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Last updateTue, 24 May 2022 10am

On the move or staying at home – innovation and sustainability are key issues

Construction National blog logoThe two main construction sectors attracting interest from the news media continue to be housing and transport infrastructure. The two are closely connected in one sense, with infrastructure being the essential precursor to housing development.

There is more to the transport infrastructure than roads serving new housing estates, of course. Some of the most breathtaking and simply impressive projects are in the sector. The daddy of them all in this country remains the Crossrail project. Crossrail has featured frequently in this column, with superlatives totting up. The latest milestone in civil engineering terms has been the structural completion of the tunnels for the north east spur of Crossrail, between Whitechapel and Pudding Mill Lane (both darkly evocative names).


The milestone was reached when, to quote Crossrail itself: “Tunnel boring machine Ellie [broke] through into a cavern 40m beneath Stepney Green, in the East End of London.”

The machine, named after the inimitable Paralympic athlete Ellie Simmonds, will now be dismantled and lifted out of the cavern, and transported by road to Canning town, where it will recommence tunnelling; this time towards the Victoria Dock Portal.

Crossrail’s chief executive Andrew Wolstenholme said: “Our tunnel teams deserve congratulations for an impressive feat of engineering. Construction of the new rail tunnels for Europe’s largest infrastructure project is now over 80% complete. Crossrail continues to be delivered on time and on budget.”

We can only echo his sentiment and add our own congratulations.

Crossrail is one of a number of major transport infrastructure projects in train, so to speak, in the EU at the moment. The whole process is financed by huge amounts of public and private finance, which the UK industry can access if it has the know-how. Access to funding research and innovation in the sector was the subject of a webinar in February from the Modern Built Environment Knowledge Transfer Network (MBE KTN).

There were presentations from Ben Kidd of the Construction Industry Research and Information Association (CIRIA), and Terry Hill MBE of Arup, who is also the chair of the ECTP (European Construction Technology Platform) and reFINE (Research for Future Infrastructure Networks in Europe). Terry Hill introduced the Horizon 2020 programme and the webinar went on to outline “…construction research and innovation opportunities in the transport sector via existing and forthcoming Horizon 2020 funding calls.”

It went on to identify opportunities in the UK and compare them against “EU priorities”.

“This showed,” read the report on the event, “that significant opportunities exist to leverage current UK research and innovation capability to share learning and to collaborate with European partners via Horizon 2020.”

The webinar is now available to view online at the CIRIA website, at

Innovation and sustainability will also be the key themes of a new voluntary sustainability standard for new homes being developed by BRE. According to BREE, that standard will allow “…developers to differentiate their product in the marketplace by recognising performance beyond minimum regulation and provide increased choice for the consumer”.

To that end BRE is inviting all those involved with the delivery of housing as well as consumers to have their say on what should be included in the standard.

Director of BREEAM, Gavin Dunn, said: “We have our own ideas on the critical issues we need to address in future housing delivery: things like resilience to adverse and extreme weather – flooding, wind,  overheating – mental and physical health and wellbeing of occupants, resource efficiency, increased biodiversity, low energy, water and maintenance costs and  improved connectivity. It is essential that the industry and homeowners engage with us so we can develop a tool that people and the industry want to use because it provides increased quality and choice for the consumer, and drives  innovation and improvements across the housing supply chain.”

The consultation process is open until 25 July and the standard will be ready for roll out next spring. To get engaged with the consultation visit