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27 октября 2016, 21:41

The Case for Healthy Offices

Medibank, Melbourne by Hassell Studio The evidence is growing daily that organizations of all sizes stand to benefit by creating buildings which improve the health and wellbeing of their occupants. People are the most valuable resource of an organization, typically accounting for 90% of business operating costs, so even a 1% improvement in productivity can have a major impact on the bottom line and competitiveness of any business. Since 2014 the World Green Building Council have undertaken to put wellbeing at the heart of buildings and demonstrate the business value of doing so through their Better Places for People initiative. Their latest report: Building the Business Case: Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Green Offices, highlights the global momentum behind healthy and green office design and operation and showcases over 15 buildings from around the world that are leading the way. World Green Building Council CEO, Terri Wills says the report presents "overwhelming evidence between office design and improved health and wellbeing of workers and demonstrates tangible action businesses are taking to improve their workspaces." Simple steps like improving air quality, increasing natural light and introducing greenery - which typically have environmental benefits such as using less energy - can also have a dramatic impact on the bottom line by improving employee productivity and reducing absenteeism, staff turnover and medical costs. The World Green Building Council have developed a simple framework to help companies take action. The framework issues calls for organisations to assess key environmental factors which affect health and wellbeing, survey employees to find out how they experience them, and measure the economic factors they influence, such as productivity, absenteeism and medical costs. Eight Features that Make Healthier and Greener Offices The report identifies eight key factors in creating healthier and greener offices which can impact on the bottom line. Air Quality & Ventilation - a well-ventilated office can double cognitive ability Thermal Comfort - staff performance can fall 6% if offices are too hot and 4% if they too cold Daylighting & Lighting - a study found people in offices with windows get 46 minutes more sleep a night Noise & Acoustics - noise distractions led to 66% drop in performance and concentration Interior Layout and Active Design - flexible working helps staff feel more in control of workload and encourages loyalty Biophilia & Views - processing time at one call centre improved by 7-12% when staff had a view of nature Look & Feel - visual appeal is a major factor in workplace satisfaction Location & Amenities - a Dutch cycle to work scheme saved €27m in absenteeism. The Impact of Working in a Green Certified Building on Cognitive Function and Health, is a new study from Harvard University and SUNY Upstate Medical University that makes the case for green and WELL certification. It suggests that occupants of high-performing, certified green buildings had nearly a third (30 percent) fewer sick building symptoms, a 6.4 percent higher sleep quality score and a 26.4 percent higher cognitive function score, compared to people in high-performing buildings without green certification. Australia continues to be the global market leader of proving healthy and green workplaces that improve the wellbeing of people, boost productivity and contribute to the bottom line. One of the Australian workplaces highlighted is Medibank's new office in Melbourne which is the centrepiece of a culture change programme for Australia's largest health insurer. The plant-filled building includes 26 types of workspaces, from tranquil areas to collaborative hubs, fireplaces on every floor, herb gardens, sports facilities and a program of curated community events. The benefits are significant; two in three staff feel healthier, 80 per cent are working more collaboratively and absenteeism is down five per cent. There are also some excellent examples around the world: French manufacturing giant Saint-Gobain's call centre staff at its new North American headquarters, in Malvern, Pennsylvania, doubled their productivity after moving into the new building, with a 97% increase in sales-generated leads and 101% increase in leads per call. The building has a fitness centre, 1.3 miles of walking trails, more than 100 collaborative workspaces, and 92% of offices have outdoor views. Swedish construction and development company Skanska, was able to cut sick days by two-thirds after it rebuilt its office in Doncaster, improving indoor air quality, cutting down on noise levels and installing a central light well that increased the natural daylight in the building. The company was able to save £28,000 ($34,209) in staff costs in 2015, and achieve a 34% increase in overall employee satisfaction. Employee satisfaction and engagement is known to boost productivity: a Gallup meta-analysis of 1.4 million employees found that companies with a high level of engagement reported 21% higher productivity. As Wills says "The results are clear - putting both health and wellbeing, and the environment, at the heart of buildings, is a no brainer for businesses' employees and the bottom line." -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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12 апреля 2016, 13:23

Ericsson, ABB, Scania, Skanska, Vattenfall и KTH намерены превратить Стокгольм в самый умный город мира

Компании Ericsson, ABB, Scania, Skanska и Vattenfall совместно с Королевским Технологическим Институтом (KTH) объявили о развитии ини

