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25 June 2008

Press release contact:

Julia Davies
T: +44 (0)113 203 1490
E: julia.davies@riba.org

Winning architect announced for Northamptonshire iHub building

Consarc has been announced as the winning architect for the 'iHub' building in Daventry at a VIP ceremony held at the town's Leisure Centre on Friday June 13, 2008.

Over 50 invited guests were on hand to meet the architect team and review the design proposals for the £8 million project, which is expected to be a leading facility in carbon neutral business, research and innovation, as well as offering extensive networking and exhibition resources. 

Following introductory speeches from key project partners – East Midlands Innovation, West Northamptonshire Development Corporation (WNDC), Daventry District Council (DDC) and The University of Northampton – a networking event allowed guests to discuss the project and question the Consarc team about their design.

The building is planned as a regional hub to stimulate innovation in the sector. It will be used for research and by businesses at the cutting edge of the construction industry. It will feature 60 innovation units for businesses, a conference room for 200 people, exhibition spaces, meeting rooms and additional networking space. It will also be a leading example of energy-efficiency and sustainable building in its own right.

The iHub design competition, which attracted 70 high quality entries, has been led by The University of Northampton and supported by the Building Research Establishment and the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Liz Pickard, Director of Consarc, said: "We are very pleased to win this important competition, particularly because the construction industry is notorious for investing so little itself towards research and development. This is a golden opportunity to build a facility that will use new materials and lean construction methods to create an exemplar training and workplace environment. We hope this will further encourage and incubate innovative new businesses."

Barry Stickings, Chairman of East Midlands Innovation, the Regional Science and Industry Council, added: "The East Midlands Regional Science and Industry Council has defined a regional innovation strategy and is advising East Midlands Development Agency (emda) on direction and investment to help East Midlands businesses become leading innovators in the country and around the world. Innovation networks, or iNets, are the main mechanism for delivering support and creating the right atmosphere in these areas. Sustainable construction is of tremendous importance to us all. Some 50% of CO² emissions in the UK come from the built environment and we are going to take the lead in sustainable construction and zero carbon housing. The presence of the iHub in Daventry is a tribute to the region."

John Weir, Deputy Chairman of WNDC, commented: "I think history will show this to be an important day for Daventry town centre. Innovation and sustainable construction are going to be key to West Northamptonshire's future and the iHub will spearhead the other developments in Daventry. At WNDC we are delighted to be so involved in this project and to provide over £2 million towards it, making Daventry a market town that others will wish to emulate. The iHub is an incredible coup for the people of Daventry and for those who will live here in the future."

Councillor Chris Millar, Daventry District Council, said: "The Council is fully committed to the iHub proposal. We see it as wonderful news which fits perfectly with the Council's 'green, sustainable communities' programme. We're in the middle of a growth area and are looking to attract knowledge-based industries into Daventry. We fully appreciate our partners in this, who have shown real faith and foresight in Daventry. I was most impressed by the competition - 130 expressions of interest, 70 high class entries and five excellent shortlisted candidates. Particular congratulations should go to the wining architects – to get to the top of this pile is quite an achievement."

Dr Frank Burdett, Pro Vice Chancellor, The University of Northampton, noted: "The University is really proud to have led the consortia that has created the iHub initiative in Daventry. This is one of the most significant innovations in the East Midlands in recent years. It is vital we reduce energy consumption, use less water and generate less waste. The construction industry is the largest producer of waste –some 36 million tonnes of landfill every year. This means that for every five houses built, one is effectively thrown away. In Northamptonshire 100,000 houses will be built, so we could throw the equivalent of 20,000 houses away. This iHub will become the home of innovation to help reduce that waste, improve energy consumption and cut water use. Innovation depends on creating and implementing new techniques, technologies and processes and the best way to make this happen is through universities and businesses working together. The iHub provides the perfect platform to make that challenge a reality."

The iHub will form the operational headquarters for the East Midlands sustainable construction innovation network (iNet). This will strengthen the construction sector through promoting and enabling innovative technologies and practices.

Subject to planning approval, the iHub is targeted for completion by mid-2010. iHub is part of a wider project initiated by emda, to create a series of Innovation Networks (iNets) – designed to share good practice across the East Midlands Region and to improve productivity and business development in the region. The iNets are being created in the sectors of healthcare and bioscience, food, transport equipment and sustainable construction. It is anticipated the iHub initiative will create around 200 jobs.

Following the announcement of the winning architect for iHub a wider public consultation will now take place to clarify the final design.

Notes to editors

The University of Northampton is dedicated to high quality higher education at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, through taught courses and research. As Northamptonshire's only dedicated higher education institution, it is committed to the transfer of knowledge and technology to the community and aims to contribute to the cultural development of the region.


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