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Hattie Hartman's round up of the best Green Sky Thinking events

Lessons from Scandinavia – White Arkitekter
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The AJ’s sustainability editor looks forward to Open-City’s sixth annual sustainability showcase in London during April

Open-City’s Green SkyThinking, now in its sixth year, has earned a reputation among London’s built environment professionals as a go-to place for thought leadership and knowledge-sharing on sustainability.

Curated by the Open-City team with a professional advisory board, more than 40 events including breakfast seminars, site tours and panel discussions will take place across the capital from April 25 to April 29. Last year Open-City’s sustainability showcase attracted more than 2,000 professionals to events over the week.

The key to Green Sky Thinking’s success is cross-industry participation and networking. Engaging business-to-business events put attendees face-to-face with industry leaders in informal settings. Many projects are presented not by individuals but by entire project teams that offer insight into how collaboration yields innovation and how sustainability is actually delivered on the ground.

Green Sky Thinking offers a crash course in where sustainable design is headed

Whether you’ve recently embarked on your sustainability journey or you’re a committed deep green professional, Green Sky Thinking offers a crash course in where sustainable design is headed. It’s an opportunity to hear directly from industry leaders about both the strategic thinking and the nuts and bolts of green design. The challenge is to decide which of the many sessions to attend.

Green Sky Thinking 2016 is organised around three themes: urban resilience, health and well-being, and green tech. Retrofit and energy reduction, while of continued importance, no longer top  the agenda as they did a few short years ago.

Following COP 21, the powerful role cities can play combating climate change is a key way forward. London is no exception and the upcoming mayoral election offers an opportunity to strengthen the capital’s green agenda as the vacuum in national leadership has led to the failure of the Green Deal, the roll-back of renewable subsidies, the end of the Code for Sustainable Homes and continued lack of clarity on zero carbon.

In terms of urban resilience, the London 2050 Infrastructure Plan outlines how better infrastructure can be delivered. Yet how do we build a smarter, greener and more livable city? Hawkins\Brown, Cullinan Studio and Mae Architects will explore this question with sessions on London’s new CrossRail interchanges, place-making on an Islington estate and high-density living. Team London Bridge will present their proposals for the Vauxhall railway arches in this rapidly changing part of London, which to date is more a story of missed opportunities than sustainability exemplars, despite the BREEAM Outstanding US Embassy, which will complete next year.

Concern about health and well-being is finally penetrating the office sector, with both the UK-GBC and the British Council for Offices undertaking research in this area. The Better Buildings Partnership will launch a Sustainable Fit-out Toolkit for the office and retail sectors. Marks Barfield will lead a site visit to 82 Baker Street, recently refurbished with a central atrium to enhance collaborative working. And, if you’ve yet to get to grips with the Well Building Standard, engineers Cundall will host an overview.

The coming decades will see a revolution in how we design, use and manage buildings and spaces. Allford Hall Monaghan Morris’s session, entitled Innovative Intelligence Gatherers, will share recent data obtained from wearable technology measuring physiological responses to the Angel Building as well as data on the relationship between architecture, energy and productivity from their own offices.

This year GreenSkyThinking will host its first ‘hackathon’ to unpick and rethink the infrastructure challenges at Old Oak Common, a part of London undergoing radical transformation. This exercise will look not only at transport infrastructure but also at the critical issue of surface water drainage. This is an opportunity to hear from experts and test your skills, too.

The best of Green Sky Thinking 2016: April 25-29, various locations

Aecom Wilkinson Eyre

Aecom Wilkinson Eyre

Beyond the Green Deal – ECD
Monday 25 April, 10.00-12.00 & 18.30-20.30
The importance of independent advice in domestic retrofit. 

Island Estate: Reintegrating the Neighbourhood – Cullinan Studio
Tuesday 26 April, 17.30-19.30
A look at place-making strategies for an isolated estate opposite the practice’s offices.

Sustainable housing: Beyond the Bonfire – Max Fordham
Tuesday 26 April, 18.00-20.30
UWE professor Bill Gething hosts a panel looking at four ‘sidelined’ sustainability issues: as-built performance, materials, community infrastructure,ecology and green space.

Realising the Low Line – Team London Bridge
Tuesday 26 April, 18.00-21.00
A chance to hear from the team tasked with regenerating the Vauxhall railway arches.

Designing for Longevity – Nicholas Hare Architects
Tuesday 26 April, 18.30-20.30
Is the circular economy the right answer for the building industry?

NW Cambridge – AECOM with Wilkinson Eyre
Tuesday 26 April, 18.30-20.30
Pioneering urban extension with green infrastructure at its heart and high-performance buildings.

Designing London for Resilience – Hawkins\Brown
Wednesday 27 April, 18:00-20:30
Should the next mayor of London be looking to tighten housing regulations, or is it growth at any cost? A panel discussion exploring the challenges of creating a resilient future for London.

Hellbeing or WellBeing: Living with Density – Mae Architects
Wednesday 27 April, 18.30-20.30
A multidisciplinary panel debates the qualities of good place-making in high-density housing.

Innovative intelligence gatherers – AHMM
Thursday 28 April, 8.30-10.00
Wearable technology at the Angel Building and post-occupancy research on the practice’s office.

On site at King’s Cross tour – Bennetts Associates
Thursday 28 April, 9.00-11.00
Camden’s BREEAM Outstanding 5 Pancras Square and the Global Generation Skip Garden, with AJ Small Projects-shortlisted kinetic pavilion by Charlie Redman.

Launch: Sustainable Fit-Out Toolkit for office and retail
Thursday 28 April, 8.00-10.30
Better Buildings Partnership.

82 Baker Street site tour – Marks Barfield
Thursday 28 April, 18.30-20.30
How to create a 21st century workplace and reduce energy demand in a 100-year-old office.

Lessons from Scandinavia – White Arkitekter
Thursday 28 April, 18.00-19.30
Scandinavia is so often touted as leading the way on sustainability. What lessons can be successfully adapted by UK developments?

Regency regeneration – Jestico + Whiles
Friday 29 April, 10.30-12.30
Designing for health and wellbeing at Pitzhanger Manor and Walpole Park.

See a full listing of events at Greenskythinking.org.uk

The equitable city

Since 2011 Green Sky Thinking has led the professional debate on how best to design and build more sustainable built environments.

In terms of technical innovation, sound planning and urban design and creative architectural thinking, it has always been ready to tackle the key issues head-on. Now, however, Open-City’s annual, week-long event is moving into its second age. What does that mean? In the first instance, it means asking what flows from sustainable design: Why do we do it? What’s it for? How do we keep box-ticking at bay?

The bottom line is simple: we do it because we want our cities to be more accessible and more equitable for everyone who lives there. With this in mind, the notion of a more equitable city – a built environment that serves the interests of all a city’s residents – will be the soft theme underpinning the week-long event. Keep it in mind, whether you attend or not. As cities grow in size and complexity in the coming years, equitable design will inevitably come to be seen as a defining factor.

Rory Olcayto, chief executive, Open-City

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