firm. We were grateful to this assignment because we were more knowledgeable of the construction law terms for our meeting on Thursday.

Thursday, we visited another Skanska site, the ongoing project known as the Scalpel. We took the bus or tube to the main office for the project where we were briefed on the specs and plans for the skyscraper. Following the meeting, we walked to the current structure and hopped on a hoist that took us to floor 13. There, we had a great view of the “Cheese Grater”, or the Leadenhall Building and the Gherkin Building. Another aspect of construction we noticed was the crane cantilevered on the side of the building. Glancing out over the edge and looking up at the crane was a sight to see. Then, we walked to another hoist where we went all the way to the top of the 623 foot-building. On the way up, some of us developed our fear of heights rather quickly. As we held our breath and struggled to stay calm, we were at floor 35 in no more than 5 minutes. At the top, we were astounded by the view of London before us. However, because of the cold weather most of us were ready to be back on the ground after twenty minutes.

After the Scalpel, we went to Charles Russell Speechlys law office. There, we spoke with David Savage who helped us understand the differences between UK law and US law on construction contracting. He explained adjudication to our group.  This is a shorter legal procedure where you may make a claim in private. This is not a practice in the United States. This might be something very appealing to Americans. This way, legal proceedings would not be so public. Especially for a large company, it would be easier to get rid of the problem sooner than later to avoid the public eye.

Many of us have been taking trips on the weekend to other European cities. This weekend some of us took the Eurostar to Paris, including myself. We have had delicious cuisine, listened to jazz, taken part in swing dancing, and made our way through the French shops. We discovered a fourteen year old jazz pianist and also the very French dish, escargot.

We are looking forward to the rest of our semester. Stay tuned!! Cheers.

à bientôt,

Elizabeth Carl

Week 2 – 1/22/2017

Howdy!

After a long and very full Week One in London, we were all ready for a nice, relaxing weekend. We used Saturday to recover from the week and prepare for the week ahead, knowing that things were only going to move even faster as the weeks progress. Saturday consisted of many of us running errands as well as wrapping up an assignment for our British Life & Culture class with Professor Hertz. It was a much needed break, as it seemed that we never stopped moving in the past seven days.

As we are still in a very new and exciting city, Sunday was used to explore some new places around London that we had not yet visited. A large group of us made a visit to the famous Harrod’s department store. A good amount of our time there was spent in the confectionary, also visiting the meat and deli sections for more than a few minutes. We eventually continued on past the food and continued to window shop, as most of the items for sale there are out of the price range of college students. Sunday was capped off with a trip to a local sports pub to watch the Packers vs. Cowboys football game. While there, we found several other groups from the States who had also come to watch the playoff game.

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We kicked off the week with a class led by the always excited and animated Professor Hertz. These Monday classes are a great way to start the week, immediately throwing us into thinking about the similarities and differences between life here in London and life back home. Professor Hertz took us around the streets of London again and told us the story of the copyright on the Story of Peter Pan; the only copyright in the world, as of now, that will never expire. The author of the classic story, J. M. Barrie, donated the rights to the Great Ormond Street Hospital, a children’s hospital in London. The royalties made off the patent was the main source of income for the hospital, which was set to expire after he passed in 1937. The international copyright office brought in anyone who was interested in publishing something with the story and offered up the idea that if there were no objections, the copyright would never expire. One of these companies present at this meeting was Disney, who was waiting for the copyright to expire to release their animated movie. However, not a single person raised an objection to the proposal, meaning the copyright for the Story of Peter Pan would never expire and its royalties would continue to fund the children’s hospital.

Tuesday we were treated to our first site visit:  “Pop Brixton” in Brixton. We met a man named Philippe Castaing who is the Community Director of Makeshift Limited. He was one of the leaders who designed and led a revitalization project that has helped bring Brixton back to life in a lot of ways. We walked through a busy market and stopped at the location of the revitalization project, Pop Brixton. It is a very unique and outstanding structure. It is comprised almost completely of old shipping containers. This design makes allocating retail space, relocation and reconstruction very easy. This small, community focused market was very interesting to see from a development perspective. This group is all very focused on growing the culture of Brixton and putting it back on the map in a positive way. We all enjoyed our time there and are all very eager to return and try more of the incredible food and drink that they have to offer.

pop-brixton

Later that evening, we were treated with a tour of the Kirkaldy Material Testing Museum. This tour was given by a team of older gentlemen who do this as volunteers to share the history of materials testing. They shared with us the different tools and machines that were used to test materials in different ways. This was very exciting to see, as the materials that we use in the construction industry all must be tested and we usually don’t get the chance to see that happen. We now know more about how strong these materials that we use are and how they are tested.

The most inspiring thing that we took away from these meetings was the obvious passion that these people have for what they do. Philippe from Pop Brixton couldn’t stop talking about the good changes that were being made in the community and how great it was to see this transformation happen from one small group of people. Then going from this work-in-progress revolution right into seeing the history of our industry was eye opening. The men who care so deeply about these machines and this history were so happy to see a group of students come in who were genuinely interested and curious about what they have to share. Both parties shared a special part of their lives with us and it was very encouraging to see people working on things they are so genuinely passionate about.

group-photo-with-skanska

Thursday we woke early and met up with a representative from Skanska, a massive, international construction company. Chris Hillier met us in Waterloo Station, the busiest train station in Europe, to show us the work that they are doing. They are renovating several tracks to take some of the load off of the other train stations in London. This project will be completed in several phases and there is clearly a lot of work left to do. It was very interesting to get a behind-the-scenes view of what the inside of a train station looks like. He spent the morning showing us everything from the high voltage 14,000 Volt cables to the old jail holding cells for suspected smugglers. We then made our way to the Crossrail project, the largest engineering project in Europe. This new underground station will be attached to Paddington Station, expanding the number of platforms available as well as adding another tube line to the London underground. This immense project was fascinating to see because there was enough completed to imagine the potential hustle and bustle of the station, but still empty enough to appreciate the work that goes on behind-the-scenes that passengers will never think about once the station is open.

