Construction and property leaders come together to discuss ‘disruptive’ ideas for growth
Published:  30 May, 2012

LONDON: Today, leaders and sustainability experts from across the built environment sector will come together at the 'Plan for Growth' event – the culmination of a six-month project run by the UK Green Building Council to highlight potential areas for commercial opportunity in a future resource-constrained world.

Over 50 UK-GBC member companies from across the sector have taken part in the project, which has included future scenarios modelling and a process of business model innovation, to challenge the way we currently do business and seek out ‘disruptive’ ideas which could offer opportunities for the sector going forwards.

The project has resulted in five key insights, which will be debated by a panel of experts, from architects to engineers and from contractors to house builders.

Key insights:

  • Space is flexible – with the advances in IT and changing working practices, the constraints of inflexible commercial buildings will be challenged. This led project participants to consider new ways to ensure the efficient use of commercial space, including large-scale inter-business ‘hot-desking’.
  • Finance is changing – in the depths of the worst recession in living memory, arising out of an unprecedented global banking crisis, innovative financial mechanisms – such as local and community-owned institutions and peer-to-peer lending will become increasingly prominent. Participants have highlighted opportunities to drive forward low carbon infrastructure through innovative finance, and opportunities to promote alternatives to traditional mortgages, that encourage retrofitting.
  • Collaboration is key – pan-industry collaboration has the potential to open up new opportunities across the supply chain and building lifecycle to better meet customers’ needs, drive cost-effectiveness and promote sustainable working practices.
  • Communities are mobilising – organisations need to tap into community interests, whether at localised level or within ‘communities of shared interest’. People increasingly want to join forces with like-minded others, and use this increased leverage to meet their needs. The project highlighted potential opportunities for businesses to provide online services for communities to promote greener living, and opportunities to facilitate community-scale procurement of utilities.
  • Consumers want customisation as standard – people want the economies of mass production twinned with the personal touch and successful businesses need to create opportunities for their customers to help shape their products and services to meet these dual needs. This is highlighted in a proposal for a new business venture that takes self-build from niche to mainstream, allowing much greater choice in the design of new homes.

Speaking about the project, Paul King, chief executive of UK Green Building Council said: “Britain may look disarmingly similar in decades to come because the vast majority of it has already been built. But the built environment industry will need to change beyond recognition. In other sectors, we’ve seen major businesses rendered redundant because they failed to adapt to change quickly enough. This project aimed to give organisations the space to step outside of ‘business as usual’ and think – ‘given what we know is likely to change in the future – not least in terms of natural resource and energy constraints – how can we begin to change what we do today to make sure we will survive and thrive in 10 or 20 years’ time?’

“At its simplest, sustainable development is about how we will enable future generations to meet their needs. It follows that sustainable business is all about ensuring we meet our customers’ future needs. If that question isn’t front of mind for business leaders today, they should ask themselves what they are doing in business, and indeed how long they will be!”

Miles Watkins, director of sustainable construction at Aggregate Industries – one of the project sponsors, said: "Every recent industry report has promoted the need for collaboration to solve the problems facing our built environment but we are simply not seeing enough action to put this collaboration into practice. The Plan for Growth wholly demonstrates what can be achieved when we maximise the talent around us and work together to break through the boundaries of traditional practice. The project has also made us question what innovation actually looks like and highlighted the opportunity to achieve so much more."

Marco Marijewycz, advocacy and stakeholder manager at E.ON – one of the project sponsors, said: “What the Plan for Growth process has clearly demonstrated to us is that creative new low carbon pathways, and exciting new business opportunities, can emerge when UK-GBC members collaborate and think beyond our respective sector boundaries. The innovative ideas which have emerged from this process are testament to this.”

The project is sponsored by Aggregate Industries, E.ON, Heathrow Airport Ltd and Mitsubishi Electric and has also attracted funding from the Technology Strategy Board. Drivers Jonas Deloitte has provided project management and research support.

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