Review of 2014 Events

The programme of 2014 covered themes: Adapataion, Livability, Value, Performance. Read the event reviews and discussion summaries below or hear attendees thoughts on the topics covered here.


Residential Retrofit: 20 Case Studies - Paul Davies + Partners
This lunchtime talk was held at Paul Davies + Partners offices at The Old School House. Marion Baeli, winner of the Outstanding Achievement Award at the Retro Expo Awards 2013 for her work on this title gave a detailed and informative presentation of her findings. The event provided detailed data from the monitoring results of a selection of case studies presenting best practice examples of residential low energy retrofit projects in the UK. Marion highlighted the urgency of importance in retrofit for the UK housing stock and the discussion afterwards allowed for built environment professionals to ask their questions ranging from joist end thermal bridge solutions to passivhaus cat flaps and postboxes. Her final thoughts were that there needs to be further training and research on air tightness and methodology.

It was a full house at David Morley Architects’ forth Open City’s Green Sky Thinking event focusing on sustainability. Key themes emerged from the question ‘Retrofit – the New Area of Ingenuity?’ Conflicts between maintaining the existing character of the building and improving energy performance, integrating services, reducing material waste and inviting post occupancy feedback were discussed. However, these challenges can become opportunities as demonstrated across a number of case studies including Argent’s unique Fish & Coal building in King’s Cross and Grosvenor’s pilot project to push the boundaries of sustainable refurbishment at 119 Ebury Street, both designed by David Morley Architects. The panel ultimately agreed that through combining technical ingenuity with creativity - Retrofit is the new Area of Ingenuity. A full summary of the event can be found here.

With only four years until Crossrail opens, BDP hosted a lively evening of quick paced presentations and topical discussion on how the new stations are transforming London. The talks focussed on the urban integration of Crossrail and how it is regenerating areas of London beyond just a new sustainable transport infrastructure. Reviewing current projects and a diverse range of responses to the wider changes Crossrail were examined from various viewpoints. Speakers included head of urban integration at Crossrail, Urban Movement, the London Borough of Redbridge and BDP who focussed on specific examples in Whitechapel and Mayfair.

ArchitecturePLB’s Green Sky Thinking Week event ’Skeleton Safari – Adding Value Through Passive Retrofit’ at the Royal Veterinary College was well attended despite the tube strike. The event was held in the Social Learning Space designed by ArchitecturePLB. ArchitecturePLB, design team members Elliot Wood and Mott MacDonald along with the RVC client made a presentation about the way in which the project was developed to bring maximum value to the campus in the most sustainable way. Themes included lean materials and engineering, passive ventilation design and design to maximise natural daylight.

TH Real Estate & Pringle Brandon Perkins + Will chaired a talk and discussion about the decision to build new or refurb. The debate encompassed a wide range of topics not just the sustainability merits of either option, but their financial and local community impact.  Using the examples of Siemens the Crystal, Generation Investment and Exchange Tower. Each project illustrated a different approach to sustainability from a brown field new building, a change of use refurb. building and an existing failing office building into a multi-use, multi-tenant vibrant building.  These projected sparked some lively debate from the financial viability of sustainability to the opportunities for urban development and identity each approach gave.

Rising to the GreenSky Thinking objective to share and celebrate the progressive steps which are reducing the environmental impact of our cities, the ECD Architect seminars focused upon the refurbishment and retrofit of residential tower blocks. Held as two sessions to cope with the event’s fantastic demand, the seminars commenced with a potted history of tower block living, construction and opinion, spotlighting the post-war ‘big push’ for new social housing, the disastrous collapse at Ronan Point, gas and fuel prices, and the persistent need for housing. ECD then discussed the continued improvement of highrise regeneration, as ascertained by the practice’s 25 years of experience refurbishing residential towers. The sessions concluded with a presentation of the cost/benefit analysis of the retrofit of Wilmcote House in Portsmouth to the EnerPHit Standard. A high rise development of three 11-storey blocks, Wilmcote House is the largest EnerPHit project in the country. Both client Portsmouth City Council and structural engineers Carter Clack participated in the sessions’ expert discussion panels.

