Green Entrepreneurs Survey Finds Vital Support Lacking in UK Sustainable Construction Sector

New research on green entrepreneurs by the University of Hull has found that the UK’s sustainable construction sector could miss out on a great opportunity. Respondents to the largest and most in-depth qualitative survey of the sector yet undertaken called for a clear strategic view from government to enable the transition to greener building practices. They cited inconsistent central and local government policies, low investment and lack of support as issues that are holding back business development.

Researchers from the University of Hull’s Department of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences found that green construction businesses are facing major obstacles, including:

* a tendency for government policy to favour large businesses in the construction sector over small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs);

* wide variation in the application of planning rules across different local authority areas that stifle innovation in sustainable building;

* risk averseness by banks unwilling to invest in green businesses and;

* a shortage of skilled labour capable of using sustainable building materials coupled with a lack of knowledge to incorporate new green technologies into buildings.

From left to right: Prof David Gibbs, Nick Voase, Dr Kirstie O’Neill and Margot Voase pictured at Inn Carr Farm in East Yorkshire in front of the Voase’s farmhouse built of hemp.

Research took the form of in-depth interviews with 50 businesses and policy makers engaged in a wide range of practices aimed at reducing the environmental impact of building – from the use of straw, hemp or rammed earth as building materials, to installing cutting edge technologies to reduce energy consumption after construction.

While output in Britain’s mainstream construction sector continues to fall, green builders are bucking the trend as homeowners take action to reduce the costs of heating their homes, creating a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs and faster growth in the sector.

With its roots in the 1970s ‘alternative technology’ movement, green construction is rapidly gaining acceptance in the mainstream. The survey found that today’s green entrepreneurs, inspired by German green building pioneers, are attempting to combine environmental and business objectives and to educate customers, suppliers and the wider building sector about green building practices.

Researchers, Prof David Gibbs and Dr Kirstie O’Neill, says that they hoped their work would encourage policymakers to consider the real problems faced by green entrepreneurs in the sustainable construction sector.

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