World-leading building science centre Building Research Establishment (BRE) is set to create an Open Innovation Hub in Watford, part-funded by a £2.2m Getting Building Fund investment from Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Due to open in spring 2022, the Innovation Hub will provide 30,000 sq. ft. of new commercial space to house innovative businesses specialising in the built environment. The scheme will involve the sustainable refurbishment of two existing buildings on BRE’s Garston campus, which is part of Hertfordshire Innovation Quarter (IQ), the county’s enterprise zone.

A variety of spaces and leasing options will be provided for new tenants, ranging from co-working rooms to open plan and cellular offices for rent. The spaces will be flexible, with the project taking a ‘long life, loose fit’ approach to fit-out to ensure the buildings can adapt to market demand and alternative uses in the future.

With Hertfordshire IQ building a cluster of smart construction companies in Hertfordshire, the expansion of capacity at BRE will enable greater opportunities for collaboration and innovation. By delivering commercial floorspace and creating new, high value jobs in a strategically important sector, the project will also help to accelerate the growth of the industry.

The partnership will help BRE to deliver on its role in supporting collaboration across sectors including businesses, government, universities, technology partners and Research and Technology Organisations (RTOs), with the aim of developing and commercialising much needed construction and manufacturing technologies.

The project will explore how the life of existing buildings can be extended through sustainable refurbishment. This supports BRE’s green ambition to refurb and retrofit, rather than re-build, a key focus for the company in what is now in its centenary year. It is hoped this will demonstrate a consistent and cost-effective approach to providing flexible, healthy, and low carbon workspaces that are more sustainable than current stock. BRE will assess the quality and performance of the scheme using its own internationally recognised sustainability tools and methodologies, such as BREEAM.

BRE Chief Executive Gillian Charlesworth said: “The Open Innovation Hub is an incredibly important project as we look to make a green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and contend with outdated housing stock and office space that currently has far too high a carbon footprint. Looking at how to reduce this and contribute to the innovation of the construction sector is something that BRE is uniquely placed to advise on and we are proud to help facilitate Hertfordshire Innovation Quarter’s ambition of creating a better, greener future”.

The Open Innovation Hub is one of five key projects selected to receive a share of Hertfordshire LEP’s £16.8m allocation from Government’s Getting Building Fund, which aims to kickstart local economic recovery. The five Hertfordshire projects are set to deliver over 1,500 high value jobs across high-tech sectors including smart construction, film and TV, cell and gene therapies, and advanced therapeutics.

Richard Whitehead, Chair of Hertfordshire LEP’s Enterprise Zone Board, said: “The Open Innovation Hub will play a key role in strengthening Hertfordshire’s existing smart construction capabilities. It will provide ideal conditions for small business growth, giving tenant companies access to BRE’s unrivalled built environment expertise and vital opportunities to collaborate.

“Our investment will help to attract new businesses into the county and provide high quality employment opportunities for residents, while supporting the development of innovations and efficiencies that will have a far-reaching impact on the construction sector in the UK and beyond, helping to realise our collective ambition to build back greener post-pandemic.”

Visit www.bregroup.com.

Learn more about Herts IQ at www.herts-iq.co.uk.