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 06-08 March 2018 / ExCeL, London

Blog from Martin Hurn. Redefining sustainability: The latest steps

Friday 18 November

The wake of the Brexit vote (and its many implications with a new Prime Minister) has unsurprisingly seen a shift in priorities to accommodate tough economic conditions and the political agenda for the coming years. This means changes for the built environment sector, especially as we no longer have the support of David Cameron and his “greenest Government ever”.

However, the opportunities are still out there – it’s simply a case of recentering objectives, ensuring the term ‘sustainability’ is meaningful to all and making the most of what’s available. What is sustainability? The definition of sustainability has advanced considerably over the last few years. No longer is it just about low-carbon construction, building performance and responsible sourcing – which some perceived as a niche, utopian vision. Sustainability now encompasses much more - including place making, wellbeing, communities and infrastructure. This, added to the fact that sustainability has come to mean something slightly different to almost everyone in the built environment sector, means there’s a real opportunity to collaborate in establishing a common definition across the industry.

Working in collaboration: Ecobuild’s Redefining Sustainability campaign (under the hashtag #SustainabilityIs) was launched in June 2016 to bring the industry together and provide a platform for discussion, from which a business case for sustainable construction could be established. Working with partners and stakeholders, the campaign enables the entire supply chain to come together to share their thoughts and ideas around the term sustainability, both now and in the future. To date, the campaign has taken a number of forms, including roundtables, networking and community blogs from key influencers across the industry, underpinned by active social media conversations. It has seen a passionate response from across the industry, including manufacturers, specifiers, appliers and installers. Leading organisations, such as the UK Green Building Council, the Construction Products Association and Saint-Gobain, have also contributed their research, findings and insights into the many nuances and opportunities around sustainability. These responses have highlighted a real need to bring shared goals and objectives into focus, something we are aiming to do in the run up to Ecobuild 2017, in March. Long live sustainability: Kicking off the campaign, industry leaders gathered at the House of Commons in June for the first in a series of roundtable debates planned in the run-up to the March event to discuss the theme ‘Sustainability is dead [Long live Sustainability]’. An overriding message from this round table was the need for the construction sector to democratise sustainability and make it more accessible and meaningful to all, including the general public. As Munish Datta, head of property and facilities management at Marks & Spencer, put it: “If we want to make changes, we need to talk to the customer in a language they might understand. To bring about systemic change, we are going to have to bring about changes in the way the end customer perceives it.” Getting end-users on board: The next discussion in the Redefining Sustainability campaign, held in September, saw industry-leading construction product manufacturers come together to share views on what sustainability means to them. Alongside Ecobuild, leaders from across the sector attended the roundtable, including representatives from the Construction Products Association, TRADA, Concrete Centre, Hanson UK and The Steel Construction Institute. The round table highlighted the importance of thinking ahead to how an end-user will occupy a space, in order to support better, more inclusive decision-making right from the start of a construction process. However, a key out come from the discussion is that the construction sector is lagging behind others in working out what customers want. To rectify this, there must be open lines of communication in place to share knowledge and best practice around long-term sustainability benefits. Cost savings, building performance and longevity - is a great step forward, and vital in paving the way for a more sustainable future.

Ecobuild 2017: So far we have found that collaboration is the key to success in the Redefining Sustainability campaign. That means increased communication and transparency all the way from those working on concept and design, right through to the construction, completion and lifecycle performance monitoring stages of the supply chain. In the coming months during the lead up to Ecobuild 2017 (7-9 March 2017), discussions and debate around the future of sustainability will continue to build and gain momentum as more opinions and insights come to light. What will be next on the agenda for the Redefining Sustainability discussion? Stay tuned to find out. To be part of this industry changing discussion, share your views, case studies, learning, challenges or successes, join the debate on social media using #SustainabilityIs. For more information on Ecobuild 2017, visit

About Ecobuild

Ecobuild is the leading exhibition and conference for construction, design and energy in the built environment, attracting over 33,300 high calibre, senior level decision makers and influencers from architects and developers, to local government and major infrastructure clients. In 2017, the event will return on 7-9 March, with a renewed focus on enabling sustainable construction for 2017 and beyond. With Lead Partner the UK-GBC, Ecobuild 2017 will explore sustainability as a driver to innovation and growth, a catalyst for regeneration and as a way for organisations to do better business. In the lead up to the event, Ecobuild is driving industry-wide conversation around the ongoing evolution of sustainability. Industry professionals can get involved in the conversation on social media using #SustainabilityIs

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