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Guest Blog: Celebrating the Origins & Future of Active Buildings

The Active Building Centre owes a lot to SPECIFIC. It proved that Active Buildings could provide not simply an interesting concept for the future, but a game-changing solution available right away. 

Day in, day out we work alongside product manufacturers, construction firms and policy experts to help create greener buildings. It is our job to change the way Britain powers and heats the spaces in which we all live and work. None of that would be happening without SPECIFIC’s support and inspiration. 

Demonstrator projects such as the Pod, the Active Classroom and then the Active Office showed that the ‘generate, store, release’ concept could be practically applied in occupied buildings and that it was possible to create high-performing, energy-positive physical spaces controlled by intelligent systems. Everything we have gone on to do began here. 

Our organisation is a living example of the impact that smart, well-focused initiatives by universities can have. That is not just a testament to the way SPECIFC is run, but to the importance of its mission.  

Some 40% of the UK’s carbon emissions are linked to the built environment, and we will not tackle the climate challenge unless we act on this. Converting the UK’s stock of real estate into millions of self-sufficient, sustainable power stations could transform buildings from climate liabilities to assets. 

Together, SPECIFIC and ABC are making real progress. Governments and industry now understand how much this matters. We were funded via the UK’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund in 2019 to help develop and commercialise active technologies. Today, from our headquarters in Berkeley and Swansea, we work with a wide range of industry partners on delivering construction programmes and demonstrating how together we could deliver transformative change. 

We are immensely proud to take forward the innovative research and science that delivered the very first Active Buildings. In the coming years, we will see many more of them as they become a common feature not just of research projects, but construction sites too. Homeowners and commercial builders alike will demand these innovations for themselves and we will start to see a transformation of our approach to both new builds and to our existing stock of homes and offices, schools and factories.  

Ten years from now when – hopefully – these buildings are commonplace, consumer energy bills are lower, electric vehicles are plugged into homes to recharge and the UK’s net-zero goal is significantly closer, there will be an unbroken thread tracing all the way back to the launch of a Swansea University research programme in 2011. 

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