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The future's green

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This year’s Ecobuild is the biggest so far and the green agenda is more relevant than ever

Is the future bright and is it green? Right now the future has more of a sludgy grey feel about it. Market conditions are tough with housebuilding sluggish, public sector work in retreat and no sign of the commercial market taking up the slack. The coalition’s commitment towards a zero carbon built environment looks decidedly shaky.

Osborne blocked display energy certificates becoming compulsory for all commercial buildings despite solid support from the sector. The feed-in tariff fiasco and recent climbdown over the cut off point for changes to it has only served to undermine the government’s green credentials with little financial benefit to the public purse. And the suggested targets in the recent Part L consultation are lower than the previous government’s policy.

But things are not all bad. This year’s Ecobuild is the biggest yet with more than 1,500 exhibitors, which demonstrates there is still confidence in the green agenda plus there is a superb conference and seminar agenda (see Ecobuild preview).

The Green Deal has the potential to transform existing buildings but something is needed to make it appeal, perhaps focusing on how peoples’ homes could be made better places to live is one answer.

The sustainability agenda has become firmly embedded in the corporate mindset with the big developers and clients seeing low-energy buildings as crucial to their future success - something that will inevitably trickle down to smaller firms.

It is a slow journey delivering low-carbon buildings that do what the designers intended but we are getting better at it to the extent contractor Skanska is considering guaranteeing the energy performance of its projects. There are sustainability trends that are moving quickly into the mainstream - think Freecycle and Zipcar where people swap and share goods rather than owning these outright. What could this mean for the built environment?

And if these trends aren’t enough to stem rising levels of carbon dioxide there are technical solutions of last resort such as mirrors in space or cloud-seeding to reflect the heat of the sun. Let’s hope the future is brighter and greener than that.

Thomas Lane is assistant editor (technical) for Building magazine

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