The Construction Challenge and the Active Building Centre

The Construction Challenge and the Active Building Centre


By Jan Bell, Director of Operations

The Active Building Centre has a critical role to play in the construction challenge


I’m going to start with energy.

Why am I starting with energy? 40% of all energy demands come from buildings.

Our perspective is, if we’re going to transform construction, which we absolutely have to do to make better buildings, we can help tackle climate change issues of the moment. And help address issues in the buildings mission.

If we know we have to reduce energy consumption and energy demand, we should start with buildings.


Making buildings Active

If we carry on with the trajectory of electrifying heat the capacity isn’t there. We want to transform the way we manufacture and build buildings and make them Active.  Rather than carrying on making things worse by building buildings the way we’ve always built them, we should make them Active and actually help support the energy network at the same time.

And help solve some of the energy trilemma issues of security, affordability, sustainability.

We see this as a long-term vision.

If we’re going to address some of these challenges, we are absolutely going to make some impact in the next few years, but this really has to be a massive transformation. Not only in the worlds of construction. But also in the world of energy. If we’re really going to hit the vehicle electrification targets and the decarbonisation challenges.

We see vehicles and transport as part of the solution. It’s mobile energy storage. We should be using that and incorporating that into the mission.


The Active Building ecosystem

People have asked about ecosystem. There currently isn’t a defined ecosystem. This is about bringing together the energy space, construction space, technology space, financial products and business models. We need this whole grouping to come together.

For us this mission is about a national centre backed by government that brings together all these organisations.

It’s about buildings that support the energy network.

We shouldn’t be making the problem worse. We’ve got a chance to not only transform construction but transform energy.

Buildings that support the energy network. Buildings that intelligently integrate renewable technologies into buildings for the benefit of heat, power and transport.

That’s really what we’re aiming for.


Active Building support and expertise

We’re hoping to pull more organisations in to support our mission for collaboration.  We currently have support from industry dotted across the UK.

We are working with companies from technology backgrounds, small and large companies, construction companies, energy companies,. Critically we need everyone to come together to solve this problem.

We have ten funded university partners contributing world class expertise in this area. This ranges from everything from technology development, energy modelling, demand reduction, social science, city scale mapping – everything is in the mix.


Active Building demonstrators

Working together, what are we going to deliver? What are our objectives?

We need to have buildings that people can visit, that they can understand whether the occupants benefit from the energy or whether it’s a burden. Whether the technologies work. What are the business models? What do they look like? How do people experience them?

This critical mass of buildings is essential.

We are looking for demonstrator buildings that we can use.

The evidence framework that results from these buildings is critical.

If we’re not in a position to demonstrate to government why these buildings work, how much they cost, what the benefits are, we’ll never get policy change. So ultimately that’s what we’re trying to do. To get a coordinated approach.

The buildings are important.

The evidence framework that comes from the buildings is critical.


Active Buildings across the UK

We want to be using these Active Buildings as energy positive agents. We need the buildings to be optimised so they add benefits to this energy network and use energy in the best way and the most flexible way.

We are going to be aggregating this information at national scale.  We want a range of buildings in different geographies, of different typologies, of different scales, so that ultimately we can model this and understand what the impacts could be at national scale.

Retrofit is not a core part of this activity. But we all know it’s the big problem. We’re keen to take some of the learnings we are adopting from the new build focus and look at how we can apply that into retrofit. We know the 25 million buildings we’ve already got are the biggest challenge.


Existing Active Buildings

We are taking pockets of excellence where they exist. There will be buildings out there that already meet our Active Buildings criteria. We want that data. We want to bring it in so we can understand it. We need those buildings to help understand that bigger picture.

We need the data. That can then feed into policy recommendations. Recommendations that need to be based on robust evidence.

If you think you have an Active Building project, please contact us to see how we can collaborate and work together to tackle the construction challenge.

Contact the Active Building Centre.