MEP backs Coventry University initiative to support sustainable building projects

MEP Malcolm Harbour CBE is backing an initiative that Coventry University is leading to support sustainable construction and boost local building businesses.

Mr Harbour, Member of the European Parliament for the West Midlands and Chairman of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee, visited the University on Friday 30 August to view firsthand the work of its Sustainable Buildings Future (SBF) project.

Financed by Coventry University and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the SBF project provides business advice and specialist support on the use of new sustainable and green building technologies to West Midlands based small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) operating within the construction sector.

Mr Harbour met with the SBF project team along with industry professionals during the course of his visit, to view the facilities and services on offer and to learn about its ongoing efforts to help SMEs to engage with emerging technologies and so enhance and increase their building activities.

Discussions also focussed around the vital role that these small, local building companies can play in construction led economic growth. The meeting took place ahead of dedicated workshops that the SBF project is running in partnership with the Modern Masonry Alliance for local SMEs in the house building sector.

Entitled “Putting the ‘Local’ Back into House Building”, these free events taking place in October and November, will present the business case for a sustained nationwide house building programme, explain the market opportunities that are emerging as a result of recent initiatives and incentives, and outline how local builders can tap into these openings.

With input from local government, trade bodies, academic specialists, industry leaders and financial experts, the workshops are also geared towards helping SMEs overcome the obstacles that may be preventing them from developing their house building activities.

Malcolm Harbour MEP said:

“Stimulating growth while reducing our carbon footprint and addressing the needs of a growing population are some of the major challenges that we face in Europe. The construction sector will play a key role in tackling these issues head on. Input from small and medium sized enterprises are critical as they make such up a significant proportion of the sector so it’s important that they are assisted in their endeavours. I’m encouraged that European support is going into projects such as the Sustainable Building Futures, which is engaging with these companies at a local level. ”

Professor George Martin, Business Affairs Director at Sustainable Building Futures, said:

“Sustainable Building Futures promotes the use of emerging green technologies in construction and by working closely with local SMEs within the sector it aims to equip them with the knowledge and expertise to compete and grow within this changing business environment.

“It is a collaborative project, marrying academic research skills with industry expertise. Malcolm Harbour is a supporter of partnership working universities and businesses and a champion of research and innovation, so we were delighted to meet with him to discuss our work.”

Mike Leonard, Chief Executive Officer of the Modern Masonry Alliance, said:

“While the recent recovery in the local housing market is very welcome, there has so far been an over reliance on the South East of England, with the majority of work concentrated amongst the major construction companies and very little participation by local house builders.

“Input from smaller companies at a local level is vital to the country’s overall house building recovery programme and we’re working with the Sustainable Building Futures project to engage with SMEs in the construction sector.

“We’re collaborating with trade bodies, lenders, local authorities and regulators to help smaller, community based businesses overcome the financial and logistical barriers that they feel may be holding them back. Our forthcoming workshops will cover these topics in detail and I strongly urge small and medium sized building companies in the West Midlands to attend.

“Our agenda for the day includes financial experts from Santander offering guidance on how to put together a successful business case for funding, a representative from Coventry City Council talking through the planning application process and the Building Control Alliance covering up to date regulations and codes of practice.”

Further information about the work of the Sustainable Building Futures project and the services it offers, including details of forthcoming events and workshops, is available at www.coventry.ac.uk/sbf