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Developing Scotland’s low carbon built environment (Phases 1 & 2)


The research was conducted to help Scottish Enterprise assess the potential for investment in the Scottish low carbon built environment (LCBE) sector, a range of products and services which have the potential to reduce carbon emissions from a building during its operational lifetime. Phase 1 of the study aimed to identify: the economic potential for Scotland in this sector; the nature and scale of this emerging sector; and the barriers and opportunities to enable Scottish Enterprise (SE) to maximise Gross Value Added (GVA) for the Scottish economy. Phase 2 investigated Scotland's developing low carbon built environment (LCBE), looking in particular the research and development (R&D) and testing infrastructure available in Scotland and its users. The report assessed the LCBE sector’s technical development and demonstration asset network, R&D network, the supply chain innovation support and the demand driven support model.


Phase 1 methodology consisted of: industry consultations using an online questionnaire (with over 200 responses), workshop events and one-to-one interviews with personal contacts; a review of recent industry reports; and dialogue with organisations within the industry. Phase 2 methodology consisted of: a mapping of the low carbon test and validation infrastructure in Scotland, using information available in the public domain; an online questionnaire of 187 organisations that develop, supply or procure low carbon products or services; an identification of Scottish companies involved in LCBE, using the online questionnaire, BRE contacts and other related projects, such as the BRE Innovation Park; a smaller consultation, using a short pro-forma, targeted at individuals within the industry who were known to be developing new products and technologies; a workshop with members of social housing associations; and case studies of current housing association projects.


The research finds that huge potential exists for economic growth within the LCBE industry in Scotland. The LCBE industry is an emerging sector and some of the associated products, technologies and supply chains are at varying stages of development and utilisation. The industry is developing products and technologies to meet future low carbon targets, but this activity is fragmented and is being driven forward on a company-by-company basis. Phase 2 of the research highlights the ‘pockets’ of activity within the sector and notes that, in general, the Scottish construction industry is facing economic and performance challenges. Structural and material testing have historically been located in universities and dedicated test centres, but there are gaps in Scotland's testing infrastructure in relation to low carbon materials and products. Scottish universities have a long tradition in the R&D of intellectual property relating to the built environment and one of the most active institutions operating in the LCBE is the Energy Systems Research Unit (ESRU) at the University of Strathclyde. Housing Associations (HAs) are keen to encourage and incorporate LCBE products, but economic constraints and the level of risk of new technology govern their level of activity.


SE can support the LCBE industry by engaging in the development of proposals for innovation programmes, geared towards the construction sector timelines and demand factors. SE can also assist in stimulating wider demand for low carbon products and technologies by: mapping the R&D, test facilities and key experts which exist in Scotland; identifying where product development activities can be supported through closer collaboration with research centres and testing facilities; developing support mechanisms across the supply chain; identifying the potential for a demand driven support model to encourage the specification of low carbon solutions; and establishing a specific support team to assist and drive forward small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and product innovation. The report suggests that these activities should be flexible so that changes in legislation, market conditions and customer focus can be accommodated. Phase 2 of the report presents options for addressing the gaps in Scotland's testing infrastructure in relation to low carbon materials. The report also recommends mechanisms to support Scotland's emerging LCBE sector: the facilitation and encouragement of an information exchange across the sector; the creation of an advisory service to support businesses operating in the LCBE; the establishment of an 'innovation den' to assist with the development of new products and technologies; and the creation of an information hub to act as a central platform for disseminating information to the industry.

Author D J Kelly, BRE Scotland
Published Year 2010
Report Type Research
  • Business infrastructure
    Supporting key sectors
  • Sectors
    Construction, Energy
  • Innovation
    Innovation system