Energy storage, the politics of specification, off-site construction and bridging the skills gap were just some of the topics covered during an IEMA-chaired debate on energy challenges in the construction industry.
The discussion, on 10 February at the BRE head office in Watford, was organised by Energy 2016 as part of UK Construction Week (UKCW). Chaired by IEMA’s policy lead, Nick Blyth, the event brought together energy experts (see below) to discuss the key issues facing the sector.
The debate started with a discussion about energy storage, which is seen as the crucial facilitator for the future of renewable energy in domestic and commercial buildings. Participants were unanimous in calling on the industry to take into account flexibility and sustainability when constructing buildings to ensure they are future-proof.
A critical need to encourage, excite and educate those entering the construction industry from education was another key topic. The panel said events like UKCW inspire students and those seeking apprenticeships to look at a career in construction.
The politics of construction was also discussed, with the correct specification of building materials being highlighted as a topical issue. Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green party, said: ‘We must not lose track of the development of eco-homes and ensuring our properties meet basic energy efficiency requirements. Recent thermal imaging results of existing housing stock showed that many of our homes are no more thermally efficient than in Victorian times – and this is simply not good enough.’
The panel said consumer confidence in new policies was crucial to development, but was reliant on the right market mechanisms being in place to support a long-term transition.
‘Despite the construction sector being used to working within what regulations demand, it is a resourceful industry,’ said Blyth. ‘However, as we’ve deliberated, talking to a consumer audience is as vital as a trade audience, and it is events like UKCW that can help change the public perception of renewable technology and champion construction.’
Visit ukconstructionweek.com/ for further details of the discussion.
The energy advisory panel
- Nick Blyth (chair) – policy lead at IEMA
- Natalie Bennett – leader of the Green party
- Andrew Mellor – partner at PRP Architects
- John O’Brien – associate director, construction innovation, at BRE
- Doreen Wright – associate director of performance and quality at A2 Dominion
- Chris Miles – director, distributed energy, at Renewable Energy Systems
- Steve Fitzsimons – senior manager infrastructure services at EDF Energy
- Claire Hebbes – head of infrastructure (development) at Lendlease
- Lauren Cook – policy analyst at the Renewable Energy Association
- Mark Donovan – principal engineer at UK Power Networks Services