Peabody discussed how it is approaching sustainability through a variety of approaches. The organisation outlined its plans to regenerate the whole Thamesmead area; how it includes residents in individual estate regeneration plans; its fuel poverty work; and its ambitions for its new head office to become BREEAM Excellent.

Hawkins/Brown together with speakers Alan Penn, Dean of the Bartlett, Faculty of the Built Environment and Andrew Grainger, Director of UCL Estates focussed on the key question, 'Should it stay or should it go?', using our developing proposals for Wates House, home of the Bartlett School of Architecture as a case study representing much of Hawkins\Brown creative reuse work. This question raises technical issues, embodied carbon and operational energy considerations as well as emotive and social questions. Despite the memories contained within this building and the generosity of the Wates family in building it, is there value in retaining a worn out, not particularly distinguished building? UCL themselves are as interested in keeping the building to prove to the University, student body and industry that retrofit is a viable option for our existing buildings as they are in creating a sustainable estate. New generations of architects will be taught in this environment and take these influences into their practices. Of the spread of guests who attended, including journalists, architects, engineers and students it was obvious that these questions will keep being examined and we hope to be back next year to present the next step in the story.


Delivering Green Design - the Architect’s Journal
The Architect’s Journal hosted a morning panel discussion at the Saw Swee Hock Student Centre, LSE where AJ’s sustainability editor Hattie Hartman chaired the discussion on the sustainability considerations that should be incorporated throughout the delivery of design.


  • Paul Hinkin, founder, Black Architecture

  • Yeoryia Manolopoulou, AY Architects

  • Julian Robinson, Director of Estates, London School of Economics

  • Alan Shingler, Sheppard Robson partner and head of RIBA Sustainable Futures Group

  • Sarah Wigglesworth, Sarah Wigglesworth Architects

A key point made by all the speakers was that sustainable design is a team game; strong collaboration is key throughout the whole process. By getting to know your building partners well and ensuring the clients philosophy is defined before the process is underway can help to resolve creative tensions that may be arise. Targets should be measurable for example with the use of Arup’s SPeAR assessment tool but also the use of technology can be beneficial on a briefing level (i.e. BIM, smart technologies). The importance of communication continues after completion and the hand-over is imperative to ensure the user-centred approach can be effectively implemented. Monitoring of how buildings are used is important to assess what works and how to make it better for future projects. Sarah proclaims she has become an ‘eco-fundamentalist’- the user should be able to feel empowered to be control of their own environment.

Final thoughts from the speakers include Julian who mentioned, not to just pick a team who are specialized only in sustainability as this can restrict new talent and knowledge in the industry strengthening. Sarah regards this an exciting challenge to make sustainability seductive as it becomes incorporated into design and not seen as a separate issue. Buildings finally need to be designed so they are durable and flexible to ensure that they do not become obsolete by climate, social and economic needs changing over time.

Generation Architecture: Emerging and Merging Solar Technology - Allies and Morrison
Allies and Morrison hosted an excellent evening that offered a fascinating glimpse of advances in solar technology for building.

Max Kettenacker started proceedings with an overview of the RIBA award winning Ash Court, Girton College, Cambridge. The project integrates efficient systems and use of photovoltaic renewables in a challenging Victorian grade II* building. Max’s presentation offered an excellent working example of how heritage buildings can retain aesthetic quality whilst fully integrating highly efficient sustainable design principles.

Oxford PV CEO Kevin Arthur followed Max with an inspiring presentation titled ‘Turning Skyscrapers into Solar Farms’. In a lively discussion, Kevin detailed the qualities of Oxford PV’s groundbreaking photovoltaic coatings that Incorporate cheap environmentally sustainable materials and offer many advantages compared current products on the market.

With nearly twenty minutes of questioning and debate, it wax left for Mark Taylor to remark that the audience had never learnt so many acronyms in a single evening.

In collaboration with the CIC 2050 Group, this eventheld by CIRIA addressed challenges facing the construction sector and raised a discussion on how the next generation of engineers, architects, and designers can influence and effect change today. Key issues that were raised were how the industry could address the poor image of the construction industry and difficulties arising in recruiting grautes to meet the skills gaps.  This topic will be the focus of a CIC 2050 group event with RIBA on 17 June 2014.