23 января 2016, 21:39

Meet The Most Powerful Political Organization In Washington

This article was originally published in the journal Democracy. Subscribe to it here, because why not? WASHINGTON -- Coverage of the influence of money in politics tends to suffer from the same weakness that all horse-race politics writing does: it almost never connects day-to-day movements to any broader reality or purpose. We learn about the size of ad buys or overall spending plans, but there’s no so what? Following the 2012 presidential election, the political press decided, rather unanimously, that all the talk about the Citizens United decision had been overblown because, after all, Democrats more or less matched Republicans on the spending front, a Democrat was reelected to the White House, and the party even hung on to the Senate, so no rich conservative was able to buy the election. Sure, Republicans later took over the upper chamber in 2014, but plenty of Democrats still managed to win. This focus on campaigns and elections tends to exclude coverage of the political agenda itself. In other words, what is it that Congress and the regulatory agencies are thinking about and, just as importantly, not thinking about? And so this focus has missed one of the most fundamental transformations within our political system: the way in which corporate interests have moved the playing field away from party politics and into the bowels of agencies, courts, and Congress. The media have yet to figure out how to keep score. Author and journalist Alyssa Katz, in her new book The Influence Machine, charts the history and measures the power of one of the leading drivers of this shift, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which she calls the “single most influential organization in American politics” (as would anybody else writing a book on it). The Chamber, unique in American politics, is the only organization that simultaneously spends big money on elections, lobbies Congress heavily, drills into the regulatory process and, if all else fails, drags the government to court. As Katz keenly observes, the Chamber routinely promises to spend eye-popping sums of money on federal elections, but then in its tax documents several months later reports spending far less. Its critics suggest the Chamber does spend the money and somehow hides it from the IRS, but more likely the organization is following in the footsteps of Mark Hanna, the 19th century Roveian consultant who helped get William McKinley elected in 1896. Before the campaign was over, he returned a sizable contribution, telling the donor they had more than enough money to win. The goal of business in politics is not to win elections or run up the partisan score; the goal, rather, is to make money. If that goal can be accomplished for less, all the better. Katz doesn’t deliver many groundbreaking revelations; close Chamber watchers won’t learn much new. But hers is the first book-length exposé of a phenomenon that is generally known only deep inside Washington: namely, that the Chamber is not what it appears. The nonprofit Chamber’s official mission is “to advance human progress through an economic, political, and social system based on individual freedom, incentive, initiative, opportunity, and responsibility.” Beyond that, it is thought to be a coalition of business groups that collectively push for a free-market agenda aimed at improving the climate for business broadly. It is also often assumed to be a partisan operation aimed simply at electing Republicans. But, in fact, it’s neither of those things. Rather, it is a gun for hire, a façade that corporations can use, for a price, to do work in Washington that they would rather not have associated with their consumer brand. All of this, Katz argues convincingly, has often flown brazenly in the face of tax law, but power in Washington trumps both the spirit and letter of the law. The Chamber is a gun for hire, a façade that corporations can use, for a price, to do work in Washington that they would rather not have associated with their consumer brand.   In 2005, the Federal Election Commission cast a 4-2 vote finding “preliminary evidence that  . . . [Chamber head Tom] Donohue had violated federal law by steering corporate campaign contributions directly to a federal campaign committee in order to influence an election,” Katz reports. Similar movements of money had destroyed the career of Tom DeLay, but the Chamber came out just fine. After the commission settled the case, three commissioners voted in 2008 to reject the settlement, deadlocking the panel. It has been so since. “Again and again, in state elections and in federal ones, including presidential races, the U.S. Chamber and its affiliated organizations were operating as political organizations and effective ones at that. But as far as the IRS was concerned, they remained educational groups, free to do what they would with their funds,” she writes. The Chamber stands for whatever it wants to, whenever it wants to, depending on who’s paying. Thinking of the Chamber as an organization at all winds up missing the point. Yes, it has a headquarters -- a hulking one that stares down the White House from across Lafayette Square -- an HR department, water coolers, and so on. But knowing what can legally be known about the Chamber gets you almost nowhere. The Chamber, instead, stands for whatever it wants to, whenever it wants to, depending on who’s paying. It has become an essential cloak for corporate special interests looking to get in and out of Washington without anybody seeing. For decades, the Chamber tried to be what it seemed to be: a respectable coalition of businesses. But it found itself neutered by its need for consensus—companies are all in competition, after all—and easily outmatched by the combined might of labor and consumer advocates throughout the 1970s. It also was distracted by the anti-communist paranoia that consumed much of the politically active business community after World War II. The new model was launched secretly, first uncovered on a day where the news wound up being utterly ignored. Jim VandeHei, then a reporter with The Wall Street Journal, broke it on September 11, 2001: The Chamber was selling its advocacy services to specific industries and companies at quite specific price levels. Drug makers paid for cover in a fight over pharmaceutical prices, Ford wanted to beat back legislation sparked by the deadly tire failures on its Ford Explorers, and so on. (For businesses without any particular interest at the moment, the dues paid to the Chamber are better thought of as protection money: Nice company you have there -- would be a shame if a little congressional curiosity should happen to it.) Today’s Chamber addresses a central problem for businesses in Washington: While business and business owners in general might be broadly popular -- the business of America is business, after all -- the particular things that individual businesses want tend to be extremely unpopular. Oil companies fighting the acceptance of climate change, insurers opposing health-care reform, tobacco companies opposing smoking regulations, gas companies opposing fracking laws, and trucking companies opposing driver-fatigue rules don’t exactly capture the public’s heart. Since the public might be broadly sympathetic to business but not individual businesses, the Chamber offers to cloak corporate self-interest in vague principles. That means that the Chamber is generally incapable of or uninterested in thinking strategically about the direction of the country. Instead, it simply moves from skirmish to skirmish, leaving behind a scorched landscape. Katz, who is also the author of the well-received and timely Our Lot: How Real Estate Came to Own Us, is a policy writer, a cultural critic, and a member of the New York Daily News editorial board. Throughout her career, she has leaned more toward research and synthesis than banging the phones and surfacing scandal. This is not a Game Change-style book that will put you inside turbulent meetings or in the heads of officials. Neither embittered former employees nor mischievous insiders are gossiping or sharing damning emails. Nobody’s cell phone lights up while driving their Audi on the GW Parkway, or the other sorts of obscure narrative details that populate a certain genre of Washington insider literature. Her book is no less rigorous for it, but the lack of intimacy with the key figures does serve to remove a sense of drama from the narrative, and the book becomes more a compilation of facts and events, a point-by-point indictment rather than a page-turning tale. Katz’s approach yields a thorough piece of work, but the lack of tantalizing scooplets that are the currency of Washington and New York publishing today will diminish its impact. That’s a shame, because Katz builds what is a very strong case brick by brick, and it’s remarkable to watch the Chamber’s power rise chapter by chapter. The Chamber’s first foray into the pay-for-play game came just after the November 1994 GOP takeover of Congress, from the kind of industry that desperately needed cover: tobacco. “The Chamber has been kind of a weak sister in recent times,” one Philip Morris lobbyist wrote in a memo Katz relays. “However, based on a meeting we had with Chamber staff last week (and reflective of our sharp reduction in dues), the Chamber is eager to regain its former position of policy influence AND regain its stead in our once upon a time good graces.” The memo continues, “If we go to them with a specific action agenda, I believe they will do their utmost to attempt to see it through.” So on behalf of cigarette makers, the Chamber challenged the science around addiction and the link to cancer, lobbied Congress, went to court, battled regulators, and waged a public-relations campaign -- in short, the all-in-one Chamber playbook. “My goal is simple -- to build the biggest gorilla in this town -- the most aggressive and vigorous business advocate our nation has ever seen,” Donohue told a tobacco executive in 1998. Katz quotes one tobacco exec memo describing the approach: “Chamber is the client, PM [Philip Morris] stays in the background, Chamber handles the day-to-day.” But what does fighting for smoking have to do with the broader business climate? The Chamber just kind of made up a rationale. “One can only imagine which industry will be next,” Donohue wrote to Congress members, pretending his