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Ian Martin: My alternative to alternative energy

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Ian Martin harnesses the power of human neuropathy

Monday. To Whitehall for discussions about my ‘Big Society reward’ scheme for architects. You get 100 points if you design something socially useful. A civil servant asks if they’re redeemable in restaurants. Only when they learn to lower their voices, I say. 

Tuesday. Sketch out my design for the McBlingnang Whisky headquarters. I’ve given it a ‘zig-zag, leaning, weaving, nearly falling over’ look, capturing I hope the appropriate aesthetic for a Chinese single malt distillery.

Wednesday. Conference on alternative energy at the Institute of Alternative Energy Conference Centre. What a shimmering beacon of optimism this place is in an otherwise gloomy world. Evangelism does that to people.

Today’s theme is ‘Rule Britannia’. Apparently the future beckons, fellow patriots. We are to become a mighty maritime nation once again. Not with warships and slavery, but with wavepower and rhetoric.

Alas. This narrative, as they say, lacks traction. Behind their fixed smiles the renewables lobby are a bit peeved that very few people give a toss about offshore wind farms visible only via telescope. Or hydro-electric generators in bits of the seaside nobody goes to. So this conference is exploring ways of making coastal energy exciting again. Suggestions from delegates include:

• Build massive wave energy converters in the shape of Elizabethan warships.

• A Round-Britain ‘do your bit’ pedalo circuit hooked up to the National Grid.

• The world’s longest hydro-electric log flume running from the Irish Sea to Alton Towers.

Personally, I think the emphasis is about to change in the world of renewables. The next big market will be in nano-biopower. With banks of microtransmitters fitted to moving internal body parts, each of us will be our own net energy producer. Converting the simple pumping motion of a heart valve, say, or the ebb and flow of lungs into neuropathic impulses. These tiny, weeny ‘energy blips’ will then be channelled via the nervous system into removable ‘neurotic batteries’ stored behind the ear, like a hearing aid.

I air my powerfully plausible theory during the afternoon break. Nobody’s listening to me of course as I’m the only one smoking outside.

Thursday. Redesign Edinburgh, squeezing the one-way system so it’s ever so slightly more up itself.

Friday. Lunch with Isis de Cambray, the magic arborealist. We’re working up some ideas for corporate clients about to acquire a substantial site – the Forest of Dean – and are looking for ways to turn it into a viable forest-themed development.

They have plenty of money to chuck at it as the sale price is a bargain. It is, essentially, just a load of trees after all. This is good news as it means our fee will be substantial. It’s what we’re calling our ‘forestry commission’. We cackle, and order another bottle of prosecco.

Obviously there’ll be some sort of Forest of Dean leisure destination with luxury treehouses and Robin Hood chalets and Adventure Days Out and nightly barbecues modelled on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. And a Museum of the Forest in the Forest to preserve those precious memories of how things once were. We’re also looking at encircling what’s left of the forest, after the eco-towns go up, with upmarket garden centres at regular intervals. NB no gnomes, but we may make exceptions for ‘Orc-like gnome hunters’ and ‘bare-breasted warrior women’.

A longlist of refreshingly unscrupulous architects is being drawn up to create a unique set of bespoke homes for billionaires. The sort of thing you see on Grand Designs or the Stirling Prize shortlist. Isis is doing all the landscaping of course and is already scribbling notes. ‘This will be a bewitching family home. A giant swan carved from a single block of limestone. A castellated garden with fairies, fountains and bluebell woods…’

We haven’t even finished lunch when she gets a discreet enquiry on her psychedelic BlackBerry. Some pushy head of a free schools provider group has heard about our gig and is placing an order. ‘Would a £500,000 deposit be OK? We’re looking for a rural retreat from “Kosovan” central London and want something barny/oast housey but with quite a cool vibe’.

Oast house in a forest? No problem. Who cares? Its nearest neighbour will be a two-thirds scale Hogwarts.

Saturday. Day off, so deliberately don’t look at the built environment.

Sunday. Put my biopower arrays on standby, in the recliner.


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