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Next generation and innovation top the agenda at UK Construction Week

Safe buildings, innovation, offsite and the next generation were just some of the buzz words that came out of a record first day at UK Construction Week, taking place at the NEC in Birmingham.

One of the strongest themes to emerge was the importance of nurturing the next generation, and that the industry needs to work harder to respond to this challenge so the future of construction can innovate, thrive and succeed. Architect and broadcaster, George Clarke, said: “UK Construction Week is an opportunity for everyone in the industry to come together and share their knowledge and passion. It’s our role to get the next generation engaged in and excited about what we do, and the industry needs to recognise and take on the energy and skills the next generation have.”

Over on the UKCW Main Stage, Clarke led the opening debate, which focused on the theme of innovation. Joined by Dr David Hancock, Head of Construction at the Cabinet Office; Niraj Dattani, Head of Partnerships at Spacehive Ltd, Sasha Reed, VP of Strategic Developments at Bluebeam Inc.; Head of Innovation at Keir, Mark Austin; Chris Bagley, Head of Infrastructure at KTN; Nick Conway, Director at ITC Concepts and Matthew Egan CEO of Modularize, the panel concluded that the industry must come together and collaborate to build more at a higher quality.

Hancock said: “It’s great to have a show like UK Construction Week because it disproves the myth that the construction industry isn’t innovative. However, one of the challenges we have as an industry is attracting women and young people. I’d be surprised by anyone who came to this show and didn’t find something that interests them, so we need to showcase all that we have to offer.”

Making buildings safe also proved a key theme of the day with crowds drawing in to see a live demo from Exova, which included a ‘full-scale’ simulated cross-corridor set-up to demonstrate best-practice installation of passive fire protection measures.

Dennis Davis, Vice Chairman of the Fire Sector Federation, Deon Lombard, Principal of Deon Lombard Architects, Steven Thompson, RICS Associate Director of the Built Environment, and Jonathan Herrick, Business Safety and Protection Coordinator for the National Fire Chiefs Council took to the main stage for a lively debate about current building regulations and called for a combined approach from all involved in the project from as early on as the drawing board to avoid unsafe buildings.

Timber Expo showcased the winning design from the Next Generation Design Brum competition by Scale Rule. Scale Rule is a voluntary initiative that receives funding from the Institution of Structural Engineers and provides a unique insight into the engineering and architecture professions for the next generation of designers – school students. Over a two-day workshop, nine teams were asked to design a ‘fun outdoor pavilion’ which featured exclusively at Birmingham Weekender Festival last month, and is on display at UK Construction Week’s Timber Expo.

Highlights from the knowledge sharing at the Surface & Materials Show hub included Envelope Architects talking about the ingenious new technology to enable practices to become master sculptors in architecture. From adaptive moulds to hot wire CNC ability, materials such as Corian, ceramic, and foam can now more easily and cost-effectively be employed to create striking curves and structural shapes.

Exciting product launches included the crowd-pulling OODHOUSE pod solution for creating elegant extra hotel, garden or studio rooms, and the ethereal Lumentile a multifunctional electronic luminous tile developed by the Universita di Pavia in Italy. Stylish and sustainable solutions range from BoFloor’s 100 per cent recycled product to Sant Anselmo’s classically elegant terracotta range. Meanwhile experts Material Lab drew together a fascinating selection of emerging material design.

Other product launches included CEMEX who presented new features of its permeable concrete.  The Velux modular skylight and demonstrations from Texodrone a £1million state of the art drone.

The week still has more to come with Founding Director and CEO of Cast Consulting Mark Farmer set to take centre stage. He’ll provide an update on the Farmer Review: Modernise or Die and explore what’s happened in the year since it was published. Business Journalist and Broadcaster, Steph McGovern will also be on main stage looking at increasing workplace productivity through workplace diversity.

Also taking place at the show today (Wednesday 11 October) is IEMA’s Skills & Sustainable Infrastructure Conference, which will launch its latest research report, delving into the role that sustainability skills are playing in enabling the ‘UK’s Golden Age of Infrastructure’.

For additional information on the full programme of events, visit www.ukconstructionweek.com


About Sarah OBeirne

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