Architype chairs seminar at EcoBuild 2014


I attended the annual EcoBuild exhibition this week. It’s interesting how over the years it has developed from being a small interesting event on the fringes of the industry to become one of biggest events in the mainstream.

However, it seems to me that the sustainability of much of what is now exhibited is questionable. I walked the exhibition halls systematically looking for things that were new and genuinely interesting, amongst the mass of what seemed to me to be either clearly ‘unEco’ or seemingly ‘ecoBling’, and failed to find much! On the other hand, the seminar streams and conference have some genuinely interesting presentations, and I bumped into many old friends and interesting people – that is the real value of EcoBuild – the meeting up and sharing of ideas.

But my other gripe is the atrocious acoustic environment that the seminars are held in – open spaces within the exhibition, where people strain to hear the speaker through the distorted loudspeaker system against the backdrop of the surrounding noise of the exhibition.

Despite that, the session I chaired and spoke at ‘Passivhaus – scaling up and maintaining quality’ – was massively oversubscribed with every seat taken and dozens of others standing around the edges.  The growing interest in Passivhaus is very evident, as is the growing number of large and high quality projects underway in the UK.

I presented our four completed Passivhaus schools, the NRP Research Centre at the University of East Anglia, the UK’s first Passivhaus Archive and Records office, and shared the exciting progress of our new Passivhaus housing development company, ArchiHaus. Ben Shuster of Willmot Dixon presented Chester Balmore, the 53 apartment building for LB of Camden. Ron Beattie of Beattie Passive introduced the growing range of projects being developed using his system of affordable Passivhaus construction. Mark Elton of SustainableByDesign finished the session with a fascinating presentation of ParkView Hub, the upgrading of concrete flats in Thamesmead to the Enerphit standard (Passivhaus for retrofit) using preinsulated timber panels fitted to the outside.

The main message from all speakers was that Passivhaus can be delivered in the UK at scale. to the highest design quality, and within standard budgets, so long as it is integrated into design from the outset, and delivered through a collaborative process.