Ecobuild is the UK’s biggest conference for the construction industry, with over 40,000 professionals coming to the London Excel Centre every year to learn, source and network. Our newest team member, architect Issi Rousseva, headed over for two of the three days of the 2016 event (8th – 10th March) to connect with others in the industry and stay on top of innovative trends.
In this post we’re going to highlight the talks and products we found most note-worthy.
If you’re interested in attending Ecobuild 2017, check their website. Entry is free.
Top 3 Most Interesting Talks & Debates:
Street Life – City Growth Through Regeneration
David Waterhouse, the head of strategic development at Design Council Cabe, spoke passionately about the need to use development to tackle the UK’s housing crisis while redistributing growth and wealth around the country. The contrast between the runaway housing bubble in London and run-down low-investment areas outside of the South clearly needs addressing. Waterhouse also mentioned the importance of investing in key infrastructure in tandem with housing development – otherwise you get situations like the over-construction of London’s Vauxhall, without the necessary infrastructure to support it.
The other speaker in this session was Alan Sitkin, councillor and cabinet member for economic regeneration and business development. He chose to engage with the issue of London’s out-of-control housing sector by telling a personal story: soaring rent prices had forced his son to move out of the capital. A story all to familiar to so many 20-somethings who can’t afford the ever-rising rates on a low-pay job. Sitkin said the problem was too systemic to be successfully addressed by local governments, and that the Conservative national government is not doing enough to tackle deepening inequality and lack of affordable housing.
What Makes Housing Fit for the Future?
This debate was between Jan Chadwick of K1 Housing, Meredith Bowles of Mole Architects, and Geoff Denton of White Arkitekter. While there was a lot of differing opinions on the details here, there was a consensus among the panellists that a cultural shift is needed: that people need to abandon the dream of owning a large detached period property and instead embrace communal and apartment living. Chadwick spoke about her K1 co-housing project, where 40 families came together to design their own community and live together. Similarly, Denton drew on his personal experience living in Stockholm, saying openness to tight-knit community living is ingrained in the Scandinavian culture. We’re unconvinced that the future of housing is necessarily shared, although it is an interesting consideration.
Regeneration is for More Than the Regenerators
The prominent writer and film-maker Jonathan Meades was a special guest speaker on the second day of Ecobuild 2016. He spoke about how local people should be key players in regeneration, rather than outside developers calling all the shots and doing what’s profitable for them – whether best for the community or not. He said more sensitivity in development is needed, and this can only be achieved with a deeper understanding of what’s already there. On sustainability, Meades underlined that it must underpin everything we do, not just be a buzzword to through into communications. He highlighted the challenge of planning for an uncertain future, musing: “How do we adapt to an unknown and unforeseeable future, in which robots do not do our jobs but where many of us are treated like robots?”. When questioned about the housing crisis, he mentioned the trend for container homes, and half-jokingly suggested we start building on top of other buildings “like they did in Rome’’. More seriously, her said London does not have a register of unoccupied buildings and that properly utilising what’s already built should be a priority.
Top 5 Most Interesting Products:
- Cyclehoop create attractive and convenient cycling infrastructure such as their eye-catching heart-shaped bike hoops, two-tier bike racks and street bike pumps.
- UK Hempcrete supply this fantastically healthy and sustainable material, as well as working as consultants and building contractors. The Director Alex Sparrow gave a live demonstration of mixing, pouring and building with hempcrete.
- Monodraught offer sunpipes that feature LED lights as well as reflective mirrors. They displayed their SUNPIPE LuxLight products with virtual reality glasses, a particularly futuristic way of showing people what buildings fitted with their sunpipes would look like.
- Treebox design and install living green walls to both homes and commercial buildings. Green walls have been shown to enhance human health and wellbeing as well as being good for biodiversity and air quality.
- Onyx create special solar glazing that generates clean electricity while also offering the normal passive solar properties of conventional glass. There is a trade-off between efficiency and transparency, but this is an innovative product that has come a long way in recent years.
Did you attend Ecobuild this year? Tweet us your highlights at @koruarchitects.