The Road to Zero Carbon

At 9.30am on a crisp winter morning, 9 February, The Watershed, Bristol played host to over 160 of today’s top thinkers in sustainability, who came together to hear about and discuss “the road to zero carbon”. A packed programme of speakers and organised by Ecos Trust and the Devon Sustainable Building Initiative, the event covered a range of topics relating to low and zero carbon building and design, drawing on examples from homes to schools and offices.
The day had a distinct southwest feel to it, building on the region’s growing reputation for thought-leadership in this field. Broadcaster and designer (and Chair for the day) Charlie Luxton kicked off proceedings with characteristic positivity, expressing his excitement about what he sees as a ‘new phase’ of actual tangible activity taking the building industry forward from the rhetoric of yesterday to the delivery of tomorrow’s zero carbon buildings.

Speaker line-up
The impressive line-up of speakers included Paul King, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council and Chairman of the Zero Carbon Hub, who kicked off by outlining the move towards agreement on a regulatory framework for zero carbon building, the emerging definition of what this means in practice and providing positive feedback from his meetings with industry about their willingness to engage with the agenda. Next up, Ben Cook of Barratt Homes Bristol introduced their response to the government’s ‘Carbon Challenge’ competition: the 195-home development at Hanham Hall in east Bristol. Cook talked through how the firm had risen to the challenge of responding to a tough set of stipulations across a range of standards and provided some early emerging lessons from the project. Last in the morning session, Gareth Davies from Stride Treglown architects, presented the firm’s approach to low carbon building, drawing on examples of their experience nationally and in particular the lessons learnt from the design of their own Cardiff office to meet the demanding BREEAM Outstanding standard.
Following a noisy lunch full of debate, the session resumed with Carmel McQuaid, climate change manager at M&S, presenting the firm’s approach to reducing carbon emissions in new and existing stores and factories, including the launch of a rolling programme of ‘Learning stores’ focusing on energy efficiency. Vic Ebdon of Devon County Council followed with an interesting presentation on the pathway ‘Towards zero carbon schools’, presenting the five-point strategy towards zero carbon schools outlined in the recent report from the Zero Carbon Schools Taskforce, and arguing for better sharing of learning between public sector partners as the Building Schools for the Future programme continues. The series of talks was rounded up with an inspiring and challenging talk from Bill Dunster of ZEDfactory. Dunster, not one to shy away from bold statements, outlined his vision for how to achieve zero carbon housing at scale, using a standard ‘box’ approach to building at Code Level 6 with materials he envisages being readily available from the local outlet of Jewsons.
In wrapping up the mood of the day Charlie Luxton thanked the presenters for a range of inspiring ideas and reminded the audience of the need to exploit every available niche in moving along the road to zero carbon. With evidence from the examples provided on the day, it is clear that this won’t be an easy road to travel, but it is one to which we are now committed and there is much appetite to work together in tackling the challenge head-on.

Other Ecos Events
The Road to Zero Carbon 2 – Due to high popularity, Ecos Trust and Devon Sustainable Building Initiative will be running the Road to Zero Carbon again this year outside the South West. For further information keep your eye on the Trust’s website To automatically be kept informed of this event and other Ecos/DSBI events by e-mail, please contact putting ‘events’ in the subject box.
Sustainable Building Materials – Health, Carbon, Life. 20th April at Great Bow Wharf, Langport, Somerset. This one-day seminar will help to increase the understanding of what makes building materials sustainable. The day will address the synergies between function, cost and sustainability and highlight how sustainable materials can help with points towards the Code for Sustainable homes and BREEAM assessments. The event is for housing association managers, Building professional including architects and quantity surveyors, materials suppliers and purchasing managers, building contractors.

For more information