Posts from March 2012

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Ecobuild day two: the competition is hotting up

Day two of Ecobuild is giving Rare Creative Group, Refresh PR's client, a chance to really show off the culmination of months of hard work.  Today Rare's client, Saint-Gobain Isover, will award the winner of the Isover Architectural Student Design Competition 2012.


This year’s competition sees architectural students from RIBA accredited university courses across the UK challenged to design a sustainable community for 12-15 families within the Trent Basin area of Nottingham, to the principles of the Isover Multi-Comfort House standard.


Isover has run this competition both nationally and internationally for a number of years, with the original UK stage run in partnership with the University of Nottingham, who embed the design challenge into the fourth year curriculum. Having been brought on board to manage and launch the highly successful national roll out of the competition in 2011, Rare was asked to refresh it for 2012. 


Rare's work began some months ago, initially by raising awareness with university lecturers and creating tutor packs and student entry information. From there the team encouraged entries by designing online tutorials, information and resource packs and even filming a live lecture on the challenge that had been set for the dedicated competition website that the team created at


Eight finalists, each consisting of up to three students, have their work displayed proudly on a stand that Rare designed for Isover at Ecobuild.  The stand features eye-catching graphics, which detail case studies that show how theory has been taken into reality using the Multi-Comfort House concept.  It also features a model, to scale, of the regeneration site in Nottingham and individual student team models of their regeneration scheme.


Today each team will be making a final presentation of their work to a prestigious judging panel, including Professor Wolfgang Feist, founder of the Passive House concept and the PassiveHaus Institut in Germany, before the winners are announced live on the Isover competition stand at Ecobuild, N230, at 3pm.


With cash prizes of up to £1000 on offer to the best three UK entries, plus a trip to represent the UK in the international finals in Bratislava in Slovakia up for grabs, it’s one not to miss today.  Watch from 3pm when the awards announcement will be streamed live on via media partner


Full details of the winners will also be posted to the Multi Comfort House site at

Tagged with: Built Environment, Construction

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Is The Green Deal the Real Deal?

On the opening day of Ecobuild 2012, in a jam packed seminar room, Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change Greg Barker announced a string of adjustments to The Green Deal which is still on target to launch in Autumn 2012.                                   

Deregulating key parts of The Green Deal will make it easier for SMEs to compete, he argued, before outlining the changes which were announced for the first time at the show:


1.      The requirement to have a surety bond in place prior to accreditation has been removed, which will take away one obstacle for SMEs

2.      The requirement to provide an independent conciliation process has also been removed.  The Green Deal Ombudsman, a new entity, will deal with any complaints

3.      There will no longer be the need to provide warranties for the length of the life of the ‘measure’ installed.  No longer will a window or insulation need to provide a guarantee for its whole payback period, instead the Government will require a five year product warranty and 10 year building protection


Mr Barker reiterated that The Green Deal is not an extension of CERT or CESP funding, but rather a new initiative which will create a brand new market and breathe life into the industry.  Employment in the sector is set to double by 2015, he believes, as a result of The Green Deal measures.


With 26m homes leaking energy in the UK, it makes the nation one of the worst performing in Europe.  To retrofit all 26m homes is expected to take up to 20 years, and Mr Barker assured the room that The Green Deal was here to stay. 


He hinted at measures that will be included in The Green Deal listing heating, glazing, lighting, smart controls, microgeneration and even waste water systems and flue gas heat recovery.  Measures that actively cool as well as those that heat are included.  He also said that projects could be part financed under the scheme, provided the energy saving was greater than the finance charge for the green deal cash advance.


The good news is that when innovations are ready to launch, independents tests will take place and these will be added in to the Deal.  And there’s more good news for the six million homes with no double glazing, seven million with no heating controls and 16.5 million with no condensing boiler in the UK as energy companies will be obliged to help with fuel poverty and hard to finance initiatives such as solid wall insulation.


So, what’s clear is that there’s a £multi-million training pot, most of which will go on training installers about solid wall insulation, but part going on training advisors too.  A Green Deal provider’s guide will be issued shortly which will include a step by step guide on how to become a provider, and 10 regional events will take place nearer the time to launch the scheme and help businesses understand what they need to do to be part of The Green Deal.  Becoming an official provider, through a new BSI standard which will launch, will be central to opening up the mass of opportunities for SMEs and large firms alike.


Coming out of the talk was a great deal of optimism.  The Green Deal is set to help not only consumers and the nation’s carbon footprint but the economy too, providing much needed employment and training opportunities to thousands upon thousands.  The next six months will be important for all concerned.

Tagged with: Built Environment, Construction

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The Big Marketing Debate

The CIM Manchester branch held its first Big Debate on 1st March 2012 at The Castlefield Rooms above Dukes 92 in the city centre.  Refresh PR helped to support the event by running the twitter feed live on screen during the evening.  And of course writing the blog below which can also be read on the CIM Manchester blog

Sponsored by digital, creative and marketing recruitment firm Orchard, the debating question was: “Does Marketing Deliver Enough Value to Business?”

The Teams

Representing the ‘for’ team (arguing that yes it does indeed deliver enough value) was Han-Son Lee, employer brand manager at The Co-Operative Group and Richard Frost, managing editor at theEword.

Sat on the opposing team was the formidable team of chartered marketers, Ray Clarke (managing director of Shaping Business) and Jeremy Bassett (of Corve Consultancy).

The Debate

The opposing team opened by arguing that marketing does deliver value, yes, but the key is does it deliver ENOUGH value. Touching on issues around financial accountability, the team quoted research which suggested that 1 in 3 marketers surveyed build budgets based on the knowledge of spending without knowing what key corporate goals are. They also claimed that only 2 in 5 marketers can tell what the marketing impact will be on sales!

The opposers confirmed what we all know, that measurement requires time and resources, yet suggested that many marketers think that tracking is too difficult to undertake. And if tracking isn’t undertaken, how can full financial accountability happen?

Getting into his stride, Ray claimed that marketers aren’t engaging key stakeholders in the organisation with strategy. In fact the FTSE 100 made up of more financial CEOs than marketers. He finished by arguing that the relentless focus on ‘promotions’ and tactical marketing is ripping the strategy out of marketing. And that strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.

Strong words!!

Digesting Ray’s points, Han-Son took to the floor to and asked the room to remember one thing – Ray is wrong!
• Marketing has added £137bn to the UK economy. There are 146k people work in marketing according to ONS – that’s not a bad productivity output
• Marketing is the touchpoint to customers, who are empowered more so now than ever before. As evidence of this, the CEO of Greggs said recently that Facebook page was a driver of change – and the page is run by marketers

Han-Son argued that yes, marketing is under-represented in the boardroom, and marketers need to show the value they bring. Marketing not only adds value to the bottom line, but it’s the only department, as the gatekeepers to customers, that DRIVES this value.

Both teams agreed that what we are sometimes lacking, as marketers, are the skills to push marketing at a board level by quantifying marketing activity in a way that financially-focused board members recognise. Marketing is more than just a function in an organisation, it’s a way of thinking. Marketing needs to educate other departments about its value and a good marketer can interpret data, analyse and make actual financial returns.


It was a big ask for Ray and Jeremy, as passionate marketers, to argue against the debating question, but from the look of the voting that’s come in, they seem to have pipped Han-Son and Richard to the post – congratulations to the winning debating team!

Thank you to Phil Smith, chairman of the Manchester branch of the Institute of Directors for chairing the CIM debate too.

Follow CIM Manchester on twitter @CIMManchester and follow the blog for regular marketing updates.

Tagged with: Marketing