The construction industry is in the throes of a major drive to renew and revive communities - but how is it best done? Ecobuild 2017 will attempt to address this question. Building takes a look at the programme
Ecobuild 2017 is all about regeneration. Many of the UK’s cities are undergoing a transformation as derelict, former industrial areas are reinvented as places for people to live, work and play. This includes London’s Royal Victoria Docks next to ExCeL where Ecobuild is held, Oak Common on the west side of the capital, the Thames Gateway and tranches of northern cities including Manchester and Liverpool, to name a few.
Construction on this scale is seen as an ideal opportunity to create communities that feature well designed, energy-efficient homes and workplaces that promote the wellbeing of occupiers. It is also a chance to build in pedestrian and cycling-friendly transport links.
Accordingly, this year’s Ecobuild is being reinvented as a mini city by ripping up the traditional floor layout and reorganising it around a central street called Regeneration Drive. This street features five destinations that focus on the elements needed to create a sustainable built environment. These include a forum to discuss what the UK’s sustainability priorities should be; how to create energy-efficient buildings that perform as designed; what infrastructure must be provided to enable new communities to function smoothly; the tools needed to reduce carbon, drive change and promote social sustainability; and, finally, an example of bottom-up regeneration in action.
Travelling from east to west along the street the areas are:
The “performance gap” between design intent and how buildings actually perform when completed is a big problem – discrepancies in performance of 200%-300% are not uncommon. Occupiers are now asking for buildings that help promote the wellbeing of workers, which means plentiful natural light and good indoor air quality in addition to high BREEAM ratings. The performance lab – which includes a three-day seminar programme – focuses on how to ensure buildings are energy efficient and perform as designed. It includes sessions on improving the energy performance of tired old buildings so they meet the minimum energy efficiency standard, which takes effect from 2018. This requires that any building that is let out must have an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of E or better. That means the renting out of buildings with an F or G rating will be effectively outlawed.
Many of the UK’s power stations are either nearing the end of their lives or are being phased because they emit unacceptably high levels of carbon dioxide. Trains are overcrowded, with poor links between the north and south of the country and the debate over runway capacity in the South-east rumbles on. The government has recognised the need for infrastructure investment – its national infrastructure and construction pipeline published in December 2016 claims investment has reached a record high with a pipeline of work worth over £500bn to 2021.
The gateway focuses on the priorities for and provision of infrastructure – transport, water, energy and also green infrastructure. This area includes the Institution of Civil Engineers-curated infrastructure stream with sessions dedicated to its national needs assessment, a vision for infrastructure needs to 2050. Sessions focus on future energy supply, sustainable urban transport, water and planning. On the other side of the street is the green infrastructure seminar. This includes sessions on the benefits of green infrastructure, funding, climate proofing areas using green infrastructure and case studies.
What should we invest in, high-speed rail or improving local commuter services? Are nuclear mega-projects like Hinkley Point C the answer to our electricity needs or should we invest more in renewables, which are proven to provide more of the UK’s energy needs than coal? Is investment in off-site techniques the solution to construction skills shortages or should we be investing more in training? These are some of the key issues that need resolving before implementation plans are put in place. The Arena is the home of the Ecobuild conference, where these discussions take place. Debates include how to provide the homes we need, what our infrastructure priorities should be to 2050, how to create healthy places, including the difficult issue of poor air quality and how to meet the industry’s skills shortage.
City Hall includes the so-called “redefining sustainability” seminar stream which has been curated in partnership with the UK and World Green Building Councils. This looks at the tools and methodologies needed to create a sustainable built environment with a different focus each day. On the 7 March reducing carbon is discussed, including a session on how to create a low carbon city or neighbourhood. The 8 March theme is drivers for change and includes a session on large scale retrofit strategies. The last day, 9 March, looks at social sustainability and includes a session on whether estate-wide regeneration is an effective vehicle for retrofit.
