Green Sky Thinking Week Launch 2013

rblakeway Open City’s Green Sky Thinking Week launched Tuesday 9 April with a keynote speech by Richard Blakeway, Deputy Mayor for Housing, Land and Property, and a panel discussion on 'Building the City of Tomorrow'.The launch debate involved more than 100 private and public sector professionals arguing the case for more concerted action from both the property industry and government on how to future-proof London’s built environment

The panel, chaired by Richard Francis, Director of Environment & Sustainability, Gardiner & Theobald,consisted of an eclectic mix of individuals from across the sustainable development landscape:

  • Tatiana Bosteels, Head of Responsible Property Investment, Hermes Real Estate
  • Mike de Silva, Sustainability Manager, Crossrail Ltd
  • Paul Heather, Managing Director, Building, London, and South East, Skanska UK
  • Peter Madden, Chief Executive, Forum for the Future

Richard Blakeway, Deputy Mayor for Housing, Land and Property
at The Greater London Authority (GLA) opened proceedings with a short address in which he discussed some of the key challenges facing the sustainability agenda and outlined steps the GLA are taking to future proof London.

Mr. Blakeway identified housing shortage as one of the most significant challenges. This issue was a popular topic of discussion throughout; Paul Heather expressed his concern that future generations or the “Y” generation, as he put it, will not be able to afford housing and Tatiana Bostells offered some solutions to the problem, the answer may lie in changing office space into housing.

Mike De Silva described London as a “word class city” that has become complacent. He used the analogy of an unfit body to illustrate this; London has let itself go and its arteries are clogged. At Crossrail Ltd Mr. De Silva and his team are trying to unclog the arteries and he believes the new 21 km underground network will go a long way to improving the city. Tatiana Bostells agreed London’s sustainability agenda is sluggish. She likened the city to a teenager who has outgrown their clothes and needs a new wardrobe.

Richard Blakeway stressed the necessity to future proof existing buildings because, as he put it, “by the middle of this century three quarters of them will still be here.” The GLA’s refit program will go a long way to preserving and improving existing public buildings and NHS buildings, schools and museums are likely to benefit most. The audience was particularly pleased to hear that the GLA are also committed to helping green up SMEs, which will reduce their operating costs. Two initiatives in the making stood out: a major retrofitting programme for schools and a pilot on energy use data transparency modelled on New York's experience. We will hear more in the coming months.

The mayor concluded by saying, "There is clearly real potential to grow London's low carbon economy along with the jobs that that provides and the productivity that it creates.”

panelContinuing the Deputy Mayor’s consideration of data transparency, the panelists echoed the need for regulation. Following Hattie Hartman’s (The Architects’ Journal) question from the floor on the ‘performance gap’, Peter Madden provided a ready strategy: "make the data open, think about data standards and then think about how you train and involve users."

A key theme in the panel discussion was our need to think outside the box. Mike De Silva said he is constantly asking questions: can the new 21km tunnel network under London also be used as a heat network? Can we make better use of infrastructure by linking it with technology? At Skanska they have set up a training scheme to educate their staff about sustainable issues.

Peter Madden used the analogy of an ice cream cone to describe the endless possibilities for the sustainability agenda in the future. The thin cone at the bottom, the present, is fixed and the ice cream, the future, at the top can be any size. Peter also stressed the importance of predicting future trends such as climate change, ageing population, and the increase in technology and reminded the audience that they can create the future.

A short Q & A followed the panelist’s presentations. Richard Francis, Director of Environment & Sustainability at Gardiner & Theobald, asked the panelists to give an example of one thing they are doing that had not been done well in the past. A recurring theme in the answers was the requirement to not be passive and to involve others, non-experts, in developing the city’s future development strategy.

The debate concluded with a call from Victoria Thornton, Founding Director of Open-City for the profession to ‘be less passive’ and show ‘real vision’.

The launch provided a suitably challenging introduction to Open-City’s Green Sky Thinking Week, starting on Monday 15th.

Richard Francis, Gardiner & Theobald
Launch Panelists:Tatiana Bosteels, Paul Heather, Mike de Silva
RT Hon Nick Raynsford, MP for Greenwich & Open-City Trustee
Richard Blakeway, Deputy Mayor
Audience Discussion
Question from the Floor


Editorial: Louis Supple