Mis­sion to make our fu­ture safe as houses

BRE Scotland is lead­ing the way in helping to cre­ate and im­prove our built en­vi­ron­ments, says

The Herald Business - - Com­mer­cial Fea­ture -

BUILDING on rep­u­ta­tion is an achieve­ment in it­self – but in the world of con­struc­tion, where t he model i s be­ing con­stantly changed, re­vised and trans­formed at a head-spin­ning pace, the im­per­a­tive to in­no­vate is con­stant.

That de­mand­ing re­al­ity doesn’t seem to un­duly trou­ble Ru­fus Lo­gan, director of BRE Scotland, the in­de­pen­dent body that helps in­dus­try clients to de­liver a bet­ter built en­vi­ron­ment.

Lo­gan seems per­pet­u­ally buzzing with ideas: re­silience … in­no­va­tion … com­mu­nity – i n ini­tia­tives both at home and over­seas. Pop­u­la­tion change and cli­mate change and fire safety engi­neer­ing are also thrown into the mix; in fact, any of the many and di­verse fac­tors that make the build­ings we live and work in safer, more sus­tain­able and, im­por­tantly, more hu­man places to be.

BRE Scotland is in the midst of im­por­tant new de­vel­op­ments, in­clud­ing a new Acad­emy for the Built En­vi­ron­ment, which will de­liver world-class training ed­u­ca­tion pro­grammes that will be de­liv­ered glob­ally.

Rep­u­ta­tion, of course, helps to un­der­pin the vi­sion. The BRE Group has a his­tory of sup­port­ing projects of im­por­tance to both the con­struc­tion sec­tor and the lo­cal econ­omy and BRE Scotland, which has been op­er­at­ing since 1949 in East Kil­bride, now op­er­ates the BRE In­no­va­tion Park @Raven­scraig, which Lo­gan de­scribes as a na­tional hub for the largest re­gen­er­a­tion projects in Scotland, one with a dis­tinct em­pha­sis on sus­tain­able plan­ning and de­vel­op­ment.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, the cru­cial word in Lo­gan’s lex­i­con is part­ner­ship. Re­cently this has been high­lighted by, among other projects, the open­ing of the newly-con­structed Re­fur­bished House and the Cur­ricu­lum House at BRE’s in­no­va­tion Park at Raven­scraig (one of six the group op­er­ates world­wide, from Brazil to China).

BRE de­scribes the de­vel­op­ments as a mini demon­stra­tion of a com­mu­nity of homes and build­ings on the former site of in­dus­trial dere­lic­tion that now taps into Scotland’s legacy of in­ven­tion and in­no­va­tion.

The Re­fur­bished House, built by lo­cal con­trac­tor Cru­den, is a tra­di­tional ‘four-in-a block’ Scot­tish dwelling, us­ing dif­fer­ent ma­te­ri­als and retro­fit tech­nolo­gies to re­fur­bish each of its apart­ments in a project de­liv­ered by BRE Scotland, Ed­in­burgh Napier Univer­sity and His­toric Scotland.

While New Col­lege La­nark­shire’s Cur­ricu­lum House is, tech­ni­cally, built on a ther­mally ef­fi­cient closed panel tim­ber frame sys­tem man­u­fac­tured by Scot­frame, but for Lo­gan it rep­re­sents more than that. “This is the kind of prac­ti­cal, on- t he- g round, ap­plied and s ol ution- based re­search that we are work­ing with in­dus­try on – and the ex­cit­ing thing is that the stu­dents have de­signed it and put it into plan­ning them­selves. It’s a de­vel­op­ing project and as it’s be­ing re­alised in real life, stu­dents of the fu­ture will be able to work on it and adapt it so it will re­main a hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence.”

While its base in Scotland is im­por­tant, the skills, con­sul­tancy, re­search and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion de­vel­oped by BRE here and the group through­out the UK are be­ing read­ily adopted world­wide. A ma­jor part of its busi­ness now comes from over­seas and Lo­gan’s col­lab­o­ra­tion with in­dus­try-wide group Con­struc­tion Scotland, un­der the Scot­tish En­ter­prise um­brella, has iden­ti­fied sig­nif­i­cant op­por­tu­ni­ties in Hong Kong and China with BRE Scotland form­ing af­fil­i­a­tions that in­clude one with the Univer­sity of Brasilia.