Most regeneration is top down where architects come up with grandiose masterplans and developers build out what they think the market wants. But it doesn’t have to be like that – in some places communities are regenerating from the bottom up. The campus showcases one example: architectural collective Assemble has brought its Turner Prize-winning Granby Workshop to Ecobuild, which tells the story of community-led regeneration of abandoned terraced houses in a neighbourhood of Liverpool. The campus also includes a look at the construction materials of tomorrow: the future materials area showcases the latest innovations that could transform construction. Additionally, the BRE Academy will host masterclasses on topics including BREEAM, BIM and the Home Quality Mark.
As well as this year’s overarching theme of regeneration the event will focus on several of the key issues in construction at the moment: off-site manufacture; housing; health; and the future uncertainties that the industry faces.
7 March 2017
10.30-11.45 Improving energy efficiency in non-domestic buildings
15.00-16.15 How do you create a low carbon city or neighbourhood?
8 March 2017
10.30-11.45 Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards: implications and compliance
15.00-16.15 WorldGBC – Retrofit and Regeneration: Transformation across the EU through BUILD UPON
9 March 2017
10.30-11.45 Climate proofing urban areas through Green Infrastructure
13.30-14.30 Regeneration: can retrofit be part of the solution?
The government has set itself the target of building 1 million new homes by 2020. Last year the House of Lords select committee on economic affairs published a report called Building More Homes, which advised that output must double to meet demand into the foreseeable future.
This scenario is made more challenging as Mark Farmer’s report, Modernise or Die, published last year says construction is suffering from flat productivity and could be hit by a 25% decline in the construction labour force within a decade.
The same report says the industry needs to invest in off-site manufacture to help meet these challenges. There is already increasing interest in off-site with Crest Nicholson, Legal & General and now Bovis Homes exploring off-site manufacture to improve output and quality.
A conference session asks if the future of construction is really off-site manufacture and includes Paul Westbury, group technical director of Laing O’Rourke, which has invested heavily in off-site construction techniques, and Simon Sturgis of Sturgis Carbon Profiling, who will examine whether off-site construction is less carbon intensive than traditional methods.
Ecobuild will feature a seminar area called Explore, which is dedicated to off-site construction technologies.
The first day, 7 March, hones in on volumetric solutions with the afternoon session concentrating on MEP modular solutions. The morning of the second day covers structural timber solutions followed by a session on combining different technologies on one project. The final session of the day covers off-site roofing solutions. The last day focuses on structural solutions, precast and prestressed concrete in the morning, and lightweight steel frame in the afternoon.
7 March 2017
15.45-16.45 Is the future of construction really off-site?
Morning sessions – Volumetric modular
Afternoon sessions – MEP
8 March 2017
Morning sessions – Structural timber
Afternoon sessions – Hybrid, roofing
9 March 2017
Morning sessions – Concrete
Afternoon sessions – Light gauge steel frame
The great British housing shortage refuses to go away, with the government’s recently published white paper the latest attempt to solve the problem. Housing provision is a key Ecobuild theme, with the first two session of the show asking how to make new homes sustainable. The first includes Berkeley Group chairman Tony Pidgley and Dan Batterton, fund manager for build to rent at Legal & General. The following session includes chair of the London Housing Commission Lord Kerslake and Lovell managing director Jonathan Goring discussing two key questions glossed over by the white paper: how should run-down council estates be regenerated and how to fund social housing.
London mayor Sadiq Khan’s election pledge insisting on 50% affordable housing in new developments always looked ambitious and was subsequently reduced to 35% for private developers. A panel with deputy London mayor Jules Pipe and RIBA president-elect Ben Derbyshire debates how to square Khan’s affordable housing ambitions with zero-carbon targets and a background of falling house prices.
A building performance seminar examines the practicalities of meeting the zero-carbon standard in the London Plan, including at scale. Upgrading the energy performance of our existing homes is also a perennial question the construction industry must consider.
The Dutch Energiesprong whole-house retrofit system enables homes to be upgraded in days with minimal disruption and as a result is gaining traction in the UK. Lessons from the first UK demonstrators in Nottingham will be shared at Ecobuild.