work on behalf of tobacco was motivated by a “first they came for the cigarette-makers”-style solidarity, rather than the paid service it was. “The gaming industry? The beer and wine makers? Over-the-counter pharmaceutical companies? Fast food?” asked Chamber strategist Bruce Josten. “Chamber is the client, PM [Philip Morris] stays in the background, Chamber handles the day-to-day.” -- memo from a Philip Morris lobbyist For decades prior to its tobacco epiphany, the Chamber had largely walked softly, without a stick, through the streets of Washington. It came into being at the urging of President Taft, who wanted a more efficient way of knowing just what it was business wanted from the government. Birthed largely at the request of the government, it was given special tax-exempt status, which the organization today deftly exploits to keep its sources of funding hidden (the Chamber and its legal arm spent more than $200 million in 2012 and 2013, the most recent years tax documents are available -- a figure that will presumably grow in 2016). That the Chamber, America’s great voice of free enterprise, was created by the government is, depending on how colored your politics are by vulgar Marxism, somewhere between deliciously ironic and entirely unsurprising. The Chamber was established to operate mostly by consensus, which, as veterans of Occupy Wall Street know all too well, means that for decades it did very little in the way of operating. When it did, it did so in collaboration with -- brace yourself -- Democrats. And not just any Democrat, but that man himself. “Chamber president Henry Harriman, a former textile manufacturer, spent much of the spring of 1933 across Lafayette Square from the Chamber of Commerce headquarters, collaborating with [Franklin] Roosevelt’s brain trust to develop the National Recovery Act,” writes Katz. When the Supreme Court struck down the parts of the act the Chamber liked, and FDR moved forward with New Deal programs it didn’t, it presaged a decades-long run of impotence, punctuated by panics about communism. So while the Chamber spent the middle part of the twentieth century bickering and licking its New Deal wounds, Big Labor ran up the score. Katz relays that when an 8 percent hike in Social Security payments was being considered, the Chamber politely suggested a more modest increase. It’s hard to remember or imagine today, but there was a time when Congress bowed before the might of the consumer lobby, and businesses panicked at word that Ralph Nader’s band of raiders had an eye on their enterprise -- a moment in time that Katz captures with the help of a “Mad Men” episode. “Roger Sterling is on the phone with a client,” Katz writes. “ ‘Oldsmobile. He wants to know if there’s any way around Nader,’ Sterling tells Pete Campbell, his hand on the mouthpiece. Responds Campbell, without hesitating: ‘There isn’t.’ ” The president of the Chamber in those days, Ed Rust Sr., not only acknowledged Nader’s sway, but even made the argument in 1973 that business was better off because of him, that Nader and business ought to want the same things. Nader and the Chamber could agree, Rust said, on “products that work as they are supposed to, on warranties that protect the buyer at least as much as the seller, on services that genuinely serve.” It was a different kind of Chamber, but the forces that would create the new one were already bubbling. Rust lasted less than a year. For Katz, it was Tom Donohue who played the pivotal role in executing the new strategy, and she lays out just how instrumental this one man has been in shaping the Chamber and, with it, Washington politics. Donohue was right for the job because he was not a businessman. Rather, he rose up as a university fundraiser, then deputy assistant postmaster general of the United States, then a lobbyist for the trucking industry, which perfectly positioned him to understand how Washington works, shorn of any pretense about free enterprise or a “pro-business climate.” For Donohue, the climate is irrelevant. What matters is who’s paying the Chamber, and what they want for it. Some critics of the Chamber have argued that its efforts have largely backfired because the top priorities of business -- infrastructure investment, comprehensive immigration reform, and a stable business climate not shaken by random threats of debt default and government shutdowns -- have been foiled by the very conservative element of the GOP it helped fuel in 2010. But that assumes the Chamber cares about the overall business climate; instead, with its nihilistic approach to politics and the economy, the Chamber can fail only if its particular project fails. And in the event that happens, it’s really a failure only if the Chamber manages to get blamed and loses clients as a result. Even readers familiar with the Chamber’s reach into the political system will be taken aback by the breadth and depth of its ability to shape the very legal structures of states where it has key business. While the stories Katz pulls together were not entirely unknown to the public at the time, the Chamber’s involvement, and its wholesale strategic assault on state judiciaries, are brazen enough that the chamber could come to define our era of corporate capture of the levers of republican government. One instance, in Illinois, was an all-out war for a judicial seat in order to sway the outcomes of two particular cases. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance had been tagged with a $1.05 billion judgment for systematically ripping off and deceiving customers. And a jury had awarded $10 billion in a judgment against Philip Morris, a penalty for its marketing of “light” cigarettes in a way that suggested they were somehow less harmful. The Chamber needed a candidate who’d rule the “right” way on those cases and, sure enough, one was recruited by a State Farm lobbyist. The company and the Chamber pumped millions into the 2004 race. It would be an interesting judicial system that submitted verdicts to the democratic process, allowing companies on the losing end to take their case directly to the public on appeal. It would be a strange one, but at least there would be a logic to it. But the public debate in Illinois, of course, was not about whether the verdicts against State Farm and Philip Morris should stand. It was instead a standard political fight, fought over personalities with misleading-at-best claims made about each side. The Chamber won, and while the public might not have known what the reward would be for the victor, it soon became clear. Their candidate, now dressed in robes, cast the deciding votes to throw out the two verdicts. Were this merely a case of the Chamber finding a rare opportunity to exert outsized influence in one race, it would still be a remarkable turn of events. But it was just one of numerous cases documented by Katz, many of which only became exposed as Chamber projects long after voters had gone to the polls. Katz does her level best to wind up on a hopeful note. The raw success of the Chamber’s model, she argues, could be replicated by progressive groups working in alliance with enlightened businesses toward a common goal: The Democratic Party could use its own version of the Chamber of Commerce -- an outside intervention to force dynamic change, and unite its own activists behind a common agenda and strategy that encompasses workers, consumers, and companies that care about their welfare. The Sustainable Business Council isn’t willing to wage a war in which money is the ammunition, but someone else will have to, and the world of dynamic new business powers is not impoverished. The combatants may end up being companies like Skanska and Apple that left the U.S. Chamber, disillusioned; perhaps Google will finally heed the ceaseless calls to drop its Chamber membership and find fresh avenues for influence. The same technologies that foster crowdfunding for emerging business à la Kickstarter also harbor tremendous potential to pull together funding for political action from a constellation of fragmented companies, empowering them to form their own lobbying and campaign-cash forces to disrupt legacy industries’ deep-pocketed lock on power. As the Republican Party increasingly operates outside the realm of reason, it’s the Democrats’ turn to answer a call to duty, and to build a bridge for business to political power based on prosperity and social advancement. We know the strategy works. After all, it’s been done before. Setting aside the prospect of aligning Apple with workers’ rights groups, Katz’s prescription gets her own analysis wrong: The Chamber is not a real coalition, as she makes plain throughout the book. And the promise of secrecy it offers to, say, an oil company is not one needed by the Sierra Club. Environmental and consumer groups are just fine with the public knowing they are pushing for whatever they’re pushing for, and it does the project no harm for anybody to know it. They don’t need cover. The prospect of crowdfunding in Washington has the potential to be real in some situations, but matching the scale of billionaire industrialists, who can easily chip in several hundred million per election cycle, is no easy task. What Katz finds is not that the Chamber has found a new way to win the game, but that it is, in significant ways, playing a different game entirely. While the parties jockey for position ahead of the next election, the Chamber plays for keeps. Also on HuffPost: (function(){var src_url="https://spshared.5min.com/Scripts/PlayerSeed.js?playList=519430665&height=&width=100&sid=577&origin=SOLR&videoGroupID=155847&relatedNumOfResults=100&responsive=true&ratio=wide&align=center&relatedMode=2&relatedBottomHeight=60&companionPos=&hasCompanion=false&autoStart=false&colorPallet=%23FFEB00&videoControlDisplayColor=%23191919&shuffle=0&isAP=1&pgType=cmsPlugin&pgTypeId=addToPost-top&onVideoDataLoaded=track5min.DL&onTimeUpdate=track5min.TC&onVideoDataLoaded=HPTrack.Vid.DL&onTimeUpdate=HPTrack.Vid.TC";if (typeof(commercial_video) == "object") {src_url += "&siteSection="+commercial_video.site_and_category;if (commercial_video.package) {src_url += "&sponsorship="+commercial_video.package;}}var script = document.createElement("script");script.src = src_url;script.async = true;var placeholder = document.querySelector(".js-fivemin-script");placeholder.parentElement.replaceChild(script, placeholder);})(); -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

