Ecobuild: Sustainability policy, BIM, and more

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Lisa Carnwell, Editor for PBC Today submits her first thoughts on day one of Ecobuild

As any ‘Ecobuilder’ will know, the challenge is to miss as little as possible. This isn’t easy. If my feet could talk they would tell you that they’ve worked hard today, yet still managed to miss so much, including a cuddle from the Dulux dog. That will be rectified tomorrow.

I kicked the day off with a brief wander to meet some contributors, then on to the first conference session of the day – “Does a no vote for European Membership mean the end of UK sustainability policy?”

The Rt Hon Lord Deben, Chair of Committee on Climate Change is in no doubt that leaving the EU would “leave Britain at the bottom of the heap” in terms of environmental issues. He firmly and passionately believes that we must be a leader on topics such as emissions, and to do that we need to be a partner within Europe.

John Alker of UKGBC agrees that staying in Europe is important, but that whether we are in or not, ditching environmental policies is not a route to entertain.

Other speakers on the panel broadly agreed that staying in the EU is important, but wouldn’t it have been interesting to hear from Nigel Farage on the issue?

Next up was a visit to see my BIM hero Dave Philp. As ever, he was in fine form delivering a tour of BIM Level 2, looking at what it means. The key message I took from his seminar was “never do BIM without a purpose”. More about BIM later though as I’m hoping to catch Steve Thompson at some point!

The next event of note was on the “Ideas that construction needs – why are they gathering dust on a shelf?” A rather worrying statistic was made by Prof Tadj Oreszcyzyn was that there is ten times less money spent on construction research than spent on shipbuilding. Well, I thought that couldn’t possibly be right – but it is! The key message coming out of this session was that linking academia and industry needs is vital. One of the biggest challenges is accessing research knowledge, as many in industry do not know what research is taking place. What is required is an equivalent of the New Scientist magazine to disseminate knowledge. Who is up for that challenge?

It was now time for a bit more walking and I came across the Weinerberger e4 Brick House. I had a virtual reality experience of this using a piece of headgear that took me inside the building – a little disorienting but fascinating. With the tool, it was possible to view every angle of the building which would make it perfect for the FM sector. I can’t write much more about it here, but I’m hoping to discuss it more within the PBC Today publication soon.

My last session of the day was with the wonderful Mark Miodownik (an amazing chap I interviewed many years ago ) and someone who has the claim to fame of introducing the Christmas Lectures. The session was titled “Innovation and new materials: Could they revolutionise sustainable construction?” I think the simple answer is ‘yes’. I heard about self-healing concrete. This stuff has the ability to heal holes and cracks in itself should damage occur. Of course this will revolutionise construction – but at a cost. It is more expensive to use, but will last much longer. The challenge with innovative materials is to decide to pay more so it lasts, or go with a cheaper option but with a more limited life span.

Peter Hansford also spoke at the session outlining what the Industrial Strategy for Construction wants and part of that vision is to reduce whole life costs, so hopefully that will see innovative materials taking a lead. Hansford said that “unlocking innovation means that we can revolutionise sustainable construction by 2025”.

I couldn’t possibly do this session justice in this short blog, so I’ll be covering it in more depth in the following weeks.

It’s currently 7: 20 in the evening, so it’s time for this reporter to relax before pounding the corridors tomorrow. If you’re at Ecobuild, get in touch and we can discuss painful feet along with sustainable construction.

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