Innovation and solutions at the COP26 Built Environment Virtual Pavilion

Max Fordham’s Katie Clemence-Jackson explains the aim of the COP26 Built Environment Virtual Pavilion

Katie Clemence-Jackson is a senior engineer and partner at Max Fordham, and chairs its MF:NetZero task group. She coordinates the practice’s approach to net-zero carbon building design, has given numerous presentations to collaborators on the topic, and contributed to the publication of the Net Zero Carbon Guide.

Clemence-Jackson is also a member of New London Architecture’s Net Zero Expert Panel, chairs the CIBSE Technology Committee and inputted to CIBSE and UK Green Building Council’s (UKGBC’s) responses to the Future Buildings Consultation. She is CIBSE’s representative on the UKGBC COP26 Built Environment Virtual Pavilion (BEVP) and chairs the working group for the exhibition aspect of the pavilion. 

What is the aim of the virtual pavilion?

BEVP is part of the activities surrounding COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference being held in Glasgow this November. It will represent the built environment’s voice, providing a platform to demonstrate that it is both part of the problem and the solution to climate change.

It will explore key sustainability themes through a virtual reality exhibition of global projects and places, with a focus on helping people to understand and implement their own steps to a more sustainable future. The pavilion will be accessible from any smart device, and our aim is for it to engage a wide audience and create a legacy that can stretch beyond COP26.

How are you coordinating a virtual event on such a global scale?

Built environment professionals from all round the industry have come together to create the BEVP. UKGBC is acting in a coordinating role and has brought together a coalition of more than 40 industry bodies to co-create and co-curate the pavilion, with representatives such as me feeding into the work. The project is being made possible by more than 60 commercial partners from across the industry.

We have recently announced an Open Call, seeking content for the BEVP, looking for exemplary projects for the exhibition and a sustainability-focused installation that will act as a centrepiece for the pavilion. We are using the networks of each partner organisation, as well as UKGBC and World GBC’s wider networks, to spread the word far and wide. We are seeking more international projects to reflect the global nature of the climate crisis, so CIBSE members globally should consider putting forward their projects and showcase the role building services plays in mitigating the climate emergency. 

Will users walk around buildings? 

We are working with a technology partner to make the BEVP an engaging experience that people can access from any smart device, and which can be experienced in virtual reality (VR). Content is being created to capture the attention of the public, as well as built environment specialists and COP26 delegates.

Online visitors will access a bespoke VR space to engage with sustainability and the decarbonisation of our built environment. These concepts will be communicated through stories, projects, films and interactive exhibits. We don’t know exactly what these will be yet, because we are using the Open Call to find our content, but the idea is to use this digital platform to make the exhibition as engaging as possible. 

We also hope to have a physical presence at COP26, in the Green Zone, where delegates will be able to experience the exhibition via VR headsets or on tablets, depending on Covid-19 restrictions and our ability to sanitise shared devices.

How can building services be given prominence in a VR environment? 

I have been working with CIBSE staff to feed in its view of a sustainable built environment to the message of the pavilion. The working groups contain a range of people from different areas of the built environment, and, together, we have defined the themes for the exhibition: climate mitigation, climate adaptation, natural resource use, and nature and biodiversity.

Building services is intrinsically linked into each of these, and we expect to see this reflected in the submissions. We felt that the importance of measured performance data should be emphasised – this is embedded into the judging criteria for the Open Call, and will be a factor in deciding which projects are selected. 

How can companies get involved?

By submitting work to the Open Call, attending the event series once it is launched, or contacting UKGBC to become a commercial partner. They can help show how built environment projects can deliver exemplary performance in each theme area. We are looking for inspiring global projects that offer solutions to the climate crisis at a range of scales and typologies. 

Companies can enter up to two projects and the deadline is 2 August. Go to the UKGBC website for more on how to submit work or become a commercial partner. Visit and