An online panel session run by West London Business discussed sustainable construction, and the issues which might be obstructing its more enthusiastic adoption by the construction sector.
Nick Belsten, of WSP, kicked the discussion off with one of the key points, saying: “The government have committed to some quite rigorous standards, and over the next decades going to have to respond. It will be important to bring everyone together and work collaboratively”.
Silo working is often seen as the enemy of innovation, so this is clearly very important. Cllr Peter Mason of Ealing Council thought collaboration was vital to progress. He also thought that somehow there needed to be a realisation among developers that sustainability could not be in competition with the delivery of affordable homes.
Embedding sustainable construction and operation in to buildings often adds cost at the build stage. However, a full life costing model will show that often such practices pay off in the long term. But it’s the up front cost which means that sometimes the sustainability is compromised by the affordable home requirement, or vice versa. Cllr Mason said: “As a local planning authority, we can influence through the planning process, but sustainability needs to be a central plank of how we go about design and build. Ultimately it needs developers and architects to engage fully and embed such technology in their buildings. It is not a nicety, it is a necessity.”
Paul Vick, of Paul Vick Architects, said that designing in sustainability could increase the life time value of a building, by increasing its longevity. If a building is cheaper to run, or more flexible, then it will last longer before it needs to be replaced. “Over the long term, the environmental elements arw more important”, he said. “And we are building for the next generation, and their perception of value may be different to that which has gone before. We need to keep that in mind.”
Lee-Ann Perkins, of the Better Futures Programme (a WLB partnership with City Hall and Imperial College), gave an overview of some of the cleantech start ups they have supported. Powervault – an in-home battery storage provider, are manufacturing and installing batteries to be charged by solar or other cheap power options, providing power to be used later.
Airex provide smart air bricks – an element of a typical home which founder Tim Roebuck suggested caused 15% of the heat loss. These bricks regulate the amount of ventilation to reduce the loss. Brittany Harris, of QFlow, said that their sevice can make commercial gains, and is doing so for companies like Canary Wharf Group, through waste tracking, material checking, and air quality monitoring.
West London has an emerging cluster of cleantech companies, and this sector can provide significant economic growth. If they can help transform our built environment and make it better suited for the next few decades, then they will help all those that occupy it.