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Green Rethink: Raynsford calls for more public sector building

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Former construction minister Nick Raynsford has said large-scale sustainable development would have to be funded from the public purse

Speaking to the AJ at the Green Rethink architecture summit in London on Tuesday (26 November), the Labour MP said that just £2 billion of the government’s £25 billion housing budget was invested in building projects and that the private sector would not be able to deliver it alone.

He said: ‘There has got to be a return to public sector building. I’m not suggesting going back to the large scale mono-tenure housing estates. But we need to deliver large scale, mixed-use schemes.’

He added: ‘There are a lot of messages within Richard Rogers’ report Towards an Urban Renaissance which housebuilders, who want to build on [easier’ green field land], have been happy to see gather dust. This needs a new emphasis.’

The emphasis on city-wide planning was a central theme of keynote speaker Terry Farrell’s introductory speech about the ‘urbicultural revolution’ as the biggest solution to sustainability.

Farrell said: ‘Planning has become unfashionable in London and the South East but the airport debate has changed that. It has begun to make us think about how we plan the city.

‘We need more planning and we need to look at the bigger issues. Architects should be architecting the whole environment not just the urban environment.

‘The architecture of organising ourselves as well as our lives is just as important as the buildings themselves.’

Farrell talked about planning our existing building stock and how the profession should go back and look at the investment already made, re-organising what is already built.

Meanwhile in the ‘what is the sustainable architecture of the future?’ session, Rab Bennetts, founding director of Bennetts Associates, said architects should remain focussed on ‘the low carbon’ agenda rather than being sidetracked by unproven green technologies.

He said: ‘We shouldn’t diffuse our thinking. If we focus on low carbon design then it acts as a proxy for everything else.’

However he added: ‘If you are designing green architecture which is boring and dull then it is absolutely pointless. We need to make sure sustainable buildings get on the Stirling shortlist.’

Lynne Sullivan, partner, sustainableBYdesign said that with tough sustainability targets still on the government’s programme, architects and students needed to be brought up to speed. She added: ‘By 2019 all buildings including existing should be near to zero energy. This means that they should need barely any energy in their operation. They have to be pretty much passive.

‘For students starting courses now, near zero energy buildings will be the norm by the time they qualify.‘

Further comments

Patrick Bellew, principal Atelier Ten

‘The vast majority of architects are interested in being green as long as it doesn’t affect the architecture.

‘The question is does it have to be sustainability or beauty, or can we have both? Beauty and sustainability can coexist happily.’

Pascal Mittermaier, director of sustainability, Lend Lease

‘Most companies now measure things which ten years ago we never did – this is the first part of the journey into sustainability. It is about resource efficiency. The next stage is about innovation. It is about what the trade-offs are that allow you to innovate and invest in sustainability.

‘We need to resell the green dream. Selling a city where everyone can ride bikes is a lot more exiciting than one where everyone has to own a car.’

Ken Shuttleworth, founder, Make Architects

‘The challenge we have is getting the message across to everyone else. It is about how we campaign and get the message across to those who are not converted.’

Mike Taylor, senior partner, Hopkins Architects

‘We don’t get enough feedback on our buildings.

‘As architects we don’t know enough about the detail about carbon.’


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