Does innovative specifying help or hinder the creation of a sustainable built environment?

Architects, Innovation and the Internet

Jablite Breakfast at the Gherkin - Photo by subutcher • InstagramThis morning I attended a debate on sustainability and innovation in specification hosted by Jablite(manufacturers of Expanded PolyStyrene insulation and innovative insulation products) at the top of ‘The Gherkin’ (30 St Mary Axe in the City of London).

This post is two events in one – scroll down for information about another event next Friday 26 July.

The debate was led by Thomas Lane of Building and the panel included:

  • Andrew Mellor – head of PRP Environmental,
  • Claire Curtis-Thomas – the new Chief Executive of the British Board of Agrément,
  • Ian Meikle – Innovation Platform Leader for Low Impact Buildings at the Technology Strategy Board, and
  • Richard Lee – Managing Director of Jablite.

The question asked was ‘Does Innovative Specification help or hinder the creation of a sustainable built environment?’

You can view some of the conversation here, but the overall impression I had was,

  1. There are several parties in any construction project who each have different needs and motivations
  2. Each of these parties (client, contractor, architect, engineer, product manufacturer etc.) needs to see a value proposition of innovation in building materials that is relevant to them.
  3. Innovation in building materials (the creation of new, different ways of solving design and construction problems) is considered extremely risky by many of these participants. The value proposition (benefits) must be seen by them to outweigh these risks.
  4. The Technology Strategy Board has funds available to support research and they and the BBA can help increase the credibility of innovative products through establishing proof of concept, value data, reducing risk etc.
  5. Even so, whilst many on the panel were enthusiastic about the opportunities that innovation gave to reaching sustainability targets, the construction industry remains extremely conservative about new products.

Have a look at a selection of some of the thoughts aired both in the room and online:


Another Event – How Architects are using The Internet – 26 July

If you’re interested in innovation in construction, and in particular how architects are using the internet in unusual ways to innovate in their businesses, you might be interested in another event I’m attending next week.

Hosted by Honest Buildings (whom I blogged about earlier this year) and the Open Data Institute in London, the debate will focus on how architects are achieving new ways of working, making new connections and ultimately generating new business using the internet.

There are only a very small number of tickets left for the event but if you’d like to attend in person (it is free) please sign up here.

Alternatively you can join us online from 4-6pm on 26 July via the live blog here.

Or follow the conversation on Twitter from 4pm on Friday 26th July using the hashtag #WebArchitects. Either way I look forward to meeting you.