Our week culminated in a group trip to Portsmouth with Professor Rodgers. We started another early morning with a train ride, lasting a little over an hour. We left the train and wandered around the town for a little while before coming to an open shoreline. This was a nice break from the busy noise of London, finally able to go out and enjoy a little bit of sunshine. At the shoreline we were able to take time to for some pictures, enjoy the warm sea breeze, and relax. We were blessed with a nice, sunny day and surprisingly not-freezing temperatures for a change. We took this opportunity to take our heavy coats off for a little bit and hang out on the shore for a while. We progressed to one of the forts on either side of the opening of the port, quickly followed by lunch at a local pub. They set us up with a large table to seat all sixteen of us. Not only were we all together, but we were in an upstairs room with windows on three sides, allowing us to really soak in the view of the harbor and port around us and still enjoy the sun. It was an incredibly pleasant lunch, although it did take a good chunk of time.

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After lunch, we made our way to the Royal Navy Dockyards to learn more of the history of Portsmouth and the role that it played as an access point to the rest of the harbor. We took a tour of the HMS Victory. It was fascinating to get a glimpse of what life was like on those old ships. After the tour of the ship, we split into a couple of different groups, some getting on the train to return to London after a long day, while others headed to a pub to watch the inauguration.

We are two weeks in and most everyone is pretty much settled at this point. We have figured out the tube system and getting around is becoming second nature, with the help of maps. Next week is another adventure and we never know what that will have in store for us.

Thanks, Gig ‘em, and God Bless

Mason Boyle ‘18

Week 1 – 1/15/2017

 

Howdy from London!

Our first week here started in a hectic fashion as we checked in to our apartments on Sunday, January 8, 2017. Students arrived from both the U.S. and abroad as we had a few students who traveled to Europe earlier in celebration of the holidays.

We promptly met our building manager, Yogi, who helped us in to our living accommodations and suggested we try a Portuguese restaurant as our first dinner together in London. Yogi, or “Yogi Bear” as he allows us to call him, walked us through our introduction to London on our first official day of class which was followed by a clever police officer with over 30 years of experience who gave us standard safety protocols that are unique to London. Interestingly enough, the officer informed us that in his 30 years of dedicated service to the police force he has never fired a gun. That was a bit of a culture shock for many of the students who come from Texas where gun laws are renowned for being very relaxed.

Next we were introduced to our British Life and Culture Professor, Alan Hertz. Professor Hertz immediately took us to lunch and spent the remainder of the day introducing us to downtown London. Our classes are held in a building on Russell Square across from the Russell Hotel.  All of the area was developed by the Russell Family beginning over 300 years ago and they still own most of it.  We began our introductory tour of London at the University of London which ironically doesn’t educate a single student. Rather it operates as an umbrella university that supplies the resources necessary to its member Colleges to educate over 170,000 students across the world and is comprised of 18 independent Colleges in their own right.

Hastily, Professor Hertz directed us to the cheapest theatre in London, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Eagerly, he told us of the one and only time he attended a play – “Romeo & Juliet”.  Afterward he met and congratulated the young Romeo.  Later he learned the actor went on to fame in stage and screen – Jude Law!

With a focus on construction and property development, our first tour concluded at Covent Garden in which the Russell family also developed in 1630 as a large piazza with several terraces and a church. The multifaceted square proved to be very popular and financial success. Several more of such squares were scattered along the outskirts of London as people looked to move to nicer areas with a church and accessible amenities.

The following we day the group boarded a Red Bus Tour with Professor Rodgers as we crisscrossed our way through downtown London with an audio tour that helped us have a deeper cultural understanding of several landmarks. After a warm lunch we finished our Red Bus Tour of London at the Tower of London and found ourselves next on a tour of the River of Thames. Many of us mispronounced the name of the river and we were promptly corrected by the locals that it is pronounced “Tims” despite the “Th” that begins the name.  I still do not understand where “Tim” came out of that but I’m not one to argue. Our tour ended across the street from Westminster Abbey as the sun set, providing us with a picturesque horizon over a truly eye catching London icon in its own right.

As a part of our student led tours, each student here is required to research and lead a tour of historically significant structures scattered across London. So the next day, in a proactive manner, we all sought to trek across London in search of our structures to familiarize ourselves with our student-researched structures.  This occupied much of the following day.

Finally we ended our first week in London with a tour inside of Westminster Abbey. It was to much of our surprise to find out about the many of the most influential people that have ever lived are in fact buried at Westminster Abbey. Several Kings and Queens rest here but more impressively, Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin also share burial monuments here. Those that were interested stayed for a service at Westminster Abbey which was quite a unique experience.

At the end of our first week here we have begun to familiarize ourselves with commuting our way around the town and one might even call us locals! We “mind the gap” as they say on the tube and we constantly remind each other of the correct way to look as we cross the street! Most of us are already looking forward to our first site visit with Skanska and our tour of the Tower of London!

Until next week,

Austin Beale ‘17

big-ben