It’s 20 days since learnd attended Futurebuild at ExCeL London, a gathering of companies and industry leaders pioneering the drive to net zero.  

Futurebuild is an event with a higher purpose: its mission is to cultivate cross sector collaboration that inspires the transformational change needed to propel the construction industry forward.  

It also showcases disruptors from across the built environment, including innovative tech, products and services to address the climate crisis.  

Key takeaways

Collaboration is key 

We need broad and inclusive collaboration to drive change, and one of the unique features of Futurebuild was the sheer range of exhibitors aligned by the same purpose. From building performance to interior wellbeing or materials, we need to work together and share knowledge if we are to reach our common goal.  

Retrofit first  

A key theme for the event was retrofitting and what we can do with our existing buildings to make them more energy efficient. The message was clear: retrofitting should take precedence over building new due to the carbon cost and environmental impact of construction itself, and the need for every building to reduce its carbon emissions to meet overall targets. 

Defining Net Zero 

The confusion around what net zero really means continues to cast a shadow over our ability to plan and progress. However, there are advances being made jointly by the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) and LETI to provide collective clarity amidst the chaos.  

A set of definitions have been created by LETI and the Whole Life Carbon Network, supported by the RIBA, to help resolve inconsistencies. Building on this, CIBSE and LETI are now jointly working together to produce a set of FAQs on the definitions, to agree on what this means, in practice and detail. Output from this work in late 2021, will be published imminently and we will share our take in due course.  

Regulation and incentivisation 

Improving the UK’s existing building stock is not an option, it’s an imperative. The regulations as they stand are a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, which clearly doesn’t work for all buildings. The key takeaway was to focus on the energy performance of individual assets, as a more manageable way to bring existing buildings up to standard.  

In terms of the role of the Government, we should look at forward-thinking cities such as New York in the USA. New York has mandated the reduction of carbon emissions in Manhattan’s largest buildings by 40% by 2030 and by 80% by 2050, which comes with substantial penalties of up to $1million a year in some cases.  

Futurebuild exists to bring experts from across the industry together to tackle the sustainability challenges of the future, and we are delighted to be an active participant. Real clarity comes from shared knowledge, and when it comes to the environment and climate change, we either move forward collectively or we all fail, so let’s keep contributing to a better future! 

The next Futurebuild will take place: 7-9 March 2023.