Ecobuild 2016 began at 4pm on Thursday 5th March 2015, mindful to repeat the success of 2015 event; change was not on the agenda for 2016!

The primary team for Ecobuild High Performance housing stand included (plus myself of course!)

  • Chris Mason (APA)
  • Andrew Minson (British Precast)
  • Elaine Toogood (The Concrete Centre)

The team above worked hard from October through to February on the design, the initial meetings reviewed the 2015 event, it was a success, why change? We soon came to a decision not to change “it worked”, we created interest, we engaged with various people and it was great to promote masonry housing.

The ‘simplicity’ of the proposed 2016 stand made the planning much more streamline and straightforward, we kept the apprentices, we kept the masonry built walls, the floors, the mortar….change was only.

  • Having a deeper stand to allow more interest within the stand rather than the walkways
  • The apprentice bricklayers this year supplied by a contractor not college
  • Stand attendance was more from the CBA technical team and less of the commercial side to address the challenges before us
  • Video Productions of manufacturing (Aggregate Blocks, Aircrete Blocks, Precast flooring) and someone’s video of a burning block, is it truly non-combustible?

I would measure success on who we would engage with in a show, when the show opened at 10am on the Tuesday, Martin Fulwell (Besblock) and myself manned the CBA section of the stand, initially It was quiet, however the apprentices soon got to work and with the videos working in the background it was not long before the crowds gathered, and then before you know it – 6pm and the show closed, Martin and myself exhausted.

Much of the first day we spent talking to SAP assessors who we gave a lot of USBs out with the CBA thermal bridging details and technical data sheets, we engaged with students (predominantly local to the SE) who quite frankly did not believe we can still use masonry construction – they left the stand assured of its future, architects, self-builders and notably more representation from the Local Authorities (i.e. planning consultants) to whom we continually reminded them of fire risk and the benefits of non-combustible materials in multiple occupancy dwellings, for me this year there was a notable absence from developers and contractors.

Day two and three repeated day one, with Leanne Brooksbank and Jodie Evans from Plasmor taking control for the CBA on the Wednesday, the Thursday involved Alan Peters (Forterra) and Daniel Pugh (AI), a huge thankyou from me personally to all the support from the CBA members.

A large part of the Ecobuild 2016 success was the apprentice bricklayers, just building a wall out of bricks and blocks to represent our industry, with an audience asking why and what are they doing?

A huge thankyou has to go to Tom McGuire from Grangewood Brickwork, as a big user of aggregate blocks in the south and south east he was keen to promote the use of masonry, highlight a potential skills shortage and explain what the response from the industry was. The response? Every year Grangewood take on apprentice bricklayers, Tom supplied 3 apprentices and a mentor on the stand every day for the wall construction, they were level 1 students, we did not look for perfection, what we got was a young generation who were presentable, smart, humorous, good at what they did and more importantly enjoyed it and could see a career and future ahead of them. The support was much appreciated.

Personally a huge thanks to Elaine Toogood our Architect from The Concrete Centre, not for being the architect, no that comes natural, for putting up with Chris and myself, humour, banter, wind ups! The joint relationship that CBA and APA have created within the last two Ecobuild’s is a force to promote masonry construction and great thanks to Chris Mason from Tarmac for all his help and support, the success would not be there without this team industry effort.

Owen Gallagher
Technical Sales Manager, Plasmor Ltd