Thursday, 15 November 2012

Investing time and money in a sustainable future

I had a meeting with the TSB in London, about the future for business in sustainable construction. What's more, they not only wanted to hear my opinions on problems to be tackled, they even offered a pot of 50m GBP I could tap into!

By now it should be apparent that I was not talking to a bank. My partner was the Technology Strategy Board, and I was not alone. Experts from a slew of construction interests, from business to research had come.

This was just one of a series of meetings, ably organised on behalf of the TSB throughout the UK by WECREATE.

The objective was to identify those stumbling blocks for businesses over the next five years active in the area of low impact buildings. My personal interest in participation came from work with architects active and expert in sustainable construction e.g. Tollé Green Architecture.

We were split into groups of three or four first, to brainstorm the key issues. This was followed by listing the top five barriers that prevented commercial progress in low impact construction. From these, TAB would identify where to provide support to overcome these barriers.

There were three problem areas and each group was given one to concentrate on:

1. Maximising existing stock
2. Zero carbon new build
3. Resilience to future climate

I found myself in a group tackling future climate (we had no choice).

A consistent theme, when chatting to other participants afterwards, was the need for clear communication and incentives. This should be working from the ground up.

In contrast to some of the northern European countries, sustainability issues are lower on the priority list of the UK population. Construction complies to the letter of regulations against the backdrop of a competitive market and striving to keep costs down, in a recession.

Changing attitudes with the public and in construction will ultimately provide the self motivated shift required for reasonable progress.

We were encouraged to tweet our identified issues and solutions under #lib201318. For the non-twitterati, four of our suggestions are repeated below:

1. App for people to easily calculate benefits of changes to their behaviour or buildings.

2. The need for an industry recognised prestigious prize to promote adoption of climate resilience.

3. Collection of real-time data from existing occupied buildings on performance.

4. Recognised standards for meeting resilience to future climate change.

In addition to having made some interesting new contacts, we left with the anticipation of the Technology Strategies Board future project-funding proposals.

What will the next 50m GBP go towards?

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