CIBSE debate divides panelists

Debate saw engineers debate value of stretching new ideas for sustainable future cities

CIBSE Technocal Symposium 2018 audience

The linear economy wreaks planetary havoc – stretching new ideas are vital for sustainable future cities. This statement sparked a lively debate at the Technical Symposium in April.

Speaking for the motion, George Adams, UK engineering director at Spie, said we should design buildings that are flexible and adaptable for reuse. He said: ‘In 2015, 9 million people died from pollution-related issues. We can’t solve these problems by using the same thinking that created them in the first place.’

Clare Wildfire, of Mott MacDonald, who spoke against the motion, said we should focus on other things to cut emissions. She said if, as a species, we ate 25% less meat, we wouldn’t exceed the 2oC global warming limit. ‘It turns out that diet and land use can make a bigger difference than transport and buildings.

‘If a billionaire can send us to Mars, surely we can make a more sustainable burger.’

CIBSE’s head of sustainability development Julie Godefroy, who was for the motion, said we only have 6-7 years’ worth of landfill space left in the UK. She added that offsite construction, data services for a sharing economy – like Uber and Airb’n’b – could help counter this.

Tony Day, who was against the motion, said as sea levels rise, the population will move inland. ‘This means new infrastructure and new material needs. How will the circular economy meet this?

‘All consumption creates entropy, so circular economy is impossible. But I like the idea of a progressive economy. We need a solution that takes human selfishness into account.’

Adams added: ‘The linear economy brought us a long way but, if we’re going to have billions of people, we need to share resources.’