7 March 2017
10.30-11.30 UKGBC: Ready for the future? What’s next for sustainable housing
11.45-12.45 Homes for all – the best way forward
12.00-13.15 Large-scale domestic refurbishment – Understanding the first Energiesprong demonstrators
8 March 2017
10.30-11.30 Are the London mayor’s affordable housing requirements the best way to tackle the housing crisis?
15.00-16.15 Low-carbon London: Meeting the new zero-carbon homes standard
9 March 2017
13.30-14.30 Exploring the domestic renewable heat incentive
The NHS is in crisis, obesity is reaching epidemic proportions and mental health issues affect one in four people each year. Building healthy living into the built environment helps mitigate these problems and is a key theme at Ecobuild.
Defining and creating places that promote healthy living will be discussed in the conference in a session including Ann Marie Connolly, deputy director of health equity and mental health at the Health and Wellbeing Directorate, Public Health England, and Baroness Young of Old Scone, former chief executive of Diabetes UK and member of the House of Lords Built Environment Committee.
Legal pressure group ClientEarth has had remarkable success in taking the government on in the courts over the shocking state of the air quality in our cities, and founder James Thornton will discuss how they forced the government to take action.
Increasing numbers of office occupiers are demanding healthier workplaces. The Performance Lab seminar stream includes a session on the new WELL Standard that sets minimum standards for seven requirements including air quality and comfort. The role of lighting in promoting wellbeing will be covered and the World Green Building Council and UK Green Building Council will be discussing the latest evidence linking health and wellbeing to the design of homes.
The conference concludes with the Welsh government’s Well-being of Future Generations Act, which places an obligation on public bodies to set and publish wellbeing objectives for new developments.
7 March 2017
15.00-16.15 Light, circadian rhythms and wellbeing
8 March 2017
11.45-12.45 Healthy Places: Making these happen
13.30-14.45 The WELL Standard: health and productivity
13.30-14.45 Green Infrastructure for Healthy Places
9 March 2017
12.45-13.15 How ClientEarth took the government to court and won
14.45-15.45 What does legislating for the wellbeing of future generations look like and can it work?
12.00- 13.15 UKGBC and World-GBC – Healthy homes
Although last year’s vote for Brexit is yet to have any clear negative impact on construction output, there are worries that there will be longer term negative effects. The slump in the value of the pound is feeding through into higher prices for imported goods including construction products and many investors are nervous about pressing ahead with commercial projects in London in case of a Brexit-fuelled flight of the bankers to Europe.
The construction sector is reliant on European labour, which could dry up once the UK leaves the EU, putting huge pressure on wages. Much construction legislation is inextricably bound up in European legislation – in many cases British Standards are the same as European norms and much of our sustainability legislation, including EPCs and Part L, are based on the requirements of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.
These impacts will be discussed by a panel including Lord Foster of Bath, Diana Montgomery, chief executive of the Construction Products Association, and Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders.
Young industry professionals are facing numerous challenges including the cost of housing, the threat of economic stagnation and an industry suffering from poor productivity and skills shortages. A panel of young professionals will discuss these challenges with Sunand Prasad, senior partner of Penoyre & Prasad, and Michelle McDowell, chair of civil and structural engineering at BDP.
The infrastructure seminar stream will feature several sessions looking at meeting future needs including energy, water and transport.
Electric self-driving cars could change residents’ needs by reducing car ownership, and a conference session including David Nelson, head of design at Foster + Partners, and Dr Jon Lamonte, chief executive of transport for Greater Manchester, will discuss the potentially profound implications for urban design.
7 March 2017
13.30–14.45 The UK’s Future Energy Mix
8 March 2017
13.15-14.15 UKGBC: Ready for the future? What’s next for sustainable workplaces
15.45-16.45 A challenging future: How does the next generation want to shape our world?
9 March 2017
11.30-12.30 Brexit – what are the challenges and opportunities for UK construction?
13.30-14.30 Is the autonomous electric car the future of urban transport?
This year’s Ecobuild event takes place on 7-9 March at ExCel London.
To register for your free place go to: