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London Build 2022: Sustainability in the Built Environment

What can we learn from industry veterans, industry innovators and industry collaborators? After attending the London Build 2022 Expo, it turns out we can learn a lot. One of the key talking points across the day from various perspectives was sustainability in the built environment. From how fire safety shouldn’t compromise a sustainable build to future-proofing buildings through sustainable design, it’s the aspect of residential construction on the tip of everyone’s tongues.


Fire Safety vs. Sustainability

Our day began with the ‘Fire Safety vs Sustainability’ panel, where a line-up of fire safety experts in fields such as fire officers, concrete manufacturers and external envelope masters spoke about how to work sustainably. Using long-life materials in firestops for example can have tremendous benefits from both a fire protection and carbon perspective.


Taking part in the panel was Sapphire’s Nick Haughton, who spoke about the issues surrounding balconies, fire safety and the ways in which balconies can add extra fire protection. Smaller and fewer penetrations in the façade can bolster the effects of a firestop. Further to this, balconies are now designed to be entirely non-combustible much like a building’s cladding, so the spread of fire will naturally be reduced.


Future-proofing buildings through sustainable design

In the afternoon, we attended the ‘Future-proofing buildings through sustainable design’ panel and where amongst a great deal of topics, embodied carbon and intelligent design were discussed at length. One panellist suggested that we should be designing buildings that can be retrofitted as standard. Designing buildings with a 60-year lifespan in mind is noble but expecting a building to be demolished is potentially counterproductive. This panellist instead posited the question; why not design a building to last forever? If we can retrofit buildings instead of demolishing them, an inordinate amount of carbon emissions could be reduced decades from now.


The panel ultimately agreed that we don’t have time to ignore sustainable design. Yes, designing a sustainable project can be expensive - but maintaining an expensive, low-energy building will be far cheaper over time compared to the cost of replacing a low-cost, high-energy-use building.


Summarily, it’s important that we use events like London Build as a learning opportunity. So, what have we learned?


Firestops can have huge sustainability benefits if manufactured with the right materials. Firestops can also be bolstered in their efficiency with the help of a balcony thanks to their non-combustible nature. We also learned that sustainable design is an ongoing mission – designing for destruction could be counterproductive, so innovation may lie in designing for infinite use. Finally, we learned that we simply do not have the time to ignore sustainable design. With climate change rapidly advancing, it’s on the construction industry to take the costs of sustainability on board and design for future generations now.

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