Keynote speakers Sir Terry Farrell and Dr Ken Yeang began each half by offering their vision of a sustainable built environment. Farrell paired sustainability with ‘urbiculture’, placing the city at the heart of sustainable development so long as it is developed holistically and diversely, particularly encouraging an active and vibrant ground plane (citing Darwin’s ‘tangled bank’ and Jane Jacobs’ notion ‘organised complexity’).
Yeang, a well-known purveyor of the literal greening of the built environment, underlined we must “rethink our relationship with nature”. He suggested that the next generation of green buildings must: be better integrated with nature, function as a living system, repair wider fragmented landscape and enlist natural processes for systems such as closed loop water drainage.
Some of the ideas and studies presented were already well worn, and packed panels did mean several sessions were too short to fully relate enough detailed information. For example The Technical Briefing panel crammed in the upcoming Part L revisions, Soft Landings and the issue of closing the building performance gap. Although this left almost no window in which to debate how this really feeds back into improving good practice, an interesting provocation was made by Roderic Bunn of BSRIA, in the suggestion that Part L should demand certain compliance within building operation.
The tight schedule was, however, studded with moments of inspiration.Patrick Bellew’s list of top green innovations to keep an eye out for was certainly compelling: electro-chromic glass, entrepreneurial energy storage, smarter green facades and joined up systems on site (e.g. the smart use of waste for power in Gardens by the Bay).
A few interesting points were also made in the panel entitled on ‘More Homes, Better Homes’. Alison Brooks hit the nail on the head by urging a renewed focus on the suburbs, using Newhall Be as a case study. Nick Raynsford MP noted that although mass house builders have shown improvement in recent years, the only way to sustainably solve the housing crisis with the immediacy required is through increased public spending.
Other case studies worth picking out included Architectes Associéswork, which demonstrates the large scale potential of Passivhaus with their office and mixed-use projects in Belgium. Cloud 9's Media ICT project in Barcelona, effervescently presented by Enric Ruiz-Geli, has shown the great potential of “dealing in particles” in building façade technology (case in point below: nitrogen mist turning glass to translucent walls to prevent solar gain). The fact that these sorts of projects seem to thrive better on the continent suggests the UK planning system and construction industry must play some innovation catch-up!