23 января 2016, 21:39

Meet The Most Powerful Political Organization In Washington

This article was originally published in the journal Democracy. Subscribe to it here, because why not? WASHINGTON -- Coverage of the influence of money in politics tends to suffer from the same weakness that all horse-race politics writing does: it almost never connects day-to-day movements to any broader reality or purpose. We learn about the size of ad buys or overall spending plans, but there’s no so what? Following the 2012 presidential election, the political press decided, rather unanimously, that all the talk about the Citizens United decision had been overblown because, after all, Democrats more or less matched Republicans on the spending front, a Democrat was reelected to the White House, and the party even hung on to the Senate, so no rich conservative was able to buy the election. Sure, Republicans later took over the upper chamber in 2014, but plenty of Democrats still managed to win. This focus on campaigns and elections tends to exclude coverage of the political agenda itself. In other words, what is it that Congress and the regulatory agencies are thinking about and, just as importantly, not thinking about? And so this focus has missed one of the most fundamental transformations within our political system: the way in which corporate interests have moved the playing field away from party politics and into the bowels of agencies, courts, and Congress. The media have yet to figure out how to keep score. Author and journalist Alyssa Katz, in her new book The Influence Machine, charts the history and measures the power of one of the leading drivers of this shift, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which she calls the “single most influential organization in American politics” (as would anybody else writing a book on it). The Chamber, unique in American politics, is the only organization that simultaneously spends big money on elections, lobbies Congress heavily, drills into the regulatory process and, if all else fails, drags the government to court. As Katz keenly observes, the Chamber routinely promises to spend eye-popping sums of money on federal elections, but then in its tax documents several months later reports spending far less. Its critics suggest the Chamber does spend the money and somehow hides it from the IRS, but more likely the organization is following in the footsteps of Mark Hanna, the 19th century Roveian consultant who helped get William McKinley elected in 1896. Before the campaign was over, he returned a sizable contribution, telling the donor they had more than enough money to win. The goal of business in politics is not to win elections or run up the partisan score; the goal, rather, is to make money. If that goal can be accomplished for less, all the better. Katz doesn’t deliver many groundbreaking revelations; close Chamber watchers won’t learn much new. But hers is the first book-length exposé of a phenomenon that is generally known only deep inside Washington: namely, that the Chamber is not what it appears. The nonprofit Chamber’s official mission is “to advance human progress through an economic, political, and social system based on individual freedom, incentive, initiative, opportunity, and responsibility.” Beyond that, it is thought to be a coalition of business groups that collectively push for a free-market agenda aimed at improving the climate for business broadly. It is also often assumed to be a partisan operation aimed simply at electing Republicans. But, in fact, it’s neither of those things. Rather, it is a gun for hire, a façade that corporations can use, for a price, to do work in Washington that they would rather not have associated with their consumer brand. All of this, Katz argues convincingly, has often flown brazenly in the face of tax law, but power in Washington trumps both the spirit and letter of the law. The Chamber is a gun for hire, a façade that corporations can use, for a price, to do work in Washington that they would rather not have associated with their consumer brand.   In 2005, the Federal Election Commission cast a 4-2 vote finding “preliminary evidence that  . . . [Chamber head Tom] Donohue had violated federal law by steering corporate campaign contributions directly to a federal campaign committee in order to influence an election,” Katz reports. Similar movements of money had destroyed the career of Tom DeLay, but the Chamber came out just fine. After the commission settled the case, three commissioners voted in 2008 to reject the settlement, deadlocking the panel. It has been so since. “Again and again, in state elections and in federal ones, including presidential races, the U.S. Chamber and its affiliated organizations were operating as political organizations and effective ones at that. But as far as the IRS was concerned, they remained educational groups, free to do what they would with their funds,” she writes. The Chamber stands for whatever it wants to, whenever it wants to, depending on who’s paying. Thinking of the Chamber as an organization at all winds up missing the point. Yes, it has a headquarters -- a hulking one that stares down the White House from across Lafayette Square -- an HR department, water coolers, and so on. But knowing what can legally be known about the Chamber gets you almost nowhere. The Chamber, instead, stands for whatever it wants to, whenever it wants to, depending on who’s paying. It has become an essential cloak for corporate special interests looking to get in and out of Washington without anybody seeing. For decades, the Chamber tried to be what it seemed to be: a respectable coalition of businesses. But it found itself neutered by its need for consensus—companies are all in competition, after all—and easily outmatched by the combined might of labor and consumer advocates throughout the 1970s. It also was distracted by the anti-communist paranoia that consumed much of the politically active business community after World War II. The new model was launched secretly, first uncovered on a day where the news wound up being utterly ignored. Jim VandeHei, then a reporter with The Wall Street Journal, broke it on September 11, 2001: The Chamber was selling its advocacy services to specific industries and companies at quite specific price levels. Drug makers paid for cover in a fight over pharmaceutical prices, Ford wanted to beat back legislation sparked by the deadly tire failures on its Ford Explorers, and so on. (For businesses without any particular interest at the moment, the dues paid to the Chamber are better thought of as protection money: Nice company you have there -- would be a shame if a little congressional curiosity should happen to it.) Today’s Chamber addresses a central problem for businesses in Washington: While business and business owners in general might be broadly popular -- the business of America is business, after all -- the particular things that individual businesses want tend to be extremely unpopular. Oil companies fighting the acceptance of climate change, insurers opposing health-care reform, tobacco companies opposing smoking regulations, gas companies opposing fracking laws, and trucking companies opposing driver-fatigue rules don’t exactly capture the public’s heart. Since the public might be broadly sympathetic to business but not individual businesses, the Chamber offers to cloak corporate self-interest in vague principles. That means that the Chamber is generally incapable of or uninterested in thinking strategically about the direction of the country. Instead, it simply moves from skirmish to skirmish, leaving behind a scorched landscape. Katz, who is also the author of the well-received and timely Our Lot: How Real Estate Came to Own Us, is a policy writer, a cultural critic, and a member of the New York Daily News editorial board. Throughout her career, she has leaned more toward research and synthesis than banging the phones and surfacing scandal. This is not a Game Change-style book that will put you inside turbulent meetings or in the heads of officials. Neither embittered former employees nor mischievous insiders are gossiping or sharing damning emails. Nobody’s cell phone lights up while driving their Audi on the GW Parkway, or the other sorts of obscure narrative details that populate a certain genre of Washington insider literature. Her book is no less rigorous for it, but the lack of intimacy with the key figures does serve to remove a sense of drama from the narrative, and the book becomes more a compilation of facts and events, a point-by-point indictment rather than a page-turning tale. Katz’s approach yields a thorough piece of work, but the lack of tantalizing scooplets that are the currency of Washington and New York publishing today will diminish its impact. That’s a shame, because Katz builds what is a very strong case brick by brick, and it’s remarkable to watch the Chamber’s power rise chapter by chapter. The Chamber’s first foray into the pay-for-play game came just after the November 1994 GOP takeover of Congress, from the kind of industry that desperately needed cover: tobacco. “The Chamber has been kind of a weak sister in recent times,” one Philip Morris lobbyist wrote in a memo Katz relays. “However, based on a meeting we had with Chamber staff last week (and reflective of our sharp reduction in dues), the Chamber is eager to regain its former position of policy influence AND regain its stead in our once upon a time good graces.” The memo continues, “If we go to them with a specific action agenda, I believe they will do their utmost to attempt to see it through.” So on behalf of cigarette makers, the Chamber challenged the science around addiction and the link to cancer, lobbied Congress, went to court, battled regulators, and waged a public-relations campaign -- in short, the all-in-one Chamber playbook. “My goal is simple -- to build the biggest gorilla in this town -- the most aggressive and vigorous business advocate our nation has ever seen,” Donohue told a tobacco executive in 1998. Katz quotes one tobacco exec memo describing the approach: “Chamber is the client, PM [Philip Morris] stays in the background, Chamber handles the day-to-day.” But what does fighting for smoking have to do with the broader business climate? The Chamber just kind of made up a rationale. “One can only imagine which industry will be next,” Donohue wrote to Congress members, pretending his work on behalf of tobacco was motivated