Think maybe over but thinking goes on

It was disappointing to read Phils blog post yesterday that the Think sustainability conference and exhibition is to be discontinued by CMP, but the reasons given do make sense.

Having visited both Think 07 and Think 08, I would say that Think 07 made an important contribution to built environment sustainability, shaping agendas and providing a forum for discussion and innovation.  I am afraid I cannot say the same for Think 08.   Was it as Phil suggests the lack of ‘names’ (07 had Al Gore on video link for example), or was it the all too corporate feel of 08?  (see 08 thoughts from 08)

It should be noted the sterling job Phil did with Think, and it is a pity lessons cannot be learnt to have a Think 09. But whilst Think may be over the thinking goes on.

One of the topics this raises is the face to face event versus the virtual on line event. I have blogged many times on this, arguing for a mixture, and making real event material available online at the same time, either through closed streaming or through public streaming into second life. There is always the cost (and now carbon travel debate) of attending real events if you are not in the host city.

Paul (fellow Be2camp unorganiser) also comments on this at EvolutionExtranet noting from  Sustainability Now (also organised by Phil ), that pure online events are not the perfect alternative either. (see my comments on sustainability now)

So are large national exhibitions and conference days numbered?  Logic would say yes, maybe being replaced by smaller, regional and local events.  But then the Green Build and Eco City mega conferences in the USA tend to suggest otherwise as they attract tens of thousands to the event with many thousand others tuning in online. One noticeable aspect of these is the live blogging, podcasting the open approach to have a myriad of blogging media partners across the globe. This use of Web2, allows dialogue into and out of the events months before and months after the actual physical event, making them much more of a web presence than an event.  There is even the opportunity to twitter questions live into panel debates.

Looking ahead to upcoming sustainability events I am involved with actually gives comfort that we will / have avoided the issues Think may have fallen into.

Be2camp

The idea for an ‘event’ to explore web2 approaches within the built environment came from attending other barcamp and pecha kucha events. These have a unique buzz and vibrancy lacking at corporate feel events.

Be2Camp to be held on October 10th (London) is being organised on unconference or BarCamp principles, with a very open approach to determining the agenda, the attendees decide!  The organisers based in three continents communicate through twitter, skype and blogs, again very open, allowing anyone to contribute. Consequently it has the feel of being very much a peoples event, and grows in spirit and scope as more join the planning.  It is planned to stream happenings out from the event onto the web and possibly a parallel event within second life.

Constructing the Sustainable Way

The Elevate East Lancs sustainability conference scheduled for October organised through Creative Concern. This has been referred to as the eco build or green build of the north, but is much much more than that. Yes it will have names, but will also be the celebration of the local sustainable stars competition that  has been running for months. Care has been taken to ensure that the workshops are practical, learning and sharing sessions, there will be second life link ups and open mic pecha kucha question time evening events planned.  Again it is shaping up to be a peoples event.

(The website for this event is scheduled to go live today I am told – so watch this space)

ecological cities

Now the Eco City World Summit 2008 has concluded there is a rich source of live blog reports, reviews and videos over at the Eco City blog.   Go view and mine the collective source of global views on the future of cities

If you take away one thing from the summit : the ecological city message is summed up in the BBC Interview on the World service with Richard Register.

Other recommendations:

worldchanging ecocity highlights

Holly Pearson live blogged:  An incredible assemblage of the world’s brightest minds that are working to build greener cities and towns gathered for three and a half days of presentations, discussions, city tours, arts & culture, and celebration. As an urban planner for whom the sustainable cities movement is not only a passion but also a raison d’etre, professionally speaking, I found the conference to be nothing short of mind-blowing.

A Convenient Truth: Urban Solutions from Curitiba, Brazil

documentary focusing on innovations in transportation, recycling, social benefits including affordable housing, seasonal parks, and the processes that transformed Curitiba into one of the most livable cities in the world.

Brent Toderian – City of Vancouver’s Director of City Planning,  many projects related to the 2010 Winter Olympics, and visioning/CityPlans, including the new “EcoDensity” – the most livable city in the world, removing car facilities from the city, through a travel plan than favours walking.

Jaime Lerner Key Note

Live blogging at Eco City

Eco city world summit is underway in San Fransisco with Live Blogs. It will be of interest to witness how the concept of live blogging can capture the essence of conferences. I await the opening speech from Jaime Lerner with interest and will repost here.

From the opening plenary  I noticed no UK representation – obviously saving on travel carbon footprint 🙂

With on-the-hour video capturing and posting throughout the week of Ecocity 2008, this site will offer an exciting interchange which makes a global connection possible.

Gary Braash

Following links from the Eco City 2008 site I have been browsing through the stunning environmental pictures of Gary Braash.  From his website:

Gary Braasch photographs environmental issues and conservation, nature, biodiversity, ecosystems, field science, and climate change in stock photos and assignments. Pictures of landscape, patterns, forests, Antarctica, the Arctic, global warming, cities and travel destinations are used by publications worldwide. Nature photos include flora and fauna, plants, animals, birds and insects. His photography grows from a deeply felt connection with nature and an ardent conservation ethic.

On landscape I see a resemblence to Galen Rowell but its the Cities and Environmental images that convey our impact on the earth.

are green buildings usable?

It seems we are becoming awash with green buildings, eco homes and eco towns.

There are some great sites out there with green architecture eye candy (check out Mad Architecture for example).

We have some major and significant conferences and events on the horizon – from the international Eco City 2008, Green Build 2008 and West Coast Green, here in the UK Think 08, and more locally the Elevate Exemplar event in September and the Lancs Best Practice Club July event.  All very different and important to their target audiences.

Even in Second Life there are great green and sustainable ‘built environment’ demonstration and education projects

And yet in all the design, conferences, events and working groups I see very little about the usability of green buildings – what is it like to work, live and play in them?  What does the comfort level  within (and around) green building do for health, for productivity and for well being?  What is it really like to be a citizen of a eco-city such as Auroville?

Once again I am convinced its not the building – green or other wise – but the way we use buildings that is paramount importance on the sustainability agenda – as Prof Keith Alexander down at the Center for Facilities Management comments – its about building consumption – not production. 

Time to turn the telescope around?  Is the green / sustainability movement in the built environment stuck in the building production with eye candy design, at the expense of the usability of the buildings?

As a Friday comment – I am throwing down a challenge for comments and evidence – are  Green Buildings usable?

I invite guest posts here and links to sites that discuss this issue.