Businesses from North and South have gathered in County Armagh to discuss collaboration in order to sustain growth within the renewable construction sector.
The event, hosted by Smart ECO Hub, took place at Northern Ireland's first zero carbon house to be accredited by the Government, where key speakers delivered the message that sustainable building technologies is a key driver for the green economy in Northern Ireland.
Ciaran McGrath, a Technical Manager at Smart ECO Hub, said it is essential for businesses to work together and to promote sustainable building technologies to boost the green economy.
Speaking at the First Sustainable Energy Building Cluster, Mr McGrath said: "It's fantastic to see the range of people here from local authorities and various sustainable building companies from across the island.
"The M1 Energy cluster will support local businesses through the delivery of product and technology innovation. Joining the Smart ECO Hub will help create employment and growth in energy sector on both a local and regional level. This project is part financed by the European Union’s INTERREG IVA Cross Border Programme managed by the Special EU programmes Body."
Mr McGrath provided an overview of the role of Smart ECO Hub and market opportunities that the sector offered to local businesses while John McClatchey, owner of Zero Carbon House, shared his experience of working within the sector and discussed the challenges that he had addressed over the years in order to sustain his business.
Mr McClatchey said: "The construction sector in Northern Ireland is on the move again and people are being very smart now in relation to the types of buildings they want to have built. We have heard so much in the news recently about rising energy prices but people now understand that they can completely avoid being at the hands of the volatile energy markets by buying homes which are energy efficient. It costs approximately £300 to heat and light this 3,000 sq ft house. It is vital that homeowners take energy costs into consideration when they are buying their homes."
This overview was complimented by a tour of the Zero Carbon House along with renewable energy technology demonstrations from Damien Philips of Green Energy Technology and Terry Hutt of August Biopro Ireland. Cookstown based company, Atlantic Air, the company responsible for signing off on the Zero Carbon House in January 2012, was also at the M1 Energy Cluster with Peter Loughran explaining why air tightness is so important in the construction of homes.
Also attending were representatives from Belfast City Council, Cornett Design Associates Ltd, Orchard Property Services, Inovative Roof Systems Ltd, Health Direct NI, Joyce Clarke Ltd, CG Architects, Newry & Mourne District Council and New Innovation.