Mission to make our future safe as houses
BRE Scotland is leading the way in helping to create and improve our built environments, says
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.