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Category: Research

Returning To Work

October 24, 2017

Holidays are great aren’t they?

They offer all of us a much needed respite from the weekly grind and give us a chance to mentally reset so we can return to work with a real zip in our steps.

Despite that great feeling you get when you’re relaxing on a beach somewhere in the sun, there’s always that nagging feeling of dread that soon your time will be up and you’ll have to return to work again. Perhaps its just a trait of the Englishman: to not be able to fully enjoy their time off, because of the knowledge of the future bearing down upon them.

After recently spending two weeks in the States with my family, I’ve been suffering from a serious case of the post-holiday blues. Rather unfairly, this feeling of depression began before my holiday was even over. I felt it creeping up into me on the day before we were due to fly out. My wife and I had just sent the kids off for an action-packed day of activities, giving us the chance to relax for one more blissful day – sipping cocktails on sun loungers surrounded by utter peace and quiet – but there was a part of me that just couldn’t properly be at ease.

In the back of my head there was a sound that I couldn’t shake. A dull monotonous beeping, starting quietly, it builds and builds – until I could think of nothing else.

For a tradesman such as myself, the notion of getting up in the morning can be enough to truly frighten me senseless. The time varies from day-to-day but it will inevitably be in the early hours of the morning, eliciting a stifled groan from me as my eyes struggle to open themselves and I attempt to slide out of bed without waking my wife up. Creeping through the house, like a teenager past his curfew, I make my way downstairs to munch morosely on a bowl of Weetabix before getting dressed and leaving the house.

Try as I might, I couldn’t doze off on those sun loungers on the final day of my holiday. Every time I started to drift off, the beeping would start to echo in the back of my mind until I’d wake with a start and scare the heck out of my wife.

Needless to say, when we eventually touched down back in the UK, the post-holiday blues were well and truly with me.

It’s something that I’ve often seen in men who work in my crews. Just a few days off outside of the weekend can be enough to do it. Sometimes I’ve wondered whether going on holiday is even worth it in the first place, if it means that workers are going to be less motivated upon their return.

For the first few days I really struggled to get myself back in the spirit of things. I tried changing up my morning routine, I tried going to bed earlier, but nothing helped.

When the weekend finally arrived, I felt more exhausted than I had done before I went on holiday in the first place.

Luckily my family rallied around me and before I knew it, I was dozing peacefully on the sofa, with the buzzing alarm clock a long distant memory.

Howser on Holiday

September 3, 2016

Those who’ve had the misfortune of working with me, know that I like to crack the whip.

I’m known round the sites as a man who likes to work hard and play harder.

Now, don’t think that I’m espousing the stereotype that all brickies are hard drinking, smokers with an eye for a top-shelf mag and a Snickers.

I may have dabbled in a fair bit of confectionery as a younger man, but I’m in my mid-thirties now. I drink a green smoothie for breakfast every morning, I quit smoking 8 years ago and only drink on the weekends – when I have to spend time with the wife and kids!

I don’t like to take traditional holidays. Time is money, or so they say, and I like to make money. But every year, around half way through the Summer Holidays, I cave and book time off.

green smoothieYou see around this time, my wife develops strange symptoms of exhaustion. Dawn’s fantastic with the kids on a day-to-day basis, but I can always tell when she’s spending too much time with them. Her hair starts fraying at the edges, her dinners start to get startlingly similar and she falls asleep on the sofa at around 7:30 every night.

Just when I can tell she’s reaching breaking point, I rent a camper van, book some activities and surprise the family by sneaking down to the kitchen on a Monday morning and cooking a fry-up. That’s how they know we’re going on holiday.

exhausted-momThis year we went to North Wales. A gorgeous part of the world, you can find moors, mountains and forests. There are tonnes of things for the kids to do and decent options for hungry/exhausted parents. So, if your wife is looking a little worse for wear, why not look here for some ideas on what to do in North Wales – and take a leaf from my book!

However, there’s no reasons why you can’t get a little research done whilst you’re on the road with the family. There are some great examples of Sustainable Building projects in Wales – even though some may seem a little too modern for your firm, you should never be afraid of reaching for the lofty heights of Sustainability.

Here are three of the places I made sure to stop off at, luckily they also doubled as great places to take the sprogs!

The Great Glasshouse

You may well see your kids’ eyes start to glaze over when you tell them your driving to the National Botanical Garden of Wales, but they’ll soon forget their misgivings when they see Foster and Partners’ Great Glass House. Once the largest in the world, its still quite the sight to behold. A 99x55m toroidal roof, the glasshouse is the centrepiece of the 230-hectare garden in Carmarthenshire.

Let the kids run riot round the huge grounds, get a nice lunch with the wife at the cafe and then sneak off to find a member of staff. Speak nicely to the right person and you can get a sneaky tour of the Energy Centre that powers the entire place. Timber trimmings are thrown into the furnace to provide a surprisingly clean source of energy which provides the entire park with the power that needs.

