AHMM’s Nic Crawley Reports
Ecobuild reminds me of a large nightclub, a very large nightclub, perhaps somewhere I used to know that has changed a little since I was last there…
On the way in, I pass Jonathan Porritt heading out- that’s one of the in-crowd leaving, not usually a good sign.
Once clear of the cloakroom queue, I pass the VIP lounge complete with bouncer, and then a couple of stands that qualify as ‘build’ but maybe not obviously ‘eco’- it seems the door policy can be relaxed.
Inside, pounding the miles and miles of blue carpet I began to wish I was wearing more comfortable dancing shoes- moving past the girls in hot pants (really- still?), the regulars and the crowds of suited-and-booted lads who’ve spent time on their hair who line the floor promoting their wares. Trying to avoid their cheesy opening lines and not getting drawn into their well practiced routines, I’m looking out for new moves and old friends who seem to be fewer and fewer in number each year.
This year different parts of the club have more distinct vibes and it’s very welcome. A seemingly endless array of solar panels are now farmed off to the techno room. Elsewhere in the chill-out zone of the Biodiversity Pavilion, RESET’s Integrated Habitats Design Competition takes me back with a nice old school flavour and it’s good to find more classics, the fun Thermafleece stand and independent labels in the form of the AECB and the Passivhaus Trust albeit tucked away apart from the mainstream commercial pop.
Foreign visitors offer a refreshing new approach, especially around the Austrian Passivhaus Kaffeehaus where they’re really into their progressive house. The UK Green Building Council are in the middle of the floor, spinning a broad mix, careful to appeal to all ears and at first glance the RIBA stand looks well turned out with a free drinks promotion but the beats lack bass- there’s little sign of their excellent suite of green guidance produced over the last few years, no exemplar green buildings being celebrated, indeed little sign of any buildings, and limited moves to promote the profession to the 85% of pleasure seekers here who aren’t architects.
The cabaret line up is broad with plenty of talent performing, mainly around the periphery- that’s always where the best conversations happen and the most fun can be had, away from the bright lights but there’s too much to see in one afternoon and it’s last orders. Come 5 o’clock, the lights change and everyone rejoins the cloakroom queue. Stands are empty apart from the reps hoovering up the last of their own complimentary drinks but it’s the best time to look around and really check things out, read the small print and play with the samples.
Leaving Club Ecobuild with my head spinning a little, I’m struck by how mainstream things have become and despite the number of people dancing like your dad, it’s surely a good thing that the super-club continues to grow, as long as people keep their ears, and eyes, carefully tuned?
My Ecobuild 2012 floor fillers:
At No.3: Gideon Susman of Buro Happold’s New Mass passive cooling tubes- may yet address the issue of thermal mass and comfort in lightweight buildings
No.2: Thermal imaging cameras (Flic and others). After using a Flic infrared camera on the Passivhaus Designer course at Strathclyde University, we hired one at AHMM last winter to look at our own buildings, and those of others, with really impressive and visually arresting results.
Straight in at No. 1: Climaspan, thermal mass and embedded pipework- seemingly a good move now and an even better move in a few years time when things may be warmer. We’re hoping that similar systems proposed on current projects to temper the whole superstructure of a building can make good use of low grade cooling energy and overcome some of the limitations of utilising thermal mass, especially during peak season heatwave events.
by Nic Crawley, Associate & Head of Sustainability at AHMM