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Claire Curtis-Thomas BRUFMA Conference

BBA’s Claire Curtis-Thomas Shares Enthusiasm for Innovation

A Healthy Enthusiasm for Innovation

With a need for design strategies that will manage future trends and drivers affecting the energy performance of buildings, it’s naturally important that buildings of the future are not only low-energy and sustainable but also capable of responding to future changes, whether in relation to climate, technology, social or regulatory influences.  At this year’s BRUFMA conference, Claire Curtis-Thomas, Chief Executive of The British Board of Agrément (BBA), will be looking at the country’s commitment to continuous innovation and development throughout the construction industry with her talk Glorious and persistent innovation – business as usual for the construction products sector.

Privileged Position

The BBA is in a very privileged position, witnessing as it does innovation within every sector of the housebuilding community.  As the leading, independent product accreditation and test body, the BBA works within 17 different sectors – all home to multimillion pound businesses operating in construction, employing thousands of people within the UK and millions globally. For Claire and her team, it’s a real privilege to be part of the innovation process.

New Challenges, Exciting Outcomes

In particular, the insulation industry is one sector that has had to adapt significantly to environmental changes and varying expectations. One manufacturer could be creating a product that is thin enough to replicate something four or five inches thick, but with only an inch to play with, while another could be pioneering a self-supporting ‘room in a roof’ insulation system.  Another massive area of innovation is breathable membranes, critical to the management of moisture within buildings. These and a myriad of other product initiatives all add up to a regular flow of new challenges and often exciting outcomes.

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Strict Impartiality

Since its inception in 1966, the BBA has issued over 5000 Certificates which are used in multimillion pound projects all over the country.  Of course, the appetite for innovation is unstinting, and not every product the BBA sees is necessarily innovative or going to work properly. Moreover, it’s ever more important that we maintain strict impartiality in everything we assess, but that doesn’t make the process any the less fascinating.

“The Brits are good at iteration and empirical research and we see this in the insulation industry,” said Claire Curtis-Thomas.  “The thought is often ‘I think we might have solution to this problem so let’s give it a go.’ And if it fails, ‘why did it fail?’  It’s only by learning from mistakes that real progress is made.”

True innovators learn something from each iteration until they reach a point where they end up with a very good solution. It might be a better solution than the problem actually warranted, or even a solution to a problem that has not yet arisen. Inventors tend to be passionate people, and as such they are more likely to spot and welcome new possibilities that weren’t originally sought after or anticipated.

We Are All on a Journey

“People come to us with a product and we know very early on whether it will actually sink or swim.” added Claire Curtis-Thomas. “Of course we are all on a journey and we work together to find where the weaknesses are. For some companies that might be a starting point to the end solution, while for others it’s an exit point.”

“I recently saw a product that was so incredibly clever and solved a problem that everyone has.  It’s a genius solution that is very low-tech, low price and it will become the standard.  It’s simply amazing and I was thrilled with it.”

For more information about the BRUFMA Annual Conference taking place on the 28th June at The Building Centre, 26 Store Street, London or to register please click here.


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