On November 9th, over one hundred people attended _shift, Space Group's annual conference. This year's conference was held at the award-winning Henry Daysh building, SPACE Architect's recent project with Newcastle University and contractor Sir Robert McAlpine. An essential day of conversations exploring the building sectors' role in reducing emissions and combating climate change, attendees travelled from all over Europe to be in the North East for this momentous occasion orchestrated to inspire and instigate transformative action. The first in-person event of its kind, it was an electric day of discussions and networking between innovators and representatives spanning every breadth of the industry. Architects, construction workers, policymakers, building materials companies, tech startups, venture capitalists, environmental experts, and more were each brought together under one roof with one common mission; decarbonising the built environment.
Opening the conference was Space Group's CEO, Rob Charlton. Setting the scene and reminding everyone of the severity of the day's focus, Rob referenced the UN secretary general's statement at COP27, "We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator." Rob then introduced Iain Garfield, Director of Estates and Facilities for the University. The latter spoke about the conference venue, the energy and carbon-saving strategies utilised in its refurbishment, and Newcastle University's Sustainability Journey.
Following an illuminating Climate Timeline video, the former Head of Sustainability Innovation at IKEA, Håkan Nordkvist, presented how we can innovate and build a circular society and change earth systems for the better. "Governments need to be bolder,"cited from Håkan, connected closely to the advice and findings offered by Chris Hines MBE, Founding member of Surfers Against Sewage and Former Sustainability Director of the Eden Project. The _shift audience hung onto every word as Chris offered honest insights into how activism can enact real and lasting environmental change. Overall, the sentiment was optimistic, and it was fascinating to hear Hakan and Chris discuss their experiences of bettering the lives of people and the planet, emphasising how the built environment can now do the same.
Industry knowledge was further delivered by a plethora of speakers and panellists, including Associate Professor Giovanni L. Pesce, Helen Kerrigan from Newcastle City Council and Scott Bush, Co-founder of Low Carbon Materials, finalists in this year's Earthshot Prize. Attendees of the conference heard from Lee Jackson, Director of Whole House at Travis Perkins plc. Lee spoke about his time leading a team of experts to develop a revolutionary design platform that offers a new way of working for house builders and solves traditional pain points.
The final panel of the day included SPACE Associate Director Chris Holmes, who, following James Pellat of GPE's statement that local authorities will likely have a presumption against new buildings, added,"we need to be at a point where it is retrofit first, we don't want to be building anything. We have loads of empty building stock and need to use those." The sustainability panellists went on to discuss the need for increased regulation as well as district heating systems and PV integration opportunities.
Closing the conference, Rob Charlton reminded everyone of the pressing issues we face and the need for immediate drastic action on all levels. History was made, and an enjoyable day was had by all who left inspired to take drastic action towards the decarbonisation of the built environment.
SPACE would like to extend a special thanks to all our clients and invitees who attended _shift and participated in the conversation.