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Sharing ideas

SELECT MD Alan Wilson reports back from the first International Constructions Leadership Forum meeting

Looking up in the midst of a number of international flags filling the view

I was honoured to chair the inaugural meeting of the International Construction Leadership Forum (CLF) and we certainly covered a lot of ground in the few hours we spent online!

Modernising the sector, best practice, emerging trends and industry issues both at home and across international markets were all hot topics, along with Scotland’s new Construction Accord.

Although there is distance between us geographically, it soon became clear that we share many of these same challenges, so here are the main discussion points from our international get-together.

Scotland can learn from Denmark’s data mapping

John McKinney outlined the challenge of Scotland meeting its net zero targets without aggregated data on housing stock. He said such a database would allow organisations to make stronger cases for government investment in green schemes and would simplify and accelerate initiatives such as heat pump and solar PV installation.

We learned that Denmark’s Energy Agency has delivered a database that maps the whole of the country’s existing housing sector, including data on housing types and heating systems. This provides an understanding of current stock and the information to design a roadmap to decarbonisation.

What’s best, carrot or stick?

The question of how to modernise the sector and reach net zero carbon was raised repeatedly, with the ‘carrot and stick’ analogy used by several speakers.

Julie Beaufils from EuropeOn said she believes that legislation – AKA the stick – is a powerful tool to encourage re-industrialisation and energy saving, but also conceded that we need to complement mandatory changes with funding or rewards – i.e. the carrot – to incentivise change.

However, GCP Europe’s Oliver Jung felt that the carrot is more effective at persuading people to make greener choices, giving the example of boilers that need replacing. He said that if an installer doesn’t have a financial incentive to install a greener option then they won’t, so we need to establish models that make the green solution a “no-brainer” for both installers and homeowners.

A wooden waymarker in the foreground points the way through a wind farm

Innovation is key

Christian Beck said innovation was vital on the journey to net zero, giving the example of his firm’s development of a nail made of European beechwood, which reduces emissions by 70% compared to traditional steel nails.

He is now engaged in a joint project with Historic Environment Scotland and BE-ST looking at the retrofit of Dunoon Burgh Halls using mass timber and replacing steel fixings with wooden nails.

Christian added that we all need to become missionaries, engaging as many people as possible and empowering them to look for innovative solutions, which will also enable new technologies to gain ground.

The future is a common challenge

One of the most enlightening moments was the realisation that we share a number of challenges across Europe, namely enabling a just transition and addressing the skills gap.

We heard how in the Netherlands the government has committed to building 900,000 affordable and sustainable social houses. However, Jan Osenberg also highlighted the lack of skilled workers across the continent to roll out solar solutions, in particular electricians.

To address these challenges in Scotland, we heard how the CLF has established its Transformation Group to listen to the industry about its needs, encourage diversity and inclusion and support a just transition.

The Accord is just the starting block

The discussion heard that the Scottish Construction Accord, which was launched last October, was inspired by a similar initiative in New Zealand and that Holland has an equivalent agreement called the Klimaatakkoord.

Ron Fraser also made it clear that although the Accord has enabled the public sector, industry and government to engage in more dialogue and collaboration than ever before, it is only the beginning. He said the Accord is the starting block for change, not the end, and all stakeholders need to remain committed to working together to see concrete changes materialise.

New build housing with solar panel roofs to increase green credentials

In conclusion

The first International CLF meeting was undoubtedly a success and it is hoped that this will now be a bi-annual event. Collaborating in this way with our European counterparts will help us to share knowledge and learn from others’ successes and how they have overcome their own challenges.

From a personal point of view, it’s clear that no matter where we live or trade, we share common issues in the race to decarbonise our built environment and we can’t address them effectively by staying cocooned in our own individual silos.

International engagement allows us to exchange vital knowledge and experience – and also reminds us that Scotland also has plenty of expertise and knowledge to share.


About the author

A portrait of Alan Wilson


Managing Director SELECT


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