Actuate intends to become an agent for positive change

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Steve Bratt, CEO of ECA – Electrical and Engineering Services, a Director of Actuate UK and a member of the Construction Leadership Council Task Force Group expands on the four key strategic areas on Actuate UK’s agenda   

Since the advent of the COVID pandemic, the world we knew has changed. It has been a period of rapid innovation and a critical moment in the uptake of digital technology. The construction industry has risen to the challenge and come together in unprecedented ways. The recent launch of Actuate UK, the new engineering services alliance, demonstrates further industry collaboration. Actuate UK has an ambitious, forward looking agenda, tackling some of the biggest issues facing our industry, government and our stakeholders.

As an agent for positive change, Actuate UK supports the delivery of a safer and sustainable UK built environment. Together with others in the industry, the UK Government and the Devolved Nations, it will play a key role by supporting national initiatives ranging from the Construction Leadership Council’s Recovery Roadmap, the Construction Playbook and strategic economic plans in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Building Safety reform and the drive for Zero Net Carbon.

Actuate UK brings together the expertise of eight leading trade, technology, research and professional bodies in engineering services. This makes the new alliance a strong and unified voice for the industry. Together the members represent over 60,000 firms and 350,000 skilled professionals. The founder members provide all the essential elements which bring the built environment to life, including good air quality, light, power and water. What we do affects everyone.

The combined engineering services sector enables around £600 billion of UK economic activity. Actuate UK is uniquely placed to cover whole life asset value, and it’s well placed to speak with one voice on matters of strategic importance, to develop policy positions and engage with those in industry.

While its scope is wide, initially Actuate UK will focus on four strategic areas: the post COVID world of business; after Grenfell, including safety, quality and competence; achieving net zero carbon; and developing skills for tomorrow’s-built environment. Actuate UK will make a vital contribution to the future of issues ranging from indoor air quality to the development of smart cities and infrastructure. 

There is a recognition that planning for a safe, green future requires joined up thinking. Actuate UK fills a gap in understanding the bigger picture of the industry and the diverse new talent it needs to attract.

One key example is understanding the range of skills required to achieve net zero.

The Skills4Climate survey, carried out by ECA in conjunction with industry partners, highlights the lack of integration between various smart systems in a building. Many low carbon technologies are still in their infancy, meaning different trades rarely understand the impact of their own installation on other systems.   One survey respondent commented:

“We see instances on high-end residential projects where no centralised controls are implemented, allowing AC and heating systems to operate independently and against each other.”

Clearly, this lack of collaboration is counterproductive and potentially unsafe. Actuate UK will engage across industry and government to stress the importance to the green recovery of quality cross-skills training. If we are serious about reaching net zero carbon, we must convince everyone in our sector to suitably upskill in the areas that will make a difference. Removing perceived and real barriers to entry level training, as well as improving its scope and quality, will attract a more diverse pool of talent to the industry.

“More work needs to be done integrating smart systems, so they work together to make the whole building smart, and not just a building full of smart stuff” Skills4Climate survey respondent

If we fail to address this fragmentation, substandard installation may result, leading to a loss of confidence in ‘active’ low carbon technologies, and the policies which drive them. On the other hand, success could change the way we all live for the better.

At this pivotal moment, Actuate UK alliance members are acting strategically to make a safe and sustainable future a reality. Our members play a vital role in delivering the green solutions which will combat the climate emergency. We’ve learned from the pandemic the importance of collaboration. It is now, more than ever, essential to work closely with others to improve society and the environment.

 Actuate UK consists of:

•             The Building Engineering and Services Association (BESA)

•             The Building Services Research and Information Association (BSRIA)

•             The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE)

•             ECA - Electrical and Engineering Services/FSA Fire and Security Association

•             The Federation of Environmental Trade Associations (FETA)

•             The Lift and Escalator Industry Association (LEIA)

•             SELECT – the Electrical Contractors’ Association of Scotland

•             The Scottish and NI Plumbing Employers’ Federation (SNIPEF)

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