Base London 2012 at the Grange Hotel
Author: David Thomas
Published: Tuesday, 26 June 2012
On June 21st delegates from all corners of the carbon reduction industry gathered at the Grange Hotel for Base London. The guest list included a number of VIPs, so even though I wore a brand new suit I was not the most dapper gent in attendance.
A breakfast of pastries was followed by an opening plenary. It was delivered by Richard Blakeway, London’s Deputy Mayor and to whom retrofit is a particular interest, the GLA’s Director of Development, Fiona Fletcher Smith, and Siemen’s N Europe CEO, a charismatic Swede named Roland Aurich who was speaking about the Crystal, Siemen's new low carbon building.
The day was structured around morning and afternoon sessions focussing on Retrofit, The Circular Economy, Energy, Transport and Logistics, and Smart Cities. Between the plenaries and these sessions were intense periods dedicated to networking, set in a warren of corridors beneath the Grange Hotel, lined with sponsors such as SKANSKA and Carillion. Tea and coffee was sipped, sandwiches swallowed, and many hands shaked.
Louis Brooke - London Rebuilding Society
My first interview was with Louis Brooke, the Communications Manager at London Rebuildng Society, a group that does fine work rescuing dilapidated properties across the city. Their repair projects bring comfort to thousands of Londoners who couldn’t afford to pay for the work themselves, and gives a handsome update to unsightly buildings suffering from damp, for instance.
Andreas Zachariah - Carbon Diem
Next I spoke to Andreas Zachariah, who told me about Carbon Diem, his app that makes it possible to chart transport habits using smartphones without compromising privacy – users’ geographical information is never known. Andreas showed me how he could tell how those who’d downloaded the app had travelled to Base London that morning, how far they’d travelled and whether it was by foot, car, bike, bus, train or even plane.
Interestingly, Andreas informed me that smartphone use, transport emissions, and travel infrastructure are all greatest in the same West European and North American places: Carbon Diem is clearly the tool needed for the task!
Morning Session - Retrofit
Personally speaking, the morning seminar on Retrofit was the most informative part of the program. The panel of experts represented Government, installers and housing associations, and the audience was made up of others with specific industry expertise: for instance I sat next to a very nice guy from British Gas’s Green Deal strategy team.
The consensus among the panellists was that the Green Deal would be introduced gradually so the industry can find its rhythm. It may take a number of years, and installers may have to wait a while before being able to capitalise: for the time being the emphasis is on making the structure work at scale. Once that is done, then the small independent installers will be able to slot in.
Emma Strain, the GLA’s Environment Programme Manager, gave useful stats about takeup: boosted greatly by local council’s recommendation and a catered, attentive service.
Boroughs and Councils will probable combine forces to provide a rounded Green Deal offering. Some will adopt a promoter’s role because they don’t have the budget to be involved more significantly. Others will choose to invest in marketing and will be involved in driving interest and producing a pool of opters-in for the Boroughs/Councils that have gone the whole hog and become Green Deal Providers.
Lunch was pieces of fish or chicken in small doughy rolls, and other little bites riding around on trays. During the lunchtime networking session there were ‘Fringe Events’ for business leaders to speak more intimately about business opportunities.
John Swinney - Carillion
In this time I interviewed John Swinney of Carillion, the energy services company which has building interests around the world. John kindly gave me 10 minutes to ask him about Carillion and its involvement in Green Deal. He explained the points he felt were most important to its success.
Afternoon Session - Retrofit (again)
The afternoon retrofit session focussed more on large scale retrofitting. Speakers included representatives of Peabody, Gentoo and Global Action Plan. Global Action Plan interested me because it’s different from the other speakers: it’s a specialist in behavioural change that teaches old dogs new tricks: introducing people to the benefits of energy efficiency.
There was plenty of interest here in terms of Peabody’s approach to maintenance and energy efficiency, but there were fewer statistics to get my teeth into. One of the tendencies that intrigued me was that those who live with strict energy budgets don’t normally appreciate they’re in fuel poverty, even when the wind’s whistling around their home. These are the people who are most likely to take advice on behaviour change and become more efficient, when given the information. And when they have the opportunity to upgrade their home, they generally do so.
Adam Woodhall - Carbon Credentials
Before the closing plenary I spoke to Adam Woodhall, the culture change director at Carbon Credentials. Adam and I spoke about energy efficiency and how he got into the industry in the first place. He has a few doubts about the Green Deal but believes that energy efficiency can capture the public mood if pitched appropriately.
Closing Plenary (home time)
The closing plenary included some Olympic news from Sir John Armitt. I made my exit as the drinks reception was getting underway as I’d opted to watch Prometheus (I wouldn’t recommend it) at the IMAX, instead of the Base London dinner, which this year was to feature a speech by Ken Livingstone.