I-Construct Hub for construction innovation opens in Essex

i-construct innovation hub

A new centre for construction innovation is now open in Essex. The new I-Construct Innovation Hub is an example of how offsite construction methods can support build and operation to meet BREEAM Excellent standards of sustainability

The I-Construct Innovation Hub is home to the Haven Gateway Partnership, which runs the I-Construct programme. The new two-storey building is located in Braintree, Essex. The building cost £2.3m and was funded by Braintree District Council and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

I-Construct is a network for small and medium-sized companies working in the construction sector and supply chain, who are based in England. Members have access to grant funding and other support to help their businesses grow. The network is also ERDF-funded, so eligible companies can join for free.i-construct innovation hub

‘Making construction more competitive’

The building has an exhibition space and technology suite, conference facilities and meeting rooms. It’s a place where innovative construction ideas – such as robotics, offsite construction and modelling software – can be exchanged and celebrated. These facilities will be used to support individuals working in or starting a business in construction or construction-related sector.

As chairman George Kieffer says: “I-Construct will play a major role in making construction businesses more competitive.”

It will also help to nurture early-stage businesses and bring new ideas, technologies and research to the market – helping the construction sector to become more efficient and productive.

Cllr Tom Cunningham, deputy leader and cabinet member for economic growth at Braintree District Council, said: “This hub will be a great place to celebrate the innovations taking place in the construction industry and not only that, it will open up opportunities for residents and businesses in our district and beyond.”

The Innovation Hub was constructed by regional contractor Beardwell Construction. The building has a steel frame supported by traditional concrete foundations. Offsite fabricated SIPs panel cassettes form both the wall and roof structures. Large windows and curtain walling allows the building to benefit from natural light from all aspects.

i-construct innovation hubBIM design

During the construction Beardwell used some innovative techniques to make the design and build process more efficient, safer and environmentally friendly. Building Information Modelling (BIM) was used to design the building virtually before construction started on site. This allowed the team to ‘walk’ through the building, alter the design and check for clashes. It reduced the time spent on site solving complicated detailing.

The BIM design and computer model also enabled the team to manufacture several elements offsite. These included beam and block floors, precast concrete stairs, structural steel frame and the SIPs panel wall and roof cassettes. Cladding and windows were all constructed away from site before being transported to the project where they were installed. This minimised waste and reduced working hours on site.

Carbon emissions

The targeted reduction of carbon emissions was a key consideration of the project. Beardwell’s design and procurement strategies allowed the emissions generated through the construction and future operation to be minimised. While the project team set targets at the outset of the project, they continually monitored and challenged their team to better these during construction.

The contract required the achievement of a BREEAM Excellent rating, which was achieved by adopting a variety of approaches. These included initiatives such as reducing packaging and using offsite production to reduce waste, utilising local suppliers and labour, vehicle sharing and the use of eco cabins to reduce water and electric usage.

Sustainable materialsi-construct innovation hub

Sustainable materials were used wherever possible so the chain of custody could be identified. The project team met online and took virtual tours, which reduced the impacts of travel to site by approximately 85% contributing to a further reduction in emissions. As the building is used its performance will be monitored, enabling learnings from the project to be shared.

Bird and bat boxes were installed to help improve the biodiversity of the site during and after construction. Insect hotels were also installed, together with additional trees and planting thereby encouraging wildlife back to a previously barren area.

Duncan Clark, managing director at Beardwell Construction, said: “The completion of this modern, innovative hub highlights our experience and technical expertise in delivering a building which meets world leading sustainability and environmental standards. This high quality, energy efficient facility will meet the needs of businesses across the region now and in the future and we are proud to have been involved from concept to final delivery.”


Anita Thornberry

Executive director

Haven Gateway Partnership






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