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INTERVIEW: BUILDING RESEARCH ESTABLISHMENT


research and certification parts of the BRE Group can help to give customers the competitive edge they need through knowledge and information. “For example, BRE has focussed on


conducting research that can’t readily be carried out elsewhere, but which may provide the valuable innovations needed to succeed in a challenging marketplace.” BRE Global, another key element of the Group, provides third-party approval of products and services. “During challenging times it is even more important to have your products or services accredited by a recognised certification body to compete successfully,” says Bonfield. “Companies in the fire and security industries, for example, are able to give their customers the important assurance they require through the LPCB (part of BRE Global) approval mark, and are listed in LPCB’s Red Book of products and services − a key reference for customers. “Our growing international activities are also providing a valuable market for our services − particularly certification. Much of the research we do, and the tools and other products we have, are starting to travel well.”


> Looking forward


Bonfield does not spend much time looking back at past achievements; he is focussed on moving forward and building on past success: “As the new Group CEO, my goal is to ensure that we continue to be recognised nationally − and increasingly internationally − as the leading research, testing and certification body to turn to for help with all built-environment issues. “For one thing, we will engage more closely with our university centres.” He’s referring to the five BRE University Centres of Excellence based at universities around Britain, which conduct fundamental built- environment research in sustainable design, buildings systems, fire-safety engineering, energy use and innovative materials: “There are around 100 PhD students, 65 staff and £20 million of research programmes in the centres, and we aim to integrate them more fully into the work of the Group. “Across the company we will focus more on applied research, as well as producing further products, standards, codes and tools that we can sell in this country and − increasingly − around the world.


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A shot of the BRE Innovation Park in Watford. The Innovation Park model is being rolled out across the world, with work already underway on the Green Building Park in China, where BRE are partnering with the largest developer there, Vanke. Other BRE parks are planned for Brazil, the USA and Canada


> More integrated


“One of the factors that makes this possible is our ability to integrate sciences from a range of disparate areas and focus them on today’s built-environment issues. The challenges facing this and other countries − ranging from changing climate to changing demographics − need more integrated solutions. “To address these challenges, both


the government and private sector must have information from across a range of disparate areas, in order to make the right decisions on how to move forward, and how to most effectively spend limited funds. “For example, while working to reduce emissions arising from homes (which


CO2


account for 27% of all UK carbon emissions), we also need to recognise that almost 5.5 million households are now in fuel poverty, with occupants often becoming ill because they are not able to heat their homes well enough. In addition to being unacceptable in our society, this impacts on the health service, which spends more than £1 billion a year treating these people. “So we need to connect energy- efficiency measures with targeting people in fuel poverty, and reducing the burden on the health service. And we can do this in a way that creates new jobs because new skills are required, and perhaps new companies that will ultimately export these skills abroad. “This can make a real difference, but taking the decisions to make it happen requires information on a range of societal, economic and environmental factors. We are well placed to bring together different areas of science to form the standards and tools that enable this sort of decision-making. “This use of integrated research to


develop effective tools can be applied to September / October 2012


Photo credit: Peter White, BRE


many other areas. For example, we will work to combine our scientific expertise in fields such as fire safety, building security, and construction materials to produce integrated tools that help customers make decisions which result in better, safer buildings.”


> Going international


Bonfield wants to take BRE’s products to an international market and believes the company has an important role to play in championing the export of UK built-environment expertise: “What we do at BRE works well abroad. We aim to be a spearhead for UK export growth − not just for our own products but also for British companies − with products that compete on a world level. We have already started on that journey.” Indeed, BRE is already developing an


Innovation Park in Beijing to showcase British design, construction products, and technologies for sustainable homes. It’s an excellent opportunity to boost UK exports to China. BRE is also developing links in, among other places, Brazil, India and the USA − and BRE Canada was launched recently.


“So, in answer to the original question about continuing our success,” concludes Bonfield, “more integrated research applied to more integrated products, and more international activities pushing more exports to help our economy grow − that’s how we are going to do it.”


A version of this article first appeared in the BRE Group’s magazine Constructing the Future, Issue 50, Winter 2011. The author was Jo Smit, editor of Building4change.com.


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