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Let's talk sustainability

Despite these difficult times sustainability remains high on the agenda

I spent a couple of days at Ecobuild this week. This exhibition and conference on sustainability gets better every year, with a good combination of seminars and exhibitors providing an opportunity to keep up to date with the sustainability agenda while also meeting colleagues past and present.

Although most companies’ budgets are under pressure and money is tight, it is good to see so many still investing in their brands by having a presence at this exhibition, even though they may have reduced their staff numbers. As was mentioned at the recent CIMCIG Conference, it is those companies that continue to invest in promoting themselves during a recession that will come out on top when the recovery finally arrives.

Some commentators have questioned the sense in investing in sustainability during these tough times, but the message coming across loud and clear from speakers at the conference is that the drive for sustainable buildings will continue. As one speaker put it “by investing in a building which is not green you are getting an asset which will be obsolete long before it has reached the end of its design life”. So make sure you understand the sustainable agenda and how it will affect your company. And be warned, the goal posts are moving.

Of course, one of the key questions everyone was asking is “how are you finding the market?” It would seem that “flat” is the new “up” with people just grateful if they have seen an end to the fall in demand. It was encouraging to note that the Homes and Communities Agency are committed to investing in more public sector housing construction and are looking at various initiatives with the private sector. We can also expect to see new approaches to the housing market such as Build to Let. So keep an eye on developments.

Ecobuild shows that the construction industry is still very much alive, although possible suffering from internal bleeding. Sustainability remains high on the agenda and in these difficult times we are going to see plenty of changes to the established norms with new ways of commissioning, designing and constructing buildings, not to mention doing business, being introduced.

Chris Ashworth, founder of Competitive Advantage Consultancy, provides market research and training services to the construction industry. He is a CIMCIG committee member, for further details visit