Show me the VALUE! - CBRE

Show me the Value brought together an expert panel to debate considerations for sustainable property and sustainable development head on. A distinguished panel included:

John Alker, Green Building Council
Nina Reid, M&G Real Estate
Rebecca Pearce, CBRE Head of Sustainability
John Symes-Thompson, Senior Director, Valuation and advisory services

Both John Symes-Thompson and Nina Reid offered measured views and pointed out that the evidence for green peformance indicators equating to better valuations is scant and referenced a lack of capacity within lower to middling asset holders to properly specialize. Rebecca Pearce, chairing the debate, stated that many organizations were trapped between a virtuous and vicious circle in terms of addressing the realities of day-to-day decision making in sustainable asset manegement

Yet progress, is clearly being made and within the kernel of the debate was an argument championed by John Alker for fostering greater buy-in at senior level from within the policy arena and addressing the lack of a consistent sector wide framework for measuring the performance of green building.

Questions from the floor were pointed and questioned both the usefulness of the term sustainability itself in practice and the impact of green incentives in economically challenged parts of the country. With a ten minute overrun and many hands still in the air, it is clear that this area of debate holds both significant mileage and areas to explore.

Green Sky Thinking was a perfect opportunity to team up with clients and fellow UKGBC members The Crown Estate, Acclaro Advisory, and Cushman & Wakefield to host an Interface debate with experts such as Tim Oldman from Leesman Index to discuss what is a green building and how do we make sustainable and productive places to live and work.

Brookfield Multiplex
Construction Europe hosted a morning event on the 2nd of May 2014 with more than 30 participants mainly architects, contractors, clients, consultants and local authorities. The event involved networking over breakfast followed by talks. Brookfield Multiplex’s Sustainability Aspirations were discussed by Bob Arnold-SHEQ Director and Building-in sustainability at the Aldgate Tower by Thomas Barroussel –Commercial Manager and Dr Eva Gkenakou-UK Sustainability Manager. The Q&A session was good with some good questions asked about the detail and scope of the practices and positive feedback. The morning was round up by a site tour at the Aldgate Tower construction site.

'In an urban community: is the whole greater than the sum of its parts?' This talk looked at the role of spatial planning in different London communities and the drivers of urban evolution. The event was run in partnership between Team London Bridge and Better Bankside BIDs and also included speakers from The CASS and Croydon Council.

Pimlico District Heating Undertaking (PDHU) debated the issues affecting businesses connecting to low carbon heat networks as part of a London wide programme of events on sustainable design. PDHU’s event, entitled 'Business attitudes towards district heating', was in the context of cross-sector participation and development of the urban landscape.  This was a fantastic opportunity for us to explore the issues faced by businesses connecting to a heat network like PDHU. The discussion heard from professionals from a variety of backgrounds including engineers, architects and local authority sustainability managers about the considerations they take into account when connecting to heat networks.

Future for London's field trip brought together public, private and community stakeholders in the 30-year regeneration of the Woodberry Down estate in LB Hackney to look at how social sustainability has been incorporated into the project.


E20 Wasn’t built in a day - Mace
For those in need of some light relief following at the midway point of a busy week of heavy Green Sky debate, Mace’s Olympic Park Treasure Hunt offered the perfect respite. Adeptly organised by Lee Fletcher, Isabel McAllister and John Tivey from Mace, participants were split into teams and handed a series of clues and questions to solve as they strolled round the park.

From the origin of the Copper Box’s recycled cladding through to the overall tonnage of the Olympic rings the questions were undoubtedly difficult. Yet this only proved to be one half of the test with the second being a curious mandate that all teams had to ensure they took artistic selfies at each building.

A quixotic mix of relaxed exploring and self deprecating teamwork ensured that all enjoyed and it was no surprise to see many faces gathered at the Cow Pub afterwards to swap some of the green facts they learned and enjoy a well earned drink.

Cullinan Studio hosted the talk 'Clever Energy: People Power' during Open-City's Green Sky Thinking Week 2014. Speakers: Mark Hewitt of ICAX on inter-seasonal heat transfer, Rokiah Yaman of LEAP on developing micro anaerobic digestion in central London, and Agamemnon Otero of Repowering London on creating community-owned local energy. Watch their presentation here.

