Call for a radical shift in local construction sector

A radical shift in the mindset of the construction industry is needed if local firms are going to be in a position to take advantage when the market picks up, building firms will be told next week.

That is the key message of a conference looking at the opportunities for the county's building and construction firms linked to the development of 7,000 homes to the north of Norwich in and around Rackheath, Sprowston, Old Catton, and Thorpe St Andrew.

The 'Constructing the Future' conference is designed to brief the industry on Broadland District Council's plans to build the new homes while a Build Norfolk Construction Marketplace networking session from will also enable delegates to meet some of main contractors and developers who will be leading housing and commercial projects in Norfolk and the business support organisations who can help local firms to meet main contractor and developers' selection criteria.

Rowland Smith, design and environmental manager for RG Carter, which is among the firms taking part in the event at the John Innes Centre on December 1, said that to win work main contractors needed to promise both efficiencies and greener solutions.

He said: 'This can include producing and installing triple glazed windows, to achieve low heat loss while still providing good daylight and an understanding of the implications and use of in-roof photovoltaic solar panels or on-roof panels – the range of lower energy renewable solutions for heating and hot water such as district heating using biomass boilers or air source heat pumps and the like.


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'Another challenge involves reducing energy and water usage and the onus will be largely on an educated supply chain to deliver this,' he added.

'New government directives on reducing the carbon footprint and energy use in homes and commercial buildings together with the drive for efficiencies mean a radical mindset shift for the construction industry.

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'These government drivers are aimed at making the industry adopt greener and more sustainable ways of working both for housing and commercial building projects, and the reality is that to prosper – indeed just to survive in the 21st century – main contractors, developers, small builders, tradesmen and supply chain firms are going to have to change with it.

'It will mean some of the practices that have been 'nice to haves' until now, will become 'must haves' in the not so distant future. Business might be in the doldrums right now, but with such multi-million pound growth clearly on the horizon, the market is certain to pick up and that's why the local industry needs to be ready to take full advantage.'

Gavin Napper, area director, construction, of Morgan Sindall, said the growth plans would also bring opportunities for the industry beyond housing.

'Sustainability is a fundamental issue across the construction industry,' he said. 'For us there will be spin-offs such as supporting infrastructure, schools and all the things that come along from new towns which generate spin-off growth.'

The conference is a partnership event between Broadland District Council, the Build Norfolk network, the Low Carbon Innovation Centre and BRE (the Building Research Establishment) and the project is part EU funded through the BEST East ERDF programme.

Companies wishing to attend should book online via www.buildnorfolk.co.uk and click on the Events tab or call David Moore on 01263 735486 for more information.

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