Peter Hansford, the UK government’s newly appointed chief construction advisor, visited Coventry University on Friday as part of his first week in post to see what the institution is doing to help drive forward the low carbon construction industry.
Mr Hansford and Juliet Mountford, director of construction in the Cabinet Office, met with Vice-Chancellor Professor Madeleine Atkins before visiting the pioneering Advanced Construction Technologies (ACT) Simulation Centre – one of only three in the world – on the University’s Tech Park, where they were given a demonstration of the training facility’s state-of-the-art virtual reality capabilities.
Through cutting-edge 3D simulation, the multi-million pound centre – which was built in partnership between Coventry University, ACT and Advantage West Midlands – is able to create ‘immersive’ virtual construction sites to train workers in a safe, true-to-life environment with realistic site management situations.
Industry-leading construction firm Balfour Beatty, which uses the facility to train its workforce, was on hand to give Mr Hansford a live showcase of how the centre can be used to boost trainees’ experience and decision-making skills, without the risks associated with on-site work.
Mr Hansford then visited the University’s brand new £55 million Engineering and Computing building on campus, where an innovative project is underway inviting businesses to come and test new environmental technologies for use in the construction industry.
The £5 million Sustainable Building Futures project is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and by the University itself, and aims to encourage knowledge transfer and collaboration between West Midlands SMEs and the University – as well as offering construction firms access to the latest facilities to help boost productivity.
George Martin, professor of low impact and sustainable buildings at Coventry University, said: “It’s a pleasure to welcome Peter Hansford to Coventry University to give him an insight into some of the leading-edge projects and technologies being pioneered through our low impact buildings programme.
“The UK’s built environment sector has a mountain to climb to overcome the challenges posed by climate change, the Government’s carbon reduction targets and the performance gap where buildings do not perform ‘in use’. But with our construction simulation facilities and our new Engineering and Computing building offering such valuable opportunities to small and big businesses alike, the University has a huge amount to offer to stimulate the industry and its low carbon ambitions.”
Peter Hansford said: “Attracting talent and enhancing skills are real issues facing the construction and built environment sector. The new multi-million pound facilities at Coventry University are helping businesses and their workers receive the training they need to help stimulate renewed growth for the industry.”
Mr Hansford began his role as chief construction advisor to the government last week. He reports to the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills and to Cabinet Office Ministers.