Biotecture Ltd with kind permission from Land Securities presented an informal discussion on the challenges of large scale living wall installations. This was conducted on site at 20 Fenchurch Street where the largest living wall in London 700m2 has recently been installed.

Peter Fisher started the evening off with a look at lessons learned from Bennetts Associates’ portfolio of sustainable buildings over the past 25 years. Guest speaker Chris Twinn followed with a presentation titled ‘Where does Sustainability go from here? Sustainability for an Economically Constrained World’, which took a wider view of the evolution of sustainability standards and their potential impacts across the developed and developing world. Finally, Bill Gething’s presentation, ‘All change’, looked at the unavoidable challenge which climate change presents to us.

E2 Architecture+Interiors hosted a tour and talk describing the challenges of delivering ultra modern architecture and cutting edge sustainability in a conservation environment at the almost complete house The Pavilion.

When Will The Lights Go Out - Nicholas Hare Architects

Graeme Nicholson (Director of Oil and Gas at Rexel) set the scene, noting the different drivers of energy consumption around the world. Energy demand has tended to flatline in the west because although products are more energy efficient, consumers effectively use more in maintaining lifestyles. The USA is on line to be self-sufficient in energy. Leadership is needed to temper demand.

David Clark (Global Sustainability Partner at Cundall) highlighted some of the ridiculous consequences of blindly relying on established energy assessment systems to 'rate' buildings, while being ignorant of the actual energy consumption. The science of what is or is not included in true sustainability assessment is complex.

Ashley Bateson (Sustainability Group Partner at Hoare Lea) believed that we need sensible legislation to temper consumption. He warned of 'eco-evangelists'. Also, legislators need to keep on top of the economic models resulting from their own legislation. A case in point is how cheaply carbon offsets can be purchased, because they are currently based on calculations at a time when the economy was booming.

Graeme thought the lights will be kept on, David thought they should be turned off to consume less energy, and Ashley believed they should be dimmed.

The Conisbee event brought together speakers sharing their real life, current projects that are happening at a local level in Islington. The event audience included construction professionals, local government, educators and charities highlighting the fact that sustainable initiatives involve multiple stakeholders.

From timber cobbles and hanging gardens to verdant viaducts - join us for a guided walk of Bankside Urban Forest. Starting from the Skirt of the Black Mouth pocket park behind Tate Modern, this tour will take in developments and public spaces old and new within an area of London undergoing huge regeneration and change. The walk will highlight how green infrastructure is being woven into the existing urban fabric through a range of large and small scale projects as part of Bankside Urban Forest - a long term place-making project and partnership for the area of London between Tate Modern and Elephant and Castle. The tour will visit a number of public spaces which incorporate a variety of green infrastructure features and highlight the myriad of ways that green infrastructure can be incorporated into the city.

Who was involved in 2014?

Allies and Morrison
Architects' Journal
Atelier Ten
BACA Architects
Bennetts Associates
Berkley Group
Better Bankside
BNP Paribas
British Council for Offices
British Gas
British Land and Make
Brookfield Multiplex
CityWest Homes
CPRE London
Crown Estate
Cullinan Studio
Cushman & Wakefield
David Morley Architects
Derwent London
E2 Architects
ECD Architects
Elliott Wood
Farrer Huxley Associates
Future of London
Greater London Authority
Great Portland Estates
Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust
Hawkins\Brown Architects
High Speed 1
Hoare Lea
Hopkins Architects
Jones Lang LaSalle
LB Brent
LB Hackney
LB Lewisham
LB Sutton
Leasman Index
London Climate Change Partnership
London School of Economics
Max Fordham
Mott MacDonald
Nicholas Hare Architects
Oxford PV
Paul Davis + Partners
Penoyre & Prasad
Pitman Tozer Architects
Pollard Thomas Edwards
Pringle Brandon Perkins + Will
PRP Architects
Ramboll UK
Skidmore Owings & Merrill
Sustainable Homes
Team London Bridge
The Hub King's Cross
The Rubens at the Palace
TIAA Henderson Real Estate
UCL Energy Institute
Victoria BID