Construction industry unites for World Green Building Week 2021

Building site constructing the wall of a house

Construction industry experts offer insights as the world’s largest campaign to accelerate sustainable buildings for everyone, everywhere, gets underway.

World Green Building Week is taking place this week: 20 to 24 September 2021.

To mark the 2021 campaign, three revered construction industry experts give their assessments of where the industry is right now in terms of its green and sustainable credentials. They also discuss where it needs to get to in the near future.

George Clarke, Yewande Akinola MBE and Ann Bentley reference different UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) transforming construction challenge projects, and paint positive pictures. They suggest that the sustainable penny may have finally dropped for planners, architects and developers, but warn that we can’t rest on our laurels.

A changing construction industry

George Clarke, Chair MOBIE, said:

I’m really excited about World Green Building Week this year. Slowly but surely the construction industry is changing. What was an antiquated system that worked for no one is evolving. More and more we’re seeing planners, developers and architects put people and the planet at the heart of new schemes. User’s needs are being considered right at the start of the design process and the focus on whole-life value is great to see. It’s something I’ve been banging the drum about for a long time!

One of the reasons I love World Green Building Week is that it’s often a platform to showcase ground-breaking innovations within our industry. You see extraordinary projects, you get a glimpse of the future. Often you’re seeing something game-changing for the first time.

The challenge for the industry is how we take these ideas and innovations on board, assimilate them, and roll them out at scale. What’s really pleasing is that some of the big developers in this country are starting to get on board and work with new products, technologies and systems. We need to keep improving ecological standards in new home homes, keep moving forward and keep pushing boundaries.

Building site constructing a house

Credit: AIMCH

Some of the UKRI projects I support could really impact the future of house building in this country, IDEMA Panel House being an example. Inspired by the Rubik’s Cube and flatpack furniture, it’s a vision conceived by Mills Power Architecture of a repeatable model for desirable, quick-to-build, net zero housing. It might sound out there, a bit crazy, but it isn’t. Millions of people could be living in flatpack, eco-friendly homes in Britain come 2040.

We need to keep our minds open, keep embracing new ideas and keep embracing change. I’ve been very critical of the construction industry in the past. Finally, things are starting to change. People are starting to see there are other ways, and it’s very refreshing.

Most importantly, World Green Building Week presents an opportunity to inspire kids to create generational change. It’s up to them to define their future and instigate change, not boards or directors. That’s what is so exciting about the green agenda and the sector. Children will help us transform industry.

Big, bold mission statement

Yewande Akinola MBE, Innovation and Technical Lead, Laing O’Rourke, Innovate UK Clean Growth and Infrastructure UK Ambassador said:

World Green Building Week is the world’s largest campaign to accelerate sustainable buildings for everyone, everywhere. It’s a big, bold mission statement, and I like it. I’m a dreamer, and if I weren’t I wouldn’t be as convinced as I am of the incredible opportunities for significant progress in our built environment. We have to aim high.

As has been the case in previous years, I’m sure we’ll see some brilliant innovations for sustainable housing and commercial buildings unveiled for World Green Building Week 2021, and new technologies that will make the construction process quicker and simpler. One such product I’ve been working on with UKRI is Holosite, an augmented reality hardhat that enables builders to start building without the need to wait for an engineer to set out.

In addition though, and with my engineering hat on, I’m also really interested in ground-breaking sustainable infrastructure and systems developments. The ‘off-Broadway’ pieces if you will! It’s all very well talking about and building brilliant net zero housing but you need to consider the wider built environment too. And sometimes I think we lose sight of that.

More thinking time and front-end planning

Ann Bentley, Global Board Director at Rider Levett Bucknall, said:

If there is one behaviour that I would love to see change from World Green Building Week it would be more thinking time and thorough front-end planning on every construction project.

The rush towards getting projects on site, and artificial boundaries between clients and suppliers, stops getting the right people round the table early enough. In turn this limits the options considered and the challenge to solutions that is essential to ensure the sustainability of each and every project.

The Construction Innovation Hub’s Value Toolkit gives us the framework to consider multiple options, challenge constructively and build greener, now we need to make this mainstream practice.

Innovating faster than ever

Mike Pitts, Deputy Challenge Director, Transforming Construction at Innovate UK, said:

World Green Building Week is a brilliant campaign and one of the most important awareness weeks in the annual construction calendar.

The sector is moving incredibly quickly to address the demands of net zero, and a changing workforce. We’re moving away from a system that delivers the cheapest asset to one that focuses on real value. We had a system that didn’t work for anyone, that’s the not case anymore. We’re innovating faster than ever and are producing the right buildings, that the UK really needs, in the right way.

Video credit: UKRI
On-screen captions and an autogenerated transcript is available on YouTube.

Build Better Now

Also on the green agenda, UKRI is working with industry to host Build Better Now at the Built Environment Virtual Pavilion for COP26. The event, from 31 October to 12 November 2021, will enable maximum participation from around the world.

Top image: Credit: LandSec

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