Part­ner­ships with ex­ist­ing in­dus­try are vi­tal, says Lo­gan, and so are those with the next gen­er­a­tion of ar­chi­tects and engi­neers and he high­lights BRE Scotland’s col­lab­o­ra­tion with the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor. The BRE Trust op­er­ates a part­ner­ship with four uni­ver­si­ties in the UK: Cardiff, Bath and, in Scotland, Strath­clyde and Ed­in­burgh and supports a pro­fes­sor’s chair at each in­sti­tu­tion and at least two PhD de­grees per year, un­der­lin­ing its com­mit­ment to re­search and de­vel­op­ment.

The log­i­cal de­vel­op­ment of th­ese bonds is the sig­nif­i­cant news that a new Acad­emy for the Built En­vi­ron­ment will be launched at BRE Scotland’s for thcom­ing con­fer­ence. It will, says Lo­gan, of­fer cour­ses in a range of sub­jects along­side qual­i­fi­ca­tions, ac­cred­i­ta­tions and Continuous Pro­fess i o nal De­vel­op­ment ( CPD) pro­grammes that range from City & Guilds and Busi­ness and Tech- nol­ogy Ed­u­ca­tion Coun­cil (BTEC) to post grad­u­ate diplo­mas and Masters de­grees.

Lo­gan be­lieves the ini­tia­tive “closes the gap be­tween high de­mand and skills short­ages by pro­vid­ing the high­est qual­ity of training and ed­u­ca­tion right across the board and push­ing the bound­aries of knowledge in the built en­vi­ron­ment”.

It fol­lows the suc­cess­ful launch of an acad­emy south of the bor­der and Lo­gan ex­plains: “BRE is al­ways look­ing for­ward to the fu­ture and over­com­ing new chal­lenges – and training peo­ple to do that on a life-long learn­ing ba­sis is fun­da­men­tal.

“Peo­ple need to adapt new tech­nolo­gies and un­der­stand how new de­sign can be ap­plied and we at BRE do a lot of re­search around sus­tain­able build­ings and stan­dards and have a his­tory of knowledge that we can share. The model has been suc­cess­ful in Eng­land and has had a very pos­i­tive re­sponse, so we in Scotland are ex­cited about the prospect of work­ing with uni­ver­si­ties and col­leges to de­velop cour­ses”

In­dus­try mem­bers will, he says, be able to sign up as mem­bers of the acad­emy. “They will be able to build up their qual­i­fi­ca­tions through on­line cour­ses or mod­ules and this will al­low us to en­gage with busi­nesses and schools and in­creas­ingly get the mes­sage across that this is an ex­cit­ing and in­no­va­tive in­dus­try.”

It is, of course, an in­dus­try that is fun­da­men­tal our day-to-day lives and on lev­els such as safety and sus­tain­abil­ity there are chal- lenges that BRE is con­fronting. The theme of this year’s con­fer­ence is ‘re­silience’.

“There is a lot go­ing on con­cern­ing is­sues such as cli­mate change, pop­u­la­tion change and fire safety,” says Lo­gan. BRE sci­en­tist Dr Stephen Garvin pointed out this year at the Britain Un­der Wa­ter con­fer­ence that four of the wettest years on record have oc­curred in the UK since 2000, with the dev­as­tat­ing floods of 2007 alone cost­ing the coun­try £3.2 bil­lion.

“We are talk­ing to UK Gov­ern­ment about a na­tional re­silience cen­tre which will bring to­gether knowledge from dif­fer­ent sources about cli­mate change is­sues and the adap­ta­tion of build­ings. We are also well-known for our re­search in fire safety engi­neer­ing – we have a cen­tre at Ed­in­burgh Univer­sity,” says Lo­gan.

The cen­tre, BRE says, will con­duct re­search into new mit­i­ga­tion and adap­tion meth­ods, and de­velop new stan­dards for de­sign, plan­ning and prod­ucts plus test and cer­tify a new tranche of in­no­va­tions. BRE Scotland is also plan­ning to cre­ate a re­silience retro­fit house, and is look­ing at tra­di­tional Scot­tish house types that can be adapted.

Lo­gan is clearly ex­pect­ing no let up in the spin-out of BRE’s al­ready busy sched­ule of events and ac­tiv­i­ties. “There are more build­ings to be built at the Raven­scraig park, we are work­ing with part­ners over­seas and strength­en­ing links with academia and the lo­cal com­mu­nity – we have a great base here in Scotland on which to con­tinue building and in­no­vat­ing.”

Ru­fus Lo­gan, di­rec­tor of BRE Scot­land, says adapt­ing and ap­ply­ing tech­nol­ogy to sus­tain­able projects is key.

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