I spent an enjoyable day at Ecobuild today. It is always interesting and I go every year. Every year is slightly different.
Impressions are that green infrastructure is growing! The number of stands selling and informing about greenroofs and green walls has grown from last year. This also seems to be reflected in the seminars too. Good news there.
I had a good chat with lots of stand holders. Among them, John Dyer of Biotecture Living Walls, who generously answered all my questions. Apparently, they are installing super-duper indoor green walls in well-lit, well-to-do London homes as well as quite a few in commercial buildings. The photo below is one of their walls which clearly shows the way the plants are positioned.
Good news for materials, too. It may be that I didn’t pay them much attention last year, but it really seems like there were more stands showcasing materials. And more ‘traditionsl’ ones which are moving to be more sustainable, energy efficient and less carbon-heavy. Lots of concrete, stone and brick. Lots of wood, too, which is almost always thought of as a sustainable material. Many companies had touch and feel exhibits.
There is also a new substrate in town. PolyGrow were showing a polyurethane foam layer for greenroofs. They weren’t particularly friendly and even though there were three of them standing about doing nothing, I had to actually ask for attention. This is fairly typical of Ecobuild. However, they weren’t too forthcoming with information either and I actually had to ask the person if the layer of polyurethane was lighter than other substrates. (The answer is yes, as I very well knew) No word on how it preforms long term though, whether plants like it or what the carbon footprint of the polyurethane is. I just wasn’t getting any help so I moved on.
There was also much more of an emphasis on water management this year. I enjoyed seeing more rainwater harvesting systems. Like the one below:
Toilets are always a touchy subject. People don’t like to talk about them much. A few years ago, there was quite the craze for Far Eastern designed toilets which had heated seats, washed and blow dried. They offered far more than the bog standard British loo. But I’ve never met anyone who has one. This kind of design on the other hand isn’t fancy and doesn’t do much more than take water from the roof (grey water) and plumb it to the loo. Brilliant.
Speaking of roofs – and why not – what’s perhaps not such good news is that the solar companies seemed sparse compared to last year and they all appeared lack luster. I presume that this is due to Austerity (no-one’s got any money) and the falling market (from the reduction in Feed-in-Tarrifs). There wasn’t such a buzz round the stands. I think this is a shame because if you have a south facing roof and between £4 – 6,000 to spend it is still worth while doing. The cost of the panels has dropped enormously from about £6,000 to £2,000 per kW.
The Forever Zed eBike was wonderful. It is solar powered with its own docking station. The power is stored in a battery. It can be peddled and takes over when you stop peddling. They had a track set up and were offering rides on the bikes. It was a very long queue, so I didn’t get a go on one. The guy was extremely helpful and had lots of information. it would be great for those who aren’t too good going up hills, or have health conditions which could put them off cycling. At about £2,000 its still a bit too expensive, but as prototypes go it has a lot of promise. Here’s the solar array…
This year I didn’t go to many seminars but did catch a talk and a panel presentation. This year they seem to be attracting more celebrities to speak and I caught a small snippet of one chaired by Jonathan Dimbleby (off the telly) with Joanna Lumley but it was so crowed that I couldn’t get near so the screen outside the seminar area was very helpful. She seemed to be praising Marks & Spencer very highly for their sustainability strategy. Then she started exhorting us all to live life to the full. So, I did. I left.
Much more interesting was a panel chaired by Jonathan Dimbleby (again) called Beating the Performance Gap – Regulate or Educate? And featured lively debate between Don Foster who is an MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government, Bill Bordass, a research & policy adviser at the Usable Buildings Trust, John Tebbit, the deputy chief executive at Construction Products Association (CPA) and Pete Halsall who is the chair of Good Homes Alliance.
And, lastly, here’s my pet peeve with ecobuild. Every year there are those who think that sticking a few plastic flowers on a stand will make us stop to find out what they do. No, it really won’t.