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Ecobuild Photo from Ecobuild

Photo from Ecobuild

24 March 2011
by Ellie Smith

Earlier this month I took the opportunity to visit Ecobuild at ExCeL in London and went along to hear some of the current discussions surrounding sustainability within the design sector. ‘Green’, ‘sustainable’ and ‘eco’ design continue to be buzzwords and this 3-day event offered over 130 sessions dedicated to all things sustainable. I was particularly interested in the talk ‘Do we need another chair? Design to stand for, not to sit on’ hosted by journalist Jonathan Glancey which included presentations by Emily Campbell, Marco Steinberg, Melissa Sterry and Dr Jonathan Chapman. Emily Campbell drew on her 2009 manifesto about resourcefulness in design - ‘You know more than you think you do’ - and highlighted the value of making and encouraged the audience to make at least one chair. I can happily tick this off my list after making a chair with public works at Experimenta 09 as part of our contribution to the exhibition Timeless. Jonathan Chapman’s response included a description of his time spent in a Buddhist monastery, his subsequent return to the world of ‘things’ and how he reconciles this with a sustainable agenda. Our fascination with chairs proved to be a fruitful starting point from which to explore a broad range of sustainability issues.

 ‘Where is the sustainable zeitgeist?’ talk chaired by Aidan Walker included contributions from Howard Fuller, Mat Hunter and Sophie Thomas. It covered the need for clients committed to sustainability, the significance of behavioural use, and the importance of influencing the brief before it reaches the designer. As an aside - the British Council commissioned Sophie Thomas, as part of Greengaged, to present at Beijing Design Week in October 2009, which was one of many requests our team has received for UK designers to contribute to sustainability debates on international platforms. We’d be keen to hear of other contributions that UK designers have made to similar discussions internationally so do get in touch.

The presentations from this year’s conference and seminar programme are now available on the Ecobuild website and are free to download for all Ecobuild’s visitors. AJ also committed an entire edition (Number 7, volume 233) to sustainable design at the time of Ecobuild.