Buildings and infrastructure services of the future: NWSBQ event round-up

Sophie Taylor, our Marketing Apprentice, recaps on June’s NWSBQ event:

Last Thursday was our second NWSBQ of 2016, with an all-female panel of construction industry experts giving us an overview of progress in the sector. Our first speaker, Cat Hirst, Head of Learning and Innovation, of the UK Green Building Council, glimpsed into the uncertain future of 2050; before pulling us back to present day and the innovation happening now. Our second speaker of the evening was Nicola Martin, Head of Sustainability, a key figure who developed Balfour Beatty’s original ‘Roadmap’ Sustainability Strategy. And following them was Katie Livesey, our Associate Director and construction industry expert here at Anthesis. All three experts shared their extensive knowledge on the topic, as well as some current and emerging changes we might see arriving in our own towns and cities soon.

Imagine a world 35 years from now…

Cat took us on a journey 34 years from now – a future which has some concerning issues. With an increasing population, rising sea levels and increased air pollution, our current commercial and lifestyle habits have set us on a path to potential disaster. These factors alone are tell-tale signs we have to be smarter with the way we build and to look at our management of infrastructure from a present day perspective.

What can we do to preserve our future? Cat then gave us some examples of projects that already exist today – including a building which knows how you like your coffee, and the ‘Growing Underground’ project in London, which uses 70% less water to sustain their veg. It’s great that recent designs have sustainability in mind, but that isn’t the case for millions of the buildings that already exist. As well as changing the way we design and build today, it’s important not to forget the buildings that already exist… such as the air bunkers sitting vacant across the country!

Building towards a more sustainable future…

We then heard from Balfour Beatty’s Nicola Martin, and the ways this organisation is helping to build towards a more sustainable future, and Nicola had many examples to share. One of the most prominent projects Nicola spoke of was ‘Edith Green’ in Oregon in the US; valued at $137 million, it decreases energy consumption by over 50% from baseline metrics and has a roof canopy with a 180kw photovoltaic array… which nicely doubles as a rainwater collection surface too. And importantly, Balfour Beatty are sustaining and building local economies. This includes sourcing stone from nearby areas, and offering apprenticeships and work to local people in communities.

To see Nicola’s slides, please click here.

Designing buildings with the user in mind…

Our final speaker Katie stressed the importance of construction within our day to day lives. We are all users of construction, we live in construction, and so how we build is inevitably important. Can we design buildings not only in a sustainable manner, but in a way that increases our own wellbeing as well? Designing buildings with the user in mind could dramatically increase productivity and create better environments and workspaces. However, to achieve this requires communication and collaboration for all involved parties; only then can we begin to truly model our buildings creatively and with new and pioneering approaches.

To see Katie’s slides, please click here.

During the Q&A, a few clear messages emerged. Building sustainably is a positive and necessary approach to help minimise our environmental impact, but is it any use if the people we put in them aren’t trained how to use them and maximise their potential? Another discussion was around how governmental policies need to be put in place to ensure we are taking the necessary measures to preserve our future.

There was a positive message to take home; change is at hand, with new and innovative approaches emerging – and already in play – in the world of infrastructure.

A huge thanks to our speakers, to Bruntwood for providing our venue, to GoodMoodFood for the buffet, and also to Green Earth Appeal for pledging to plant a tree for every event attendee.

The North West Sustainable Business Quarterly is held in Manchester every March, June, September and December. Join us – please email or visit for more information.

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