Material matters: what you may have missed at Ecobuild 2012

Posted on by melanie

No wellies required: this year’s Ecobuild event was a sunny affair all round, with crammed seminar rooms and heaving exhibitions halls. Get Sust played materials ‘trumps’, found something unusual cooking in the Dragons’ Den, and hung out with the polystyrene crowd at the HelioMet SunBloc house.

It’s amazing what a bit of sunshine can achieve. Last month our Ecobuild preview playfully likened Ecobuild to the Glastonbury festival, but in the event, the fresh and sunny spring weather blew that tortured metaphor out of the water. Instead, an early morning coffee on the Thames-side veranda gave Get Sust’s inner cynic the boot – to such an extent that I smiled as I passed the eco-bling and pseudoscience lurking in the nether regions of the exhibition halls, and cheerfully took a seat in the sweltering South Gallery for the first seminar of the morning: SAP and Part L1A.

Chaired by Dyfrig Hughes of National Home Energy Rating (NHER) at National Energy Services, and with the keynote speech delivered by the man in the know – Paul Davidson, Director of Sustainable Energy at BRE – this seminar began with a quick round-up of the proposed changes to the Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) which were out for consultation until the end of March, and the ongoing consultation regarding the Building Regulations Part L1A (new domestic buildings). For a more detailed review of this seminar, see Part L consultation – comments by 27 April.

For many in the construction sector, meeting the existing and new Regulations is the necessary daily grind of the slow, top-down imposition of sustainability. However, those who already embrace low-carbon and the aims of sustainable construction are several steps ahead of this, not just in terms of operating to ‘better than’ performance targets, but also thinking much more deeply about the implications of each design decision and, in particular, knuckling down to the complex task of choosing materials that ensure the environmental impact of any new build or refurbishment project is minimized.

Materials matter – and not just because they constitute a considerable proportion of the cost of any project. As the Code for Sustainable Homes and low- or zero-carbon schemes for non-domestic buildings become mainstream, taking a whole-life approach to building design will be unavoidable. But unless you are a specialist in this field, the panoply of choices and claims and counter-claims of ‘eco’ credentials could leave your mind well and truly boggled. At Ecobuild, this year, though, there were plenty of seminars and exhibits designed to shed a little light on this complex topic. more

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