by a “first they came for the cigarette-makers”-style solidarity, rather than the paid service it was. “The gaming industry? The beer and wine makers? Over-the-counter pharmaceutical companies? Fast food?” asked Chamber strategist Bruce Josten. “Chamber is the client, PM [Philip Morris] stays in the background, Chamber handles the day-to-day.” -- memo from a Philip Morris lobbyist For decades prior to its tobacco epiphany, the Chamber had largely walked softly, without a stick, through the streets of Washington. It came into being at the urging of President Taft, who wanted a more efficient way of knowing just what it was business wanted from the government. Birthed largely at the request of the government, it was given special tax-exempt status, which the organization today deftly exploits to keep its sources of funding hidden (the Chamber and its legal arm spent more than $200 million in 2012 and 2013, the most recent years tax documents are available -- a figure that will presumably grow in 2016). That the Chamber, America’s great voice of free enterprise, was created by the government is, depending on how colored your politics are by vulgar Marxism, somewhere between deliciously ironic and entirely unsurprising. The Chamber was established to operate mostly by consensus, which, as veterans of Occupy Wall Street know all too well, means that for decades it did very little in the way of operating. When it did, it did so in collaboration with -- brace yourself -- Democrats. And not just any Democrat, but that man himself. “Chamber president Henry Harriman, a former textile manufacturer, spent much of the spring of 1933 across Lafayette Square from the Chamber of Commerce headquarters, collaborating with [Franklin] Roosevelt’s brain trust to develop the National Recovery Act,” writes Katz. When the Supreme Court struck down the parts of the act the Chamber liked, and FDR moved forward with New Deal programs it didn’t, it presaged a decades-long run of impotence, punctuated by panics about communism. So while the Chamber spent the middle part of the twentieth century bickering and licking its New Deal wounds, Big Labor ran up the score. Katz relays that when an 8 percent hike in Social Security payments was being considered, the Chamber politely suggested a more modest increase. It’s hard to remember or imagine today, but there was a time when Congress bowed before the might of the consumer lobby, and businesses panicked at word that Ralph Nader’s band of raiders had an eye on their enterprise -- a moment in time that Katz captures with the help of a “Mad Men” episode. “Roger Sterling is on the phone with a client,” Katz writes. “ ‘Oldsmobile. He wants to know if there’s any way around Nader,’ Sterling tells Pete Campbell, his hand on the mouthpiece. Responds Campbell, without hesitating: ‘There isn’t.’ ” The president of the Chamber in those days, Ed Rust Sr., not only acknowledged Nader’s sway, but even made the argument in 1973 that business was better off because of him, that Nader and business ought to want the same things. Nader and the Chamber could agree, Rust said, on “products that work as they are supposed to, on warranties that protect the buyer at least as much as the seller, on services that genuinely serve.” It was a different kind of Chamber, but the forces that would create the new one were already bubbling. Rust lasted less than a year. For Katz, it was Tom Donohue who played the pivotal role in executing the new strategy, and she lays out just how instrumental this one man has been in shaping the Chamber and, with it, Washington politics. Donohue was right for the job because he was not a businessman. Rather, he rose up as a university fundraiser, then deputy assistant postmaster general of the United States, then a lobbyist for the trucking industry, which perfectly positioned him to understand how Washington works, shorn of any pretense about free enterprise or a “pro-business climate.” For Donohue, the climate is irrelevant. What matters is who’s paying the Chamber, and what they want for it. Some critics of the Chamber have argued that its efforts have largely backfired because the top priorities of business -- infrastructure investment, comprehensive immigration reform, and a stable business climate not shaken by random threats of debt default and government shutdowns -- have been foiled by the very conservative element of the GOP it helped fuel in 2010. But that assumes the Chamber cares about the overall business climate; instead, with its nihilistic approach to politics and the economy, the Chamber can fail only if its particular project fails. And in the event that happens, it’s really a failure only if the Chamber manages to get blamed and loses clients as a result. Even readers familiar with the Chamber’s reach into the political system will be taken aback by the breadth and depth of its ability to shape the very legal structures of states where it has key business. While the stories Katz pulls together were not entirely unknown to the public at the time, the Chamber’s involvement, and its wholesale strategic assault on state judiciaries, are brazen enough that the chamber could come to define our era of corporate capture of the levers of republican government. One instance, in Illinois, was an all-out war for a judicial seat in order to sway the outcomes of two particular cases. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance had been tagged with a $1.05 billion judgment for systematically ripping off and deceiving customers. And a jury had awarded $10 billion in a judgment against Philip Morris, a penalty for its marketing of “light” cigarettes in a way that suggested they were somehow less harmful. The Chamber needed a candidate who’d rule the “right” way on those cases and, sure enough, one was recruited by a State Farm lobbyist. The company and the Chamber pumped millions into the 2004 race. It would be an interesting judicial system that submitted verdicts to the democratic process, allowing companies on the losing end to take their case directly to the public on appeal. It would be a strange one, but at least there would be a logic to it. But the public debate in Illinois, of course, was not about whether the verdicts against State Farm and Philip Morris should stand. It was instead a standard political fight, fought over personalities with misleading-at-best claims made about each side. The Chamber won, and while the public might not have known what the reward would be for the victor, it soon became clear. Their candidate, now dressed in robes, cast the deciding votes to throw out the two verdicts. Were this merely a case of the Chamber finding a rare opportunity to exert outsized influence in one race, it would still be a remarkable turn of events. But it was just one of numerous cases documented by Katz, many of which only became exposed as Chamber projects long after voters had gone to the polls. Katz does her level best to wind up on a hopeful note. The raw success of the Chamber’s model, she argues, could be replicated by progressive groups working in alliance with enlightened businesses toward a common goal: The Democratic Party could use its own version of the Chamber of Commerce -- an outside intervention to force dynamic change, and unite its own activists behind a common agenda and strategy that encompasses workers, consumers, and companies that care about their welfare. The Sustainable Business Council isn’t willing to wage a war in which money is the ammunition, but someone else will have to, and the world of dynamic new business powers is not impoverished. The combatants may end up being companies like Skanska and Apple that left the U.S. Chamber, disillusioned; perhaps Google will finally heed the ceaseless calls to drop its Chamber membership and find fresh avenues for influence. The same technologies that foster crowdfunding for emerging business à la Kickstarter also harbor tremendous potential to pull together funding for political action from a constellation of fragmented companies, empowering them to form their own lobbying and campaign-cash forces to disrupt legacy industries’ deep-pocketed lock on power. As the Republican Party increasingly operates outside the realm of reason, it’s the Democrats’ turn to answer a call to duty, and to build a bridge for business to political power based on prosperity and social advancement. We know the strategy works. After all, it’s been done before. Setting aside the prospect of aligning Apple with workers’ rights groups, Katz’s prescription gets her own analysis wrong: The Chamber is not a real coalition, as she makes plain throughout the book. And the promise of secrecy it offers to, say, an oil company is not one needed by the Sierra Club. Environmental and consumer groups are just fine with the public knowing they are pushing for whatever they’re pushing for, and it does the project no harm for anybody to know it. They don’t need cover. The prospect of crowdfunding in Washington has the potential to be real in some situations, but matching the scale of billionaire industrialists, who can easily chip in several hundred million per election cycle, is no easy task. What Katz finds is not that the Chamber has found a new way to win the game, but that it is, in significant ways, playing a different game entirely. While the parties jockey for position ahead of the next election, the Chamber plays for keeps. Also on HuffPost: (function(){var src_url="https://spshared.5min.com/Scripts/PlayerSeed.js?playList=519430665&height=&width=100&sid=577&origin=SOLR&videoGroupID=155847&relatedNumOfResults=100&responsive=true&ratio=wide&align=center&relatedMode=2&relatedBottomHeight=60&companionPos=&hasCompanion=false&autoStart=false&colorPallet=%23FFEB00&videoControlDisplayColor=%23191919&shuffle=0&isAP=1&pgType=cmsPlugin&pgTypeId=addToPost-top&onVideoDataLoaded=track5min.DL&onTimeUpdate=track5min.TC&onVideoDataLoaded=HPTrack.Vid.DL&onTimeUpdate=HPTrack.Vid.TC";if (typeof(commercial_video) == "object") {src_url += "&siteSection="+commercial_video.site_and_category;if (commercial_video.package) {src_url += "&sponsorship="+commercial_video.package;}}var script = document.createElement("script");script.src = src_url;script.async = true;var placeholder = document.querySelector(".js-fivemin-script");placeholder.parentElement.replaceChild(script, placeholder);})(); -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. 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18 июля 2014, 19:49

