Feb 25, 2021

Three-quarters of workers suffering mentally from COVID-19

Dominic Ellis
3 min
Around a third have reported depression while well over half have felt stressed during the pandemic
Around a third have reported depression while well over half have felt stressed during the pandemic...

Three quarters (76%) of tradespeople say COVID-19 has negatively impacted their mental health, according to new research by small business insurance provider Simply Business.

As the almost-year-long pandemic takes its toll on the mental health of the nation, it’s clear that tradespeople of the UK have been hit particularly hard. In the last year, around a third (32%) have suffered with depression, while well over half (58%) say they’ve felt stressed, and more than two in five (45%) have experienced anxiety.

Almost half (47%) of all tradespeople also say they’ve had problems with their sleep, while a quarter (25%) have suffered with low self-esteem at points in the last year. The vast majority – if not all – say that any signs of poor mental health have either been caused or made worse by the pandemic.

Unlike many industries, construction has had the green light to continue working through large periods of the pandemic – including the most recent national lockdown. Indeed, almost one in five (18%) say they’ve continued business as usual.

But with one in five (17%) describing their current mental state as either bad or very bad, it’s worrying to learn that two in five (38%) tradespeople don’t feel they’re able to take time off work if experiencing poor mental health.

The effects of economic recessions on rates of child abuse, domestic violence, substance misuse, mental illness and suicide are also well documented, warns the BMA (click here).  

Future concerns offset by rising optimism

Following a sustained period of economic uncertainty, almost half (46%) of all tradespeople are concerned about the future of their business, while close to one in six (15%) believe there is a very real threat that they may have to permanently cease operations. 

Red Flag Alert recently warned up to 40,000 construction firms are at risk of failure by April (click here). 

According to two thirds (66%), future lockdowns would have the biggest negative impact on business, and are the main concern for many tradespeople. 

But despite ongoing challenges, two in five (42%) are optimistic that the economy will pick up, while a further two fifths (38%) feel positive that the number of jobs and orders they’re receiving will continue to rise.

Meanwhile, one in five (22%) say they’ve managed to adapt their business in the pandemic, with well over a tenth (13%) learning new skills – both of which should have positive long-term benefits for the trades community.

With three in four reporting that the crisis has had a negative impact on their mental health, it’s reassuring to know that many are taking steps to improve their wellbeing.

Over half say that spending time outside and in nature (57%) and physical exercise (53%) are having a positive impact – while a further 57% are staying connected with friends and family to support their mental health.

One in five (22%) have said that gardening helps, 16% are reading, and well over a tenth (14%) are using mindfulness techniques such as meditation or breathing exercises.

Alan Thomas, UK CEO at Simply Business, said: “Covid-19 has had a significant impact on the nation’s wellbeing, and that’s especially true for self-employed tradespeople – many of whom have been instructed to continue working throughout the pandemic.

“The self-employed have been among the hardest hit from Covid-19 and those in the construction industry have faced unique challenges. The results from our latest survey show the clear impact this is having on mental health.

"Tradespeople play a huge part in the smooth running of the UK, and will be vital to our collective recovery – the news that three in four have seen their mental health negatively impacted should concern us all for a number of reasons."

It has partnered with a range of experts – from sleep specialists, to clinical psychologists – to create tailored resources for the self-employed, housed under its Better for Business wellbeing hub.

Public Health England has also provided wellbeing advice (click here). 

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May 25, 2021

ReCreate project reuses concrete in new buildings

Dominic Ellis
3 min
Universities and companies in Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany are deconstructing precast concrete intact and reusing them in new buildings

Reconciling the carbon conundrum in construction will not be a quick fix but researchers at Finland's Tampere University may have hit on a way of deconstructing concrete elements and reusing them in new buildings.

Its four-year ReCreate project, which has received €12.5 million of funding under the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme, involves universities and regional company clusters in  Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Germany. All the country clusters will carry out their own pilot projects where they deconstruct precast concrete elements intact and reuse them in a new building.

“By reusing concrete elements, we can save an enormous amount of energy and raw materials,” says Satu Huuhka, adjunct professor at the Faculty of Built Environment at Tampere University, who leads the ReCreate project. “We are specifically looking to reuse the concrete elements as a whole, not as a raw material for something new."

Researchers at the Faculty of Built Environment have been carrying out ground-breaking research into the circular economy in the construction sector for a decade.

Long-term research on renovation and the lifecycle engineering of structures provides a solid foundation for the development of quality assurance procedures that will ensure the safety and integrity of the reused elements. This time, the researchers are set to explore not only the technical implementation of the solutions but also the business perspective.

Huuhka acknowledges there are many unanswerered questions, from assessing structural integrity to building code requirements - and ultimately how to turn ReCreate into a viable business. "We must also consider the social aspects: does the process require new skills or new ways of working?” he adds.

Tampere University researchers will also bring to the project their specialist expertise in circular economy business models, building regulations and law, and occupational sociology. The Finnish country cluster comprises Tampere University, Skanska, demolition company Umacon, precast concrete company Consolis Parma, engineering and consultancy company Ramboll, architecture firm Liike Oy Arkkitehtistudio and the City of Tampere. The communications partner is the Croatia Green Building Council.

Buildings generate nearly 40% of GHG emissions and the rising pace of construction - up to 2 trillion square feet could be added by 2060 - means finding a sustainable concrete solution is essential. 

Graphene concrete on firm foundations, CarbonCure accelerates growth and Nexii expands in US

Nationwide Engineering is claiming a world first today as it lays the world's first graphene concrete slab engineered for sustainability in a commercial setting. The new material is strengthened by around 30% compared to standard concrete and so significantly cutting material use

It has partnered with the University of Manchester's Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre and structural engineers HBPW Consulting; graphene is an allotrope of carbon and the resulting mix with concrete produces a substance that area for area, is stronger than steel, it claims.

CarbonCure manufactures a technology for the concrete industry that introduces recycled CO₂ into fresh concrete to reduce its carbon footprint without compromising performance. It was named one of two winners in the US$20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE and the money will be used to accelerate its mission of reducing 500 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually by 2030. Carbon Cure believes the use of CO2 in concrete is expected to become a US$400 billion market opportunity.

Nexii designs and manufactures high-performance buildings and green building products that are sustainable, cost-efficient and resilient in the face of climate change. It recently teamed up with actor and Pittsburgh native Michael Keaton, who will have an ownership stake and play an active role in Nexii’s upcoming manufacturing plant, which will be its second in the United States and sixth overall.

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