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Green, greener, greenest

The Ecobuild show has gone from strength to strength in recent years as exhibitors fall over themselves to present the latest green building ideas, products and techniques

The Ecobuild show has gone from strength to strength in recent years as exhibitors fall over themselves to present the latest green building ideas, products and techniques to the designers, planners, specifiers and contractors who flock to the halls of Excel. But if it was simply a collection of advanced products it wouldn’t get the huge attention it does from across the environmental spectrum.

The genius of the show has been to graft the construction-based activity onto a whole philosophy of green living, effectively making green building an essential element of the green lifestyle.

Thus it also attracts ‘environmentally interested’ parties who are swinging by to see whether the built environment industry is getting its act together over reducing carbon, using renewables, recycling and the like.

As those in the cooling industry who have to work with local authorities and public sector planners will confirm, when it comes to the environment, it seems everybody is an interested party.

As a result Ecobuild is about much more than making construction and its related services more environmentally progressive, it is about building an ideal view of the future, where a host of experts in diverse fields can discuss their ideas of Utopia. Its conference programme ranges across Big Ticket debates like ‘Is this the end for zero carbon homes?’ and ‘The Green Deal: is it delivering?’ to much more ‘out there’ topics like ‘encouraging sustainability through art’.

These high-profile debates have a whiff of glamour about them thanks to the parachuting in of TV presenters such as Jonathan Dimbleby to host and a roll call of MPs to pronounce on policy.

More useful to the industry, arguably, are the seminars, which now number into the early hundreds, and cover a range of more detailed topics such as ‘Why does energy use fall so far short of predictions in new buildings?’

What it doesn’t on first glance appear to have is much about cooling. The fact is that use of air conditioning in buildings continues, as far as Ecobuild is concerned, is still akin to construction’s ‘dirty little secret’. It doesn’t help that the government is for the time being still intent on incentivising heating rather than cooling in policies like the RHI. This trend is clearly borne out by the presence of some 31 companies listed under ‘heat pumps’.

But until the building is addressed as a whole, with sources of heat and cold addressed in a balanced fashion, the stringent European energy reduction targets for new and existing buildings will not be met.

So what we have called our ‘low carbon issue’ is our version of an Ecobuild preview – a tribute to the Ecobuild concept of low carbon building, from a cooling perspective, but with the obvious difference that it is not restricted to companies at the show. Or it would be a very small issue.

Thus there are a range of companies making strides in that energy efficiency/whole building arena, via technology like trigeneration, district cooling, and ‘intelligent’ VRFs. In the interests of balance, our Agenda on page 14 has David Frise challenging the industry whether it resorts too easily to conventional cooling and exhorting us to be creative with the refrigerant-based solutions.

This year at Ecobuild there are a few companies who list ‘air conditioning systems’ as subject areas. Many of them offer components and controls rather than systems but all are sure to be interested in discussing the cooling perspective, as they may not have heard it from many visitors.

Having said all that, those in the cooling industry who work in whole buildings systems particularly are well-advised to check the exhibition out, as it is sure to be a source of innovation and often inspiration for carbon reduction.

Ecobuild is on at the Excel in London on 5-7 March. Visit www.ecobuild.co.uk for more details

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