Швеция: компания Skanska планирует наращивать инвестиции

Шведский девелопер Skanska опубликовал результаты деятельности за 2 квартал 2014 года. Так, в рассматриваемом периоде выручка практически не изменилась и осталась на уровне 34,58 млрд шведских крон ($4,8 млрд), при этом чистая прибыль упала на 9% до 765 млн крон ($107,1 млн) за счет списания инвестиций по ряду проектов в Латинской Америке. Отметим, что менеджмент компании планирует наращивать инвестиции за счет улучшения экономической ситуации в основных сегментах бизнеса.

18 июля 2014, 16:10

Швеция: компания Skanska планирует наращивать инвестиции

Шведский девелопер Skanska опубликовал результаты деятельности за 2 квартал 2014 года. Так, в рассматриваемом периоде выручка практически не изменилась и осталась на уровне 34,58 млрд шведских крон ($4,8 млрд), при этом чистая прибыль упала на 9% до 765 млн крон ($107,1 млн) за счет списания инвестиций по ряду проектов в Латинской Америке. Отметим, что менеджмент компании планирует наращивать инвестиции за счет улучшения экономической ситуации в основных сегментах бизнеса.

21 марта 2014, 20:59

Atlantic Yards 'Grows in Brooklyn': The World's Tallest Modular Building

Atlantic Yards development wasn't the first to use the modular approach in construction. But they are the first in the vertical residential space, which makes their story so unique. Having worked in construction management for more than twenty years on projects of scale, from deep foundations in Philadelphia's skyline to New York State's first LEED Gold condominium, this author found the vision to bring a new form of project controls to new buildings intriguing. Like most ventures, taking a modular approach to either data centers, such as Internap, or high-rise construction was born out of Steve Jobs "Think Different" mantra. It has long been part of civilization; from Asia's yin-and-yang to today when there is crisis, there is opportunity. But for today's developers, how does one bring stability and transparency to a vast, fragmented supply chain? For the Atlantic Yards project and its developer Forest City Ratner Companies, there was no bigger challenge than overcoming that hurdle when the real estate bubble burst in 2008. With construction costs rising each year, a suddenly contracted real estate market, which shed millions of jobs and froze mortgage lending in the wake of the AIG bailout and the collapse of Lehman Brothers, what was a major developer going to do to stay profitable while build a competitive edge?  Rendering of B2 Tower Atlantic Yards. Credit: Forest City Ratner Companies POSM Approach to Complex Projects  The Problem, Opportunity, Solution, Modular (POSM) approach to real estate development was born. But like any new advancement, it had to go through phases of development, permutations, tinkering with ideas and designs, a pilot test, and then on to the real thing -- a "live" project. So how would Henry Ford's assembly line paradigm, which transformed the automotive industry a century ago, be applied to tall structures? Like all new construction, buildings have lots of moving parts. Projects have multiple phases, a global supply chain, coordination between numerous trades and even more stakeholders. Then add changes on the fly, multi-agencies' fire, safety, electrical and building codes, and construction documents (plans and specifications), which are often only 50 percent complete at the start of a project, to the mix and one must ask: How do construction projects get completed on time and within budget? Control of critical elements has become one area of focus, with the Atlantic Yards B2 Tower taking a step into uncharted territory. When finished, B2 will be the tallest modular construction in the world. From Modular Concept to 'Mod' Creation A joint-venture been Skanska USA, a world leading construction management firm, and Forest City (FC) Ratner produced a 'new co' called FC + Skanska Modular, LLC. Once the startup, which is owned equally by both companies, brought the problem to the attention of Arup, a global consulting engineering firm, the modular idea began to take form. Early indications appear it will have a long-term positive impact on an industry that today suffers from razor thin margins. In reaching out to the FC + Skanska Modular executive team, Roger S. Krulak, Sr. Vice President, Mixed-Use and Residential Development/Modular Housing at Forest City, and Susan Jenkins, Vice President and Account Manager for Skanska USA, discussed the venture by phone. Together, the two industry professionals, who have worked on several high profile, complex projects in infrastructure and building development space, complement one another nicely. Roger Krulak brings deep domain experience on coordinating the delivery, erection, scheduling, and installation of modular units, while Susan Jenkins provides the management oversight of the new fabrication plant, right in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  Rendering of B2 Tower Atlantic Yards at Night. Credit: Forest City Ratner Companies 'Made in Brooklyn' "Four years ago, Atlantic Yards had development plans for 16 new residential buildings. But with the market down, the volatility of construction and commodity pricing, Forest City began to look at other alternatives to cast-in-place concrete or steel erection to buildings," Roger Krulak said. "There were a number of methodologies, precast alternatives. Forest City began a R&D project to find what was possible with modular construction." "How did that turn out?" I asked. "Four months of research on paper, looking at the larger picture, we came up with a feasibility study building two projects side by side took a year," he said. "We had to look at the overturning effect of double-loaded corridors 45-stories high with a center core. We found that modular construction could deliver a building with a maximum height of about 65-stories." The size of B2, when completed will be 927 modular units that makeup 363 apartments. "What is the typical size of a modular unit?" I asked. "A mod box is nominally 10' high x 15' wide x 30' long," he said. "We needed to discover the limits of the gravity load ("dead" load) of a modular building, so it could carry the steel spans. We hired a manufacturer in Virginia that fabricates the steel frames to the mods." From there, they are sent to the plant in the Brooklyn Navy Yard to be fitted out with mechanical, electrical, and plumbing roughing and fixtures, drywall, doors, frames, and hardware, and flooring and painting, among other interior finishes. Legos Meets the Erector Set Like building a series of mobile homes, with everything except furniture include, the modular units when finished in the Brooklyn Plant assembly line are delivered by flatbed to the site and erected by crane in stacks. "For B2, there are a maximum of 36 mods per floor on average. We can erect at a minimum eight mods a day," Krulak stated, or about one per hour. "The mechanical cutouts are done in the field and shop with vertical distribution. There's no welding, concrete floors, or sweating of pipe. When B2 is completed, it will carry 30 percent less weight than a conventional concrete building, but carry the same design performance. It should also produce a little faster schedule. It meets the same criteria of wind and snow loads for a New York City building. But the biggest impact has been taming the volatility found in construction projects, which too often are impacted by myriad changes, delays and claims. From Factory to Fabrication in Brooklyn Without taking a tour of the new plant, Susan Jenkins explained her role in the ambitious, groundbreaking project as operations manager of B2. She said, "95 percent of the construction takes place in the factory. We have a staff of five senior managers who oversee a production group, a prefab specialist team, and a quality control team. In all, we have 39 managers in the group with 118 trade associates working at the factory." As a new entity, Ms. Jenkins explained, "We hired Virginia Banker Steel to make the modular units. The steel chassis come out of their yard with the actual assembly done in five phases." In January 2010, Forest City Ratner hired Banker Steel of Lynchburg, VA, with a $50 million contract for the structural steel cladding for the new Barclays Center. Since that project went well, it made project sense for FC + Skanska Modular to hire Banker Steel for Atlantic Yards. "The first phase of assembly starts with the chassis delivered by truck to the factory. We lift them on to steel pedestals, four feet off the ground. From there the assembly of bathroom pods takes place on the other side of the factory, while electricians and plumbers work on the remainder of the modular unit including full kitchens. Each pipe or fixture has a burlap bag of fittings and connections that go to each unit," she explained. Besides wrapping finished modules with vinyl sheathing that reads, "Made in Brooklyn," with the first unit delivered to the site in December 2012, what gets Susan Jenkins excited about the B2 project is the reward of coming to the factory and being part of the "best, most successful construction management development team in the world." It's also the opportunity to push new, innovative boundaries on existing prefabrication practices. She added, "We measure efficiency everyday. Sure there's a learning curve, three to six months as the trades evolve," and understand the new methodology. "The factory, when one visits it, recruits from a number of sources, including Helmets and Hardhats, the Brooklyn Work Initiative and the Brooklyn Navy Yard, among others. The factory provides a positive atmosphere to work in, climate control during this cold winter, with an ideal collaboration of various levels of trade associates, who learn up from an apprentice program, such as a plumber. The workers are jurisdiction agnostic." Building a qualified workforce with many skill sets appears to be the icing on the modular cake of Atlantic Yards B2 Tower.

14 февраля 2014, 23:33

Papworth hospital's future in doubt after Treasury intervention

Heart and lung hospital's planned Cambridge move caught up in 'NHS politics' that may force partnership with loss-making trustThe future of the world-renowned Papworth hospital is in doubt because it is being prevented by the Treasury from moving to a new centre of medical excellence in Cambridge.Instead of consolidating its reputation as a pioneering heart and lung hospital at the forefront of medical innovation, Papworth may instead be forced into a shotgun partnership with the NHS's most loss-making foundation trust.Stephen Bridge, chief executive of Papworth – scene of the UK's first heart transplant and a host of other medical breakthroughs – told the Guardian that his hospital may become a casualty of "NHS politics" and is "exasperated" at the Treasury's eleventh-hour intervention."We could be forever caught up in NHS politics, get bogged down and be left with an uncertain future," said Bridge.Papworth has had to put on hold its long-planned transfer to a state-of-the-art site outside Cambridge as a result of the Treasury's intervention, despite the move having widespread support in the NHS and academia and from the Department of Health (DH).The specialist heart and lung hospital may now have to instead move some or all of its services, including cardiac surgery and world-leading transplantation, to Peterborough as part of a rescue plan for Peterborough city hospital.Peterborough and Stamford NHS Foundation Trust, which runs it, is losing millions of pounds a month, has received £44m in emergency funding from the DH to continue operating and was last year declared "not financially sustainable" by the NHS's economic regulator Monitor.Papworth, based 12 miles west of Cambridge, has been planning for 10 years to leave its ageing site and relocate to a new £160m, 310-bed hospital in the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, a huge new medical and science park next to the city's Addenbrooke's hospital, which will ultimately employ 30,000 people and be one of the world's biggest centres of research and treatment.The move is so advanced that Papworth has already appointed construction firm Skanska to build its new facility. The DH approved the move last October and has also arranged £70m in low-interest loans to help Papworth meet the £160m overall cost. The hospital has to borrow the remaining £90m from banks under the private finance initiative (PFI), with that deal needing the Treasury's approval.But in an unexpected intervention, the Treasury has ordered Monitor to undertake two reviews, which will take several months to complete, before it will approve any move by Papworth.The first is a review of Papworth's finances – the third such exercise in three years – which it has commissioned despite Papworth being one of the NHS's strongest performers financially and the two previous reviews having raised no concerns.The other, a short clinical review being undertaken by an independent leading NHS doctor, is examining the "arguments for and against proposals to locate the facility as planned next to Addenbrooke's hospital as well as a clinical review of the feasibility of the utilisation of any excess capacity at Peterborough." The Peterborough hospital, which is struggling to repay a controversial PFI debt, has vacant space which Papworth may help to fill.The Treasury's move has raised concerns that Papworth's key role in the new biomedical campus, which will see its experts pursue major innovations in treatment for a range of diseases, may be sacrificed because of a desire to improve the finances of Peterborough hospital.Bridge said he was "disappointed and exasperated" that "the Peterborough option" had been resurrected by the Treasury, even though a report by Monitor last September ruled it out. Patients would benefit from Papworth going to Cambridge because it could then "develop market-leading specialist services for the NHS in one place", the regulator concluded.Patients may lose out and the Papworth trust's future be in question if some or all its services and 2,000 staff end up going to Peterborough rather than Cambridge, he added."Despite providing very detailed financial and clinical evidence as to why Papworth should move to Cambridge, we were informed by the Department of Health [in December] that the we now have to answer these questions, including about why some of our work couldn't move to Peterborough," Bridge said."I'm exasperated as only in May last year and again in September last year I was officially told that there was no longer any suggestion that any of Papworth's services should move to Peterborough hospital."The DH told Papworth about the Treasury-ordered reviews barely two months after health minister Earl Howe had approved the move.Bridge added: "The clinical reasons for us moving to Cambridge are overwhelming. We do heart and lung transplants and would be next door to Addenbrooke's, which does liver and kidney transplants. We would create a world-leading solid organ transplant centre. "He is worried that, without final approval soon for the move to Cambridge, Papworth could be targeted under DH plans currently going through parliament to give government-appointed special administrators the power to push through changes at profitable trusts situated near hospitals which have hit major financial problems, such as Peterborough.NHS England, Cambridge University and major medical charities such as the British Heart Foundation and Cystic Fibrosis Trust strongly back Papworth moving to Cambridge.Julian Huppert, the Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge, warned that forcing Papworth to share with Peterborough city hospital was not sensible clinically and would ultimately cost more money."The well-known problems of PFI contracts that the last government was so keen on should not cause worse treatment now for another hospital. They should not force Papworth to go to the wrong place simply to patch up other problems. It doesn't make sense to spend more money on a worse outcome simply because of previous problems at Peterborough that are entirely separate," Huppert said."Papworth moving to the Addenbrooke's site is the right thing clinically for the patient and the right thing in terms of research and developing new treatments," added Huppert, a scientist.The Treasury and DH declined to answer questions put to them about their involvement with Papworth and instead issued a joint statement through a government spokesman.He insisted that "the Department of Health is still considering the [Papworth] trust's business case", even though it signed that off four months ago."A joint decision with the Treasury will be made soon. As is normal for major projects such as this one, the Department and the Treasury, drawing on the expertise of Monitor, would expect assurance around the affordability of the scheme and whether it represents value for money for the taxpayer," he added.Monitor is looking for "assurance" from the reviews that "the proposed future location of Papworth hospital … will be sustainable, is clinically and financially appropriate, and will provide good value for money for the taxpayer."HospitalsNHSHealthHealth policyDenis Campbell theguardian.com © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds     

