London - Campaign to Protect Rural England

Skip to navigation

Ecobuild 2013 - Part 1: Putting people at the centre

Wednesday, 13 March 2013 16:45

Ecobuild (c) Rosalie Callway Ecobuild (c) Rosalie Callway

This is the first of a two-part blog, profiling a small sample of the vast experience that is the Ecobuild 2013 conference and exhibition... 

Apparently Ecobuild has grown from a self-selected crowd of hardcore eco-construction warriors to something that now looks like it has hit the mainstream. For anyone who missed out, the event is full of companies and organisations of all shapes and sizes, promoting their new technologies, green solutions, along with a series of seminars, training and conference debates.

We went along to hear how developers and architects are coping with the current shifts in planning and build environment policy, as well as to learn about state-of-the-art good practice in sustainable urbanism and community development.

Nature loving

Solaris SingaporeAmongst the many parallel events, one session focused on 'Biophilia in the city’, where a ‘biophilic’ city is an urban space that protects and restores nature, and encourages people to engage with and learn from nature. Timothy Beatley, from the University of Virginia presented how greener cities are resulting in calmer, less stressed, healthier urbanites. Forest 'bathing' in Japan is helping cut people’s stress levels (cortisol hormone) and boosting their immune systems. In Helsinki they have created networks of interconnected natural spaces and San Francisco is building pocket parks or ‘parklets’ in any left over space, no matter how small. Singapore has invested in ‘park connectors’ including elevated green walkways, as well as new green architectural forms called ‘vertical greening’, such as the Solaris Fusionopolis building.

Martin Kelly, Trees and Design Action Group (TDAG) profiled the huge range of values that trees can bring to urban life, addressing: Climate Chance, the Urban ‘heat island effect’, enhancing character, land and property value, cultural heritage, health and wellbeing, place-making/amenity, biodiversity, resilience, shelter and shade. Kelly recommended their Trees in the Townscape guide offering 12 principles to maximise the economic, social and environmental benefits of urban trees. Kelly presented Melbourne, Australia as an exemplar tree-friendly city that is reflecting this value – supporting over 25,000 native and 25,000 exotic species across the city’s parks, streets and gardens.

Putting people back into the heart of the city

Looking to London, Ben Bolgar of the Prince’s Foundation shared how they are supporting new urban developments using what he calls a ‘Poly-Centric’ Model; where a city works better when orientated around people – through focusing on village-like walkable nodes, each with their own community hub at their centre. They have been applying these principles to revitalise local economies in places like the Lower Marsh in Waterloo.

Addressing the need to retrofit our existing housing stock and other buildings, Rafeal Marks of Penoyre & Prasad LLP presented their work with Islington council at Crouch Hill Community Park. It involved two new buildings for Ashmount Primary School and Bowlers Nursery, refurbishment of the Cape Youth Centre, including an Ecology Centre, all set within a landscaped community park. Using a joint stakeholder model, educating and involving the users from the outset, as well as setting PassivHaus standards for heating and cooling, they managed to achieve ‘Outstanding’ BREEAM level, and are aiming at negative carbon emissions. The site exports excess energy it generates from a Combined Heath and Power (CHP) generator and biomass boiler to nearby housing at the Coleman Mansions. Only 5% of building waste from the development went to landfill, the rest was reused, and even the toilets had EPC certification. The project was cost effective, funded by the council within a tight budget of £13.5m.

Haringey40-20Haringey Council have also been looking at the community role in re-invigorating one the ‘most unequal borough’s in London’ through their 40:20 plan. Working with the New Economics Foundation they are seeking tor transform the borough into a low carbon economy (cutting Green house Gas emissions by 40% by 2020), whilst at the same time creating over 3,000 new jobs, 800 new SMEs, and supporting a Low Carbon Enterprise District in the Upper Lea Valley – based on  ‘circular’ or ‘closed loop’ economy where any waste resources produced will be used by other industries on site. They plan to set up the country’s first CHP mutual across 3 – 4 London Boroughs and a retrofit cooperative all with the aim of cutting climate emissions at the same time as delivering local benefits. Haringey sounds like a place to watch over the next few years.

In Part 2 of our report-back from Ecobuild we’ll be looking at the experiences of the building sector and their ongoing battle with bureaucracy. 

Comment on our blog site here.


join us

Back to top