Construction conferences in today’s economic climate are important not just in sorting the wheat from the chaff but in opening up the conversation.

One of our founder members asked the question about challenging the perception that the mainstream has about ‘natural building’: why not have “Lectures challenging the industry’s approach to embodied carbon, circular economy, sustainable construction, inhabitant health, ecological impact, moisture regulation?” It was as if the organisers of today’s conference was listening to his inner thoughts.

We heard bold statements from the likes of Ian Mawditt and he, like others demonstrated how one click out of the cycle of the system can throw health and wellbeing of an individual into a downward spiral of illness (see Slide 8).

Mark Allan of Saint Gobain pointed to how the narrative is evolving into bettering the outlook for ‘health and wellbeing’: feeding into it with better performing materials. Public sector funding might well need a higher level of accountability and private funding on a mass scale might well be frowned upon if delivered just to the privileged, however instead of looking upon these moments cynically perhaps we ought to joyously look at the bigger developments as a source of inspiration as the public sector tweaks its systems to lean this way. The debate of man-made materials versus natural materials will always cause consternation across the industry and as one delegate opined “the impact of widely sourced materials and its affect on the eco-system on the whole” as a point for debate one gets the feeling that a meeting of minds is no longer just a soundbite for empty, vacuous action.

One of the most heartfelt talks was from Amena Warner of Allergy UK. Despite dismissing myths of washing clothes at cooler temperatures the more pertinently topics centred on the initial designs of a school, workplace or home. We overlook the wider outcome to meet our  immediate, urgent needs and sadly pay for this in the long term.

The effort of this collective group of insightful minds will keep innovating and be always forward looking. Barbara Jones of Straw Works has persisted when others might previously have given up and her talk astounded the already converted about the wonderments of building with Straw Bale. The benefits of working with clay and earth building was not missed by those in the rom and at last outside the industry these aspects are beginning to bear fruit too. Roll on ASBP 2018!

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