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Green Sky Thinking launches

Over 100 people gathered at Gardiner & Theobald’s offices to launch next week’s GreenSkyThinking programme - BOOK NOW!

It’s great to see Green Sky Thinking gaining momentum.  Wednesday morning’s launch attracted more than 100 people to hear a keynote address by Richard Blakeway, Deputy Mayor for Housing, Land and Property, followed by a panel discussion focused on the commercial property sector. 

Open-City director Victoria Thornton with Richard Blakeway, Deputy Mayor for Housing, Land and Property

Open-City director Victoria Thornton with Richard Blakeway, Deputy Mayor for Housing, Land and Property

One of the aspects of Open-City which I value most is its capacity to draw a broad mix of built environment professionals, and this event was no exception. As Victoria Thornton said, the main purpose of Green Sky Thinking is to ‘catalyse more informed debate’ and getting us all to collaborate across our silos is essential.

A rare treat was that the three-strong panel was all women:

Claudine Blamey, sustainability manager at The Crown Estate

Celeste Giusti, senior strategic planner at the GLA

Jenny Pidgeon, director, responsible property investment, Henderson Global

Most of the architects present – all of whom are hosting Green Sky Thinking events next week - are Footprint regulars: Allies and Morrison, David Morley Architects, Ash Sakula, Marks Barfield, Baca Architects, Bennetts Associates, ScottBrownrigg, Penoyre & Prasad, John Robertson Architects, Jerry Tate and Sustainable by Design.


Richard Francis, director for environment and sustainability at Gardiner&Theobald, hosted the panel

Chair Richard Francis, director of sustainability and environment at Gardiner & Theobold and host of the event, put this question to the floor: ‘does green badging add value?’

Blakewell’s message was that the green agenda is surprisingly ‘resilient’ - despite austerity. The GLA’s RE:NEW programme implemented  energy efficiency measures in 100 public buildings last year (1/4 from the NHS estate), with 300 to go.  10 Downing Street is now in the pipeline.  The GLA has also launched a £100 million fund dedicated to promoting carbon efficient homes ‘at volume’, moving beyond CSH 4.

Jenny Pidgeon aptly commented on the lack of clarity in government leadership on the green agenada, including a tendency to get bogged down in detail without a real understanding of who makes capital expenditures and incurs costs in the property sector and how to incentivise real savings. She also highlighted the lack of ‘consumer-facing’ policies which are needed to impact behavioural change. Although BREEAM Excellent is now considered status quo in central London, there is still a disconnect betweem CSR sustainability statements and actual real estate investment decisions on the ground. M&S was cited as leading the way, while some corporates are starting to look at issues such as flood risk and grid independence.

Giusti (ex-LB Camden prior to joining the GLA) highlighted the challenge facing planners who are struggling to keep up with changes in legislation to develop realistic policies with stretching targets. Decentralised energy is a case in point.

Claudine Blamey noted that while product manufacturers live or die on their reputations, that same accountability has not permeated the property sector. Change will only come about when tenants are viewed like customers. Legislation with teeth is needed, and when EPC ‘F’ and ‘G’- rated building can no longer be let, change will start to happen. At the moment, property managers tend to focus on ‘the bits they manage’ without an understanding of the whole building or a whole portfolio, and the industry is very slow to adapt.

In the Q&A, ex-ODA head of sustainability Dan Epstein (now Useful Simple Trust) challenged the audience, asking ‘where is the vision?’ and bemoaning the complete absence of a sense of urgency in the discussion.

Between Open-City’s GreenSkyThinking and the UK-GBC-supported World Green Building week, get your diaries ready for the onslaught of  seminars next week. Let’s move the debate forward.

Adams & Sutherland, designers of the Greenway, will be discussing the highly topical subject of integrated sustainability on the Olympic fringe.


Adams&Sutherland - Bow Riverside


Paul Davis + Partners - 100 Princedale Road

Paul Davis + Partners will explain their approach to retrofit in conservation areas.


Meadowcroft Griffin - Lauriston School, Hackney

Meadowcroft Griffin/KLH UK are hosting a debate around ‘designing in’ sustainability, looking to historic precedents and their Lauriston School, completed last year.



Biotecture - Edgeware Road

Biotecture Ltd will host an on-site talk on urban greening at their green wall at Edgware Road underground station.



Scott Brownrigg - Kings Troop Royal Artillery, Woolwich

ScottBrownrigg will explain their approach to sustainable stable design for the Kings Troop Royal Artillery which recently relocated to Woolwich from St. Johnswood.

Should RIBA have an annual sustainability award?

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