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'Tabloid' treatment risks stifling debate

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The spirit of the AJ-sponsored Designing For Sustainability conference (AJ 14.4.05), as many of the delegates would testify, was one of enthusiasm, education and encouragement.

Real-life successes, critiques, polemics and doubts were aired and the rather stagnant sustainability debate appeared to be inching forward. The AJ itself therefore appears set on stifling further debate by publishing a tabloid-worthy, one-sided account of my presentation.

This can only discourage clients and consultants from sharing their findings with a supportive and interested group of practitioners, as we must all now fear that we will be pilloried banally and inaccurately from the sidelines.

There are numerous inaccuracies in both articles that would take too long to address, but there is one nuance in particular I must correct. My uncynical plea at the end of the talk was for more post-occupancy evaluation generally. I genuinely want to know the answers to questions such as whether the bike stands are being used or whether the green roof has worked as envisaged.

Those who weren't at the conference may also have been interested to hear about the high level of general satisfaction among the residents. In particular, they felt that the sense of community, shared aims and social activity was strong and positive. Other successes include low utility bills, the saleability of the dwellings and the popularity of the sunspaces. In the words of one BedZed resident: 'BedZed is great. There will always be something to complain about in prototype design. I really enjoy living at BedZed.' Innovation always has risks associated with it, and without moving architectural and technical dialogues forward, we are doomed to repeat poor decisions and never to trust the good ones.

Claire Bennie, research manager, Peabody Trust

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