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07 февраля 2014, 20:29

Швеция: квартальная прибыль Skanska не оправдала ожидания аналитиков

Крупнейший в Швеции застройщик Skanska отчитался о квартальной прибыли, не оправдавшей ожидания аналитиков. Так, операционная прибыль в четвертом квартале снизилась с 1,74 млрд шведских крон годом ранее до 1,65 млрд крон ($254 млн), в то время как аналитики в среднем прогнозировали 1,75 млрд крон. Объем заказов в главном подразделении компании за рассматриваемый период снизился с 32 млрд крон до 29,1 млрд крон ($4,48 млрд), тогда как аналитики ожидали 32,7 млрд крон. Стоит отметить, что Skanska планирует повысить размер дивидендных выплат с 6 крон на акцию до 6,25 крон на бумагу.

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07 февраля 2014, 14:48

Швеция: квартальная прибыль Skanska не оправдала ожидания аналитиков

Крупнейший в Швеции застройщик Skanska отчитался о квартальной прибыли, не оправдавшей ожидания аналитиков. Так, операционная прибыль в четвертом квартале снизилась с 1,74 млрд шведских крон годом ранее до 1,65 млрд крон ($254 млн), в то время как аналитики в среднем прогнозировали 1,75 млрд крон. Объем заказов в главном подразделении компании за рассматриваемый период снизился с 32 млрд крон до 29,1 млрд крон ($4,48 млрд), тогда как аналитики ожидали 32,7 млрд крон. Стоит отметить, что Skanska планирует повысить размер дивидендных выплат с 6 крон на акцию до 6,25 крон на бумагу.

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06 декабря 2013, 15:38

Западные инвесторы недовольны ситуацией в эстонской экономике и вокруг нее

Уход крупнейшей строительной компании Северной Европы Skanska из Эстонии, о котором было сообщено в конце ноября, - тревожный сигнал, свидетельствующий о недовольстве западных инвесторов ситуацией в эстонской экономике и вокруг нее...

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29 ноября 2013, 15:17

Строительный гигант Скандинавии и Финляндии покидает Эстонию

Шведский строительный концерн Skanska AB с 2014 года году прекращает свою деятельность в Эстонии и закрывает все действующие в стране подразделения. Об этом сегодня, 29 ноября, сообщило эстонское издание Postimees, отметив, что фирма намерена завершить ранее начатые проекты и выполнить все обязательства перед эстонскими сотрудниками и партнерами...

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12 октября 2013, 23:30

Police colluded in secret plan to blacklist 3,200 building workers

IPCC tells lawyers representing victims it is likely that all special branches were involved in providing informationPolice officers across the country supplied information on workers to a blacklist operation run by Britain's biggest construction companies, the police watchdog has told lawyers representing victims.The Independent Police Complaints Commission has informed those affected that a Scotland Yard inquiry into police collusion has identified that it is "likely that all special branches were involved in providing information" that kept certain individuals out of work.The IPCC's disclosure confirms suspicions voiced by the information commissioner's office last year that the police had been involved in providing some of the information held on the files, as revealed by this newspaper.The admission has been welcomed by campaigners for the 3,200 workers whose names were on the blacklist that was run for construction companies as "absolute evidence" of a conspiracy between the state and industry that lasted for decades.Dave Smith, an engineer who had a 36-page file under his name and was repeatedly victimised for highlighting safety hazards on sites, including the presence of asbestos, said he was delighted that the IPCC had revealed "the truth". He added: "For the past five years, when we have been saying the police were involved, we were told we were talking nonsense and it was a conspiracy theory. They wanted it to go away. Now we have the absolute evidence and this is no longer about industrial relations but is a major human rights scandal involving a conspiracy between the police and the industry."The blacklist, run by a company called the Consulting Association, funded by 40 major firms in the construction industry including Balfour Beatty and Sir Robert McAlpine, was discovered in 2009 after a raid by the information commissioner's office. Since then, the victims have fought to find out who was providing information against them. The IPCC's correspondence is regarded as a major breakthrough.However, the watchdog's disclosure has been disputed by a subsequent letter to the victims' solicitors. This was sent by a recently appointed senior investigating officer for the inquiry into the activities of undercover police officers, known as Operation Herne.In a letter, seen by the Observer, detective inspector Steve Craddock insists that the IPCC's statement is incorrect and that he has seen "no conclusive evidence" that Scotland Yard shared information with the blacklisters.The IPCC is standing by its correspondence, which it says was informed by discussions with the Metropolitan Police and that "developments since that ... are a matter for the Metropolitan Police".In response, a spokesman for Craddock said Operation Herne's investigating officer was "aware of the apparent contradiction and is looking into how that may have arisen". She added: "Operation Herne will report on the 'blacklisting' matter to the Metropolitan Police commissioner in due course."The developments come as the group fighting for justice for the blacklisted workers has received confirmation of a meeting between undercover police officers and those running the blacklist in November 2008. The information commissioner's officers have confirmed in a freedom of information response that they hold notes from a meeting between the Consulting Association and officers from the police national extremism tactical co-ordination unit, which runs undercover officers.The notes of the 2008 meeting are part of a haul of documents seized by the information commissioner's office when it discovered the existence of the secret blacklist during a raid on an office in Droitwich, Worcestershire.Sir Robert McAlpine, which was allegedly a major player in the establishment and funding of the blacklist, is currently being sued in the high court over an unlawful conspiracy to amass a database of information against thousands of people.Last week, in a dramatic twist, eight major construction companies, including Sir Robert McAlpine, announced that they would compensate some of the 3,213 workers whose names had been on a blacklist.A statement said: "The companies – Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O'Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci – all apologise for their involvement with the Consulting Association and the impact that its database may have had on any individual construction worker."Sean Curran, a solicitor representing 69 victims in the high court, said he cautiously welcomed the announcement but raised concerns over the involvement of the unions, which are also suspected of providing information to the blacklist operation in some cases. He said: "We note that there has been reference to the consultation of Ucatt and Unite in the formulation of the proposed compensation scheme. We express serious concern about the involvement of those organisations."We have seen evidence that implicates Amicus (which evolved into Unite) and Ucatt officials in the supply of negative commentary about the suitability of their members for employment. That commentary frequently made its way onto the Consulting Association database and was no doubt one of the factors that led to denials of employment."It is also worthy of note that those unions refused to support their members in bringing a High Court claim so that they could seek redress for the hardship that they suffered. Many of those that we represent are firm that they object to Unite or Ucatt playing any part in negotiations with the relevant companies for these reasons."Claire Windsor, solicitor for the victims in regard to the complaint over police collusion, said her clients had lost any faith in the ability of the police to investigate themselves and that the blacklist support group was now calling for a judge-led independent inquiry into blacklisting.Construction industryPoliceTrade unionsIndependent Police Complaints CommissionDaniel Boffey theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds     

