More than 100 delegates attended Hertfordshire’s first Building Solutions conference at BRE, Watford, on 5th October to help build a growth model for Hertfordshire.

Watch the highlights:

This conference was aimed at promoting the quality, innovation and skills needed to tackle the housing challenges facing Hertfordshire. It was run by Hertfordshire LEP in partnership with Hertfordshire Infrastructure and Planning Partnership (HIPP) and Hertfordshire County Council and sponsored and hosted by building science centre BRE. 

Delegates came together from a range of associated industries including major house builders, construction firms, developers, designers and architects as well as housing associations, local and central Government departments and further education colleges.

They listened to a range of prominent key speakers on modern methods of construction (MMC) as a possible solution to Hertfordshire’s future housing needs.

Mark Farmer, outlined what the implications were for the housing industry one year on from the publication of his highly influential report into the construction sector, entitled Modernise or Die.

He said: “Modernise or Die is a challenge which has echoed around the market and hopefully raised awareness of unprecedented problems. New drivers for change are starting to impact which we have not seen before – discontent, skills crisis, technology.

“Emerging central and regional government policy and public sector direct client role is helping strategically to initiate industry on its modernisation journey.  But we are still not yet at an irreversible tipping point. The homebuilding sector has more reason than most to now embrace the modernisation agenda – whether pushed or pulled!”

Other key speakers included Darren Richards, Managing Director, Cogent Consulting, on offsite construction techniques. Darren said that in addition to Hertfordshire’s housing needs the scale of the housing shortage in London created a huge opportunity for the county to find alternative house-building processes and practices to supply this demand.

Rory Bergin, Partner, Sustainable Futures, from HTA Design, showcased some of their modular housing designs.  

Rory, who chaired the morning session, said: “Quality and placemaking are absolutely fundamental to success. Here in Hertfordshire you have the opportunity to take this forward and possibly create an exemplar scheme to showcase what can be achieved.”

The afternoon workshop-based session, was chaired by Pauline Traetto, Managing Director, BRE Academy, and focused on the skills required now and in the future for the built environment.

Marcus Bennett and Ben Lever from CITB, the Industrial Training Board for the construction industry, talked through some of its key research and labour market intelligence to understand the sector’s skills needs and what the industry needs to do to attract, train and retrain talented people.

Richard Hartless, Associate Director, BRE Academy, then outlined what the construction industry needs to do to promote a diverse workforce and why it is a key driver for innovation.

Pauline Traetto said: “We, in association with Hertfordshire LEP and other key partners, are keen to produce a skills framework which enables the built environment sector in Hertfordshire to be best in class.”

Feedback from the morning and afternoon workshops will help to inform a future course of action, ensuring the promotion of innovation as well as qualitative design solutions, the potential for MMC enterprises to establish a base in the county, and how the local skills needed in this sector can be secured.

This conference was run by Hertfordshire LEP, in partnership with  Hertfordshire Infrastructure and Planning Partnership (HIPP) and Hertfordshire County Council. It was sponsored by BRE - a world leading multi-disciplinary building science centre with a mission to improve the built environment through research and knowledge generation. 

BRE and MMC

The world renowned BRE Innovation Park in Watford provides spaces for companies to demonstrate the latest MMC concepts. New projects on the Park recently include ZEDpod, a low-cost micro home that can sit on an elevated platform above existing outdoor car parks, and KODA, an energy efficient and movable concrete house designed for small brownfield developments.

BRE is also part of a consortium awarded a grant from Government to look at advanced manufacturing in the construction supply chain in respect of reducing the UK housing deficit by means of modular homes. It is one of three partners in the consortium who are supporting research and development and has been tasked with creating an industry standard for factory manufactured housing pods. There will be a supporting BRE Global certification scheme to demonstrate the performance of the modular homes for attributes such as structural integrity, acoustics, thermal and fire as well as a focus on the comfort and well-being of the user.

What our delegates said: 
".....perhaps the best, most informative and forward thinking conference I've attended. It's clear as a community we have lots of work to do but we also have the right people leading change and growth"
Ryan Cowell, Director of Curriculum - STEM, Hertford Regional College

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