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Ecobuild… eco-bling?

09/03/2011 11:15:48

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I’m just back from three solid days at the Ecobuild conference and exhibition at ExCel in London’s Docklands; what stood out for me this year?


Firstly, I agree with pretty much everyone who I asked “What do you think of it?”:  “It’s BIG!”  There were 1,200 exhibitors in the two massive halls, and I understand that some 85,000 delegates attended in the first two days alone.  The sheer logistics of moving that number of people in and out was a bit of an issue, to be honest.  A Docklands Light Railway train consists of just two bus-sized coaches, and despite running very frequently, at the interchange stations I’m amazed that no-one was pushed off the platform and under a train.  I’m not usually one of the “Britain is useless” doomsayers,  but it did make me wonder how East London will cope with the Olympics next year.


Secondly, Ecobuild now seems to be Interbuild with a green tint – ie. a mainstream building products show where all of the exhibitors claim some kind of environmental benefit for their product.  Clearly products like PV (of which there were literally hundreds) and sheep’s wool insulation benefit the environment.  But slate tiles?  Industrial flooring products?  Part L-compliant windows?  Well, maybe – but I’m certain that if ‘greenwash’ had been banned there would have been far fewer exhibitors (and far fewer people queuing at the DLR stations!)


Next, and perhaps contradicting the last observation, I was struck by the fact that none of the major energy suppliers were exhibiting.  Last year I recall seeing them all - npower, E.ON, EDF and notably British Gas with their blue flame logo coloured a lovely shade of green (seriously!).  This year they were conspicuously absent, and were replaced with Good Energy, Ecotricity, etc.  This surprised me given the forthcoming role that the ‘big guys’ will be playing in Green Deal, the zero-carbon Allowable Solutions, etc.


There were, of course, also many robust and stimulating stands and seminars.  The UK Green Building Council combined the two with its ‘Big Tent on the Green’, where they ran excellent seminars on policy and technical issues as well as entertaining versions of Room 101 and Dragon’s Den.  The Zero Carbon Hub gallantly explained and defended the emerging definition of zero carbon now that the Carbon Compliance slice is finalised (see previous news story on this site).  And Constructive Details Ltd was officially launched by BBA and RDL – a scheme for accrediting psi-values for Part L that avoid the 25% penalty.


I was also stunned by the ongoing level of interest in the Passivhaus standard.  The not-for-profit Passivhaus Trust (of which I’m a director) had a tiny cubicle on the edge of one hall, and it was constantly awash with delegates asking about the Trust’s programmes and the benefits of membership.  My own seminar presentation entitled “The parallels between Passivhaus, the Code for Sustainable Homes, BREEAM and the Building Regs” – not the most dynamic of subjects, you might think! – was attended by some 200 people (with not even standing room at the back).   


Finally, as a veteran of many Ecobuilds with the scars to prove it, I’m delighted to report that the indoor air quality at ExCel seems to be a vast improvement over that of Earls Court.  Last year I felt lousy for a whole week after three days of exhibiting, but this year I bounced back immediately, even managing a vigorous cycle ride over the weekend as well as a spin in my lightweight, eco-friendly sports car.  (Erm… who said “greenwash”?)

Neil Cutland

March 2011

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