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10 октября 2013, 11:37

Construction firms to compensate unlawfully blacklisted workers

Eight firms, including Balfour Beatty, Carillion and Sir Robert McAlpine, apologise to workers barred from jobs for raising legitimate concernsEight large construction firms have announced that they intend to compensate workers who were unlawfully blacklisted and denied work for long periods.The firms have also apologised to the workers whose names were stored in a secret database.The move follows years of campaigning by the workers, who said they were often barred from working for raising legitimate concerns about health and safety on building sites. Many say their lives were devastated as they were prevented from getting jobs for years.More than 40 firms in the construction industry funded a clandestine agency that kept files on more than 3,200 workers that they deemed to be politically disruptive. The blacklisting agency operated for 15 years until it was raided and closed down by a watchdog in 2009.No details of the scheme were disclosed by the eight construction firms on Thursday. The companies – Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O'Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci – said: "The scheme is intended to make it as simple as possible for any worker with a legitimate claim to access compensation."Representatives of the blacklisted workers gave the announcement a sceptical welcome, saying: "Forgive us if we do not crack open the champagne just yet … So far there are no firm proposals, only a vague promise of compensation for any workers with a 'legitimate claim'."This is a cynical move intended to reduce corporate reputational damage. We do not for one second believe that these companies have suddenly seen the light. Most of the senior managers implicated in the blacklisting conspiracy are still in post. The only thing they regret is being caught."The workers have said they intend to continue their legal claim at the high court on 29 November for compensation for being blacklisted, as well as their campaign for a public inquiry "to expose everyone involved in this human rights conspiracy".The eight firms announced their apology for funding the blacklist and "the impact that its database may have had on any individual construction worker".They said they had invited representatives of the blacklisted workers to talk to them to "ensure that the proposed terms of the scheme are fair and effective".They encouraged other firms that had funded the blacklist, disguised under the anodyne name of the Consulting Association and run from a nondescript office in Droitwich, Worcestershire, to join the scheme.Justin Bowden of the GMB trade union said: "Firms admitting they engaged in a terrible abuse of the civil rights of thousands of UK workers is an important step."The Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: "Many of these workers have spent years out of work as a result of being blacklisted. Employers have a moral duty to give them back the jobs that were wrongly taken away from them."The workers also want a public inquiry to examine their claims that police secretly gathered intelligence on some of them and passed the information to the blacklisters.In August, the Guardian published testimony from Peter Francis, the former undercover officer who has become a whistleblower, who said he believes that he personally collected some of the intelligence that later appeared in the blacklisting files.Managers in the construction industry pooled data about individuals to maintain the secret files. When the workers applied for work, the managers would contact the association to check the entry on the potential employee and then decide whether to give them work.The files, which contained information dating back to the 1980s, contained descriptions such as "militant ringleader", "agitator", "is a good worker but has proved to be very militant", "do not touch", and "that subject is a very bad troublemaker and would not be re-employed".Construction industryTrade unionsBalfour BeattyCarillionKierRob Evans theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds     

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13 августа 2013, 23:12

Experts Point Out Hyperloop Problems: Only Skinny Riders, 'Astronomical' Pricing

Upon unveiling Hyperloop, a futuristic concept for high-speed travel that promises to turn the six-hour commute from San Francisco to Los Angeles into a 30-minute trip, billionaire industrialist Elon Musk was ready to answer what seemed like every conceivable engineering question. Experts, Musk knew, would want to know how Hyperloop, which would move passengers inside an above-ground pressurized tube between the cities, would deal with everything from earthquakes to air friction. One thing Musk’s “alpha design” for the project did not take into account, however, is how to deal with fat people. Initial schematics for Hyperloop unveiled Monday evening assume passengers and any luggage they carry will average about 220 pounds. The average American man, according to a Gallup poll conducted last year, weighs 196 pounds. Meanwhile, passengers would have to fit on a space less than 27 inches wide, less room than currently taken up by the average economy-class airline seat. America’s obesity problem is by far not the most ponderous real-world challenge Musk’s visionary idea must overcome, experts with experience in major construction projects and industrial transportation told The Huffington Post. Business challenges could be just as weighty. “Ignoring the physics of it, to make it viable, pricing would have to be astronomical to have a reasonable payback period,” said Zafar Khan, an analyst for French bank Société Générale who follows train and airplane manufacturers. Khan further noted that, while future-facing projects like Hyperloop are the stuff of science-fiction fantasies, companies have had less-than-stellar records in pursuing grand schemes of this kind. “You will remember the grand Eurotunnel project and what a mess that became,” Khan said, referring to a then-futuristic 1980s project to establish an underwater rail link between England and France. The Eurotunnel project devolved into a slew of lawsuits after revenue projections turned out to be far too optimistic. For now, Musk has not pledged to build anything more than a prototype for the project, instead saying he hopes the engineering challenges and the actual task of building the transportation system will be taken up by other companies. Musk, who has said he's busy running electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors and space travel firm SpaceX, hasn’t put a timeline on developing the idea. Jonas Andersson, an analyst who covers large construction and engineering companies for Swedish firm Nordea, said it was unlikely one of the multinational firms that could actually pull off a project of that scope would take on the challenge. “My best guess is that Skanska would perceive the risks too high,” Andersson wrote HufPost in an email, referring to the world’s largest construction and engineering firm, which he follows. Musk’s idea, with technology that incorporates aspects of Concorde jet engine mechanics and table hockey physics, is being championed as a new way of transport that would be cheaper than car, high-speed rail or jet travel over certain distances. Tickets on a Los Angeles-to-San Francisco shuttle would be about $20, according to Musk’s projections. Total construction costs to get the project off the ground could be as low as $6 billion, according to Musk’s plan. Musk has told the press that he was inspired to come up with the idea for Hyperloop after learning of a current plan for a high-speed rail connection between LA and San Francisco. The price tag of that plan was pegged at around $70 billion. “I’m just putting this out there as an open source design,” Musk told Businessweek Monday. At a press conference with reporters later, he noted, "Maybe I could do the beginning bit ... and then hand it over to somebody else." It’s not to say that Musk’s idea is completely commercially unfeasible. An MIT professor emeritus who has been working on an idea remarkably similar to Musk’s told CNBC on Tuesday that he was getting close to commercializing it overseas. “I’m talking to some people in China to make it workable there and put some money behind it,” Ernst Frankel, the MIT professor, told the broadcaster.

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18 апреля 2013, 13:49

Репетиторы Петербурга, объединяйтесь!

В интернет-пространстве Санкт-Петербурга появился новое сообщество частных репетиторов английского языка englishteacher.spb.ru. Новый ресурс помогает желающим изучать иностранный язык находить проверенных репетиторов, а преподавателям - новых учеников. Все репетиторы сообщества проходят двухуровневую проверку профессиональных качеств, включающую экспресс-собеседование на английском языке. Руководитель проекта - Ирина Бердюгина, репетитор со стажем более 10 лет, включающим обучение персонала в представительстве UNICEF, топ-менеджеров Правительства Санкт-Петербурга и компаний LG, Yota, Skanska. "Благодаря своему опыту я могу быстро оценить профессиональный уровень репетитора, - говорит Ирина, - а потому имею возможность приглашать к сотрудничеству с нами только лучших. Я лично провожу экспресс-интервью на английском языке с каждым кандидатом, и могу поручиться за каждого репетитора, которого мы рекомендуем. Формат нашего сайта необычен для существующего рынка - это скорее дружеская рекомендация проверенных преподавателей, нежели простое посредничество. Мы постоянно работаем над пополнением базы, чтобы максимально качественно выполнять запросы наших клиентов. Репетиторы города, в свою очередь, получают удобную площадку для продвижения своих услуг". (nolink)

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11 марта 2013, 22:46

Bam Construct to build Google’s London HQ

Dutch group fights off rival bids from Carillion, Skanska and Balfour Beatty to win contract to build the tech group’s office block at King’s Cross

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27 февраля 2013, 02:33

Manchester United Crash from 1st to 488th on Latest CRC League Table

The Environmental Agency has published the final edition of its CRC Performance League Table, ranking the 2,097 participants in terms of their improvements to energy efficiency in 2012.The construction firm BAM Group took top spot, with Engineering company, Skanska coming second, and Motorola in at third. Last year’s most energy efficient company, Manchester United, suffered a huge blow as it fell to 488th place.The positions of the companies on the table are determined using three complex metrics which consider the percentage change in;…Read more...

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18 февраля 2013, 17:22

Costain and Skanska awarded Bond Street Crossrail contract

Bond Street station in the West End will get a £110 million overhaul to help cope with an extra 70,000 passengers a day with the arrival of Crossrail in 2018.