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Bright future ahead for infrastructure; CONSTRUCTING EXCELLENCE.

Byline: JOHN BURNS

FABULOUS. I can not be alone in feeling delighted with the announcement that we are on the threshold of major opportunities in offshore wind power generation, with announcements this week of tender opportunities and a confident expectation that a further 25GW of capacity can be added to the existing 8GW making a major contribution to carbon reduction and security of supplies.

The department for Energy and Climate Change suggest this may be worth 70,000 jobs and the construction industry in this region is exceptionally well placed to benefit. Indeed, we need to be as the forecasts for job loss over the next 12-18 months are alarming.

Construction Skills Network currently predict an 11% fall in the North East from 125,000 to 111,000 within the next two years.

The industry must hope that where public spending is maintained, it will be in long-term investment and infrastructure is an important area to safeguard future competitiveness and performance.

In Europe, private sector funding is supporting a pounds 37bn investment in solar power farms in North Africa and it is heartening to feel that renewable technologies are being adopted around the world despite the problems of the global market.

Infrastructure, including water and drainage systems, flood relief measures and climate change resilience represents around 20% of construction activity and is already a vital component in our region.

But energy requirements for buildings and transport have not received the attention in the UK that can be observed in other leading economies.

With 26% of carbon emissions arising from our homes, 17% from buildings and 26% from transport policies that deal with new buildings, the energy supply companies cannot achieve our carbon reduction targets.

The uptake in renewables will help, but a reduction in demand created through intelligent retrofitting of the existing stock does seem to be an absolute priority.

Germany's rolling low cost loan fund is an example which seems to work, but we also have opportunities to use our public building stock to create skills and jobs in the vital repair and maintenance sector.

Many of the new technologies appear to be optimised in the middle ground between individual owners and power stations at neighbourhood and district level.

Given the region's emerging strengths in low and zero carbon technologies, opportunities for creating district and neighbourhoodwide initiatives are a tantalising prospect.

With public sector finance beginning to focus on place-based regeneration initiatives, the opportunities for enhanced energy efficiency and energy saving can begin to be addressed.

Infrastructure appears to hold one of the brightest futures in the current world of construction and it will be vital to maintain this as other sectors of the construction market stabilise and recover from the current housing, asset and jobs downturn.

John Burns is director, Mackellar Architecture Limited and board member of Constructing Excellence in the North East
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jun 26, 2009
Words:475
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