Net Zero future for construction?

Opportunity Hertfordshire hosts discussion on the construction industry’s net zero future

Leading Hertfordshire organisations have come together to outline how the region is supporting the growth of smart construction at a virtual conference attended by over 100 delegates from the industry.

Led by Hertfordshire LEP, with partners BRE Group and Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce, alongside its flagship initiative Herts IQ, which is building a cluster of innovative, smart construction companies and supply chain in Hemel Hempstead, Opportunity Hertfordshire: Building a Sustainable Future discussed how leading organisations across the region were bringing together new investment, commercial space and skills provision as a unique opportunity for the construction industry.

Speakers at the 90-minute virtual conference, which was free to attend, included Gillian Charlesworth, Chief Executive Officer of BRE Group, Nadhim Zahawi MP, Minister for Business & Industry, Mark Bretton, Chair of the Hertfordshire LEP and the LEP Network, Cllr David Williams, Leader of Hertfordshire County Council and Richard Whitehead, Chair of Herts IQ & Managing Director, Building & Places, UK and Ireland AECOM and representatives from Hertfordshire’s leading construction companies including Willmott Dixon, EasyBuild, Morgan Sindall and offsite manufacturers Stuart Milne Timber Systems.

During the conference, the panel and audience discussed what the construction industry was doing to meet the challenge of Net Zero and the opportunities it presented and what Hertfordshire offers to the construction industry as it works to meet the net zero challenge.

Nadhim Zahawi MP, told delegates: “Delivering the net zero target must be a joint endeavour encompassing all sectors of the economy and all parts of the society. And with buildings making up around one fifth of UK greenhouse gas emissions construction has a big part to play in reaching that goal, something I know the sector recognises and is acting on.”

He praised Hertfordshire for its commitment to sustainability, adding Hertfordshire was playing a “commendable role” in meeting the net zero challenge and added: “I’m impressed that leading organisations here have come together to establish the Herts Innovation Quarter, which is building a cluster of smart construction companies and supply chains.

“The digital economy has, I think huge implications for the built environment and UK construction must be at the vanguard of smart construction and digital design which is why I welcome Herts IQ as a great place to start and grow smart construction companies.”

Mr Zahawi also congratulated Herts IQ for the work it was doing as joint industry-government partnership, adding it was “fantastic” to see the public and private sectors coming together to tackle the net zero challenge.

Cllr David Williams, Leader of Hertfordshire County Council, said: “Hertfordshire is planning for significant growth – 100,000 homes, 175,000 jobs by the early part of the 2030s.

“The County Council’s policy is to support good growth. We want to see sustainable communities where families can live, learn and work all one place and then we want to provide the infrastructure capable of supporting our growing population including roads, schools and health services.”

“I see there being four dimensions to good growth. Economic growth, growth of housing, transport and connectivity and ensuring our growth is sustainable.”

He added the Hertfordshire Growth Board had been established to support this ambition, made up of the county council, LEP and 10 district and borough councils.

Cllr Williams added: “Hertfordshire is open for business. There is a lot happening.”

Gillian Charlesworth, Chief Executive Officer, BRE Group, said: “I think Hertfordshire is doing a fantastic job of seeing the opportunity here. I think a lot of business are probably seeing the measures that need to be taken as a burden and a bit of a challenge. Hertfordshire is seizing the opportunity, which I think is what’s needed.

“I think Hertfordshire is leading for the whole country in being influential. There’s been a lot of questions about influence – how can we be more influential? It’s by showing leadership, having ideas and having solutions.

“We’re really well placed to become a real magnet for the sector and there’s some fantastic expertise in the county that will really bring that alive.”

Closing the conference, Mark Bretton, Chair of the Hertfordshire LEP and LEP Network, said: “It’s clear for all of the interactions here that we’re blessed in Hertfordshire with a strong base of successful construction and supply chain companies who are leading the way in making the challenge of net zero.

“There are opportunities for innovation and collaboration and Herts IQ is playing a leading role in bringing all the partners together from right across the political and business spectrum.”

“We are at the centre of so many important things for the future.”

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