Hafod Eryri-Snowdon Summit Building

No trip to North Wales is complete without a trip to Mount Snowdon. The variety of paths to the summit provide an easy route for any intrepid hiker. The kids will have no trouble in racing to the top, but you can take it easy if you want to and make the Hafod Eryi-Snowdon Summit Building your meeting point. There’s a cafe and an awesome floor-to-ceiling glass window for looking at the great view.

Opened in  2009, the building cost millions to make and was the subject of some criticism upon its opening. It may not have the Victorian charm of its predecessor, but its locally sourced materials can give you some great ideas for similar design work on extensions.

Ruthin Craft Centre

Everyone loves a craft centre, especially when the kids are at just the right age to obsess and compete over their creations. Sit them down with the tools provided and watch them lose themselves in potentially hours of craft work. You might leave with more paper/cardboard tat than you plan on, but at least you’ll get a chance to rest.


Whilst the kids get down to some serious Blue Peter work, you can take a look at the building itself. A zig-zag zinc roofline makes this building easily recognisable – not something most customers would go for, but still a great sustainable option material-wise. Similarly, the cast stone (coloured terracotta) that lines the walls are a great way of reducing your build’s carbon footprint.…

Overcoming Stereotypes

September 1, 2016

The image of the typical building contractor is something that has changed a great deal over the last decade.

However, there are still a whole spate of contractors who do nothing to help our public perception.

Ask most people what they think of when you tell them to imagine a builder and here are the things they’ll mention:

Grubby White Transit Van

dirty van

Catcalling Women On The Street


Messy Sites

untidy buildsite

Smoking Cigarettes


Not Working

lazy builders

  • It is up to every single one of us to nip these bad habits in the bud. They are not the product of individuals, but rather a group dynamic based on lazy practices and low standards.
  • Each and every outfit has a professional and personal interest in keeping their site standards high. By working efficiently and cleanly, we do our companies proud and are essentially promoting ourselves as a good work force.
  • By smoking offsite, and out of our gear, we help to reduce the stigma attached to builders as lazy.
  • Most importantly, by cracking down on sexism we can improve the moral attitudes of our younger workers and help create a work environment that is truly inclusive.

Lets all help to change the public perception of contractors and take pride in the work that we do!


Take a Sustainable Road Trip to Chester!

August 8, 2016

conservatory 2There was a time when your average conservatory project could take up to six weeks to complete. This wasn’t due to the poor planning or construction materials that the 90s had to offer, nope. It was because I used to run with a bad crew. Back then, during what was to be the first recession I would have to work through, jobs were scarce. We had to make our dough building conservatories and extensions for old people who had all of the cash and nowhere else to spend it.

Whenever we scored marks like these, we always made sure to spend a good amount of time in the planning and consultation phase. Whilst never a bad idea to ensure that you’re getting exactly what the client wants, in today’s fast paced world, a week or so is the limit for this kind of job. We would like to stretch it to at least a fortnight, with multiple sessions that we would charge extra for – again, I’m not proud of this, but it was never my call to make.

The 90s were a time when conservatories were flying up left, right and centre. Of course they were never that hard to build, but we liked to make it seem like hard work. We’d ‘um and ah’ over glass density and angles until the day was over and we’d only laid two lines of brick. All so that, at the end of a total of 8 weeks, an old biddy would have somewhere to sit where she could feel the sun on her face (but not be chilled by the wind).conservatory

These days – things are a little different. The orangery has taken the idea the conservatory had twenty years ago and ran with it. Instead of rather formal greenhouse style affairs, we now have grand spaces with more brick, but still including a fully windowed roof. Now, if I had been with my old gang in the tough 90s, we would be rubbing our hands with glee at the amount of ‘preparation’ that we would need to undertake in order to get the job ‘just right’. However, if I even attempted to utilise those old methods now – my company would be out of business within the quarter.

Your take home from this article? Take a trip up North and take a look at the Conservatories and Orangeries in Chester. These gorgeously styled extensions blend seamlessly with the rest of the house, are perfectly finished and go up in the amount of time it would take us to do our ‘planning’ in the 90s – a fortnight. They’re built with environmentally friendly materials and boast the kind of insulation that would put most window fitters to shame.

If you want to instil your outfit with an enthusiasm for sustainability that would rival my 90s crew’s aptitude for laziness, then take a road trip to Chester. The folks up there are lovely, and may even allow you to take a closer look at the fine handiwork of the crews up there. Have a pub lunch, go out on the town, and drive back down the next day. Your younger recruits will come away enthused about the possibilities of the jobs yet to be completed – and you’ll have had a night away from the wife. That’s what we in the building profession call: a win-win.…