Green goes mainstream

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land.

Wandering round the EcoBuild show a couple of weeks ago, several things struck me. One, obviously, was ‘where on earth am I and how can I find that stand I want?’, but one other was how mainstream the show seems to have grown.

I missed last year, so I last visited Ecobuild in 2007, when it was only in Earls Court 2 and it was very definitely an eco event: lots of straw bales and sheep’s wool insulation and a few long haired tree-hugger types. OK, there was a lot more besides, but the overall impression was of a niche – but definitely growing – event for a niche ( but definitely growing) sector.

How things have changed. I was really struck by how mainstream so many of the products now seem. Yes, the straw bales are still there but so too was natural stone paving and gas boilers.

There did seem to be quite a bit of clever market positioning amongst some product sectors, too. Things that would fit quite nicely at a more mainstream show like Interbuild suddenly seem to have sprouted sustainable credentials that I’m not sure would stand up to the closest scrutiny.

And I have to say, fair play to those companies concerned. This is the only sector that seems to be growing, construction wise at the moment.

There is a real thirst for knowledge about the products and issues and there seems to be a real commitment from government that building in the future needs to take account of the world around it. Yes, their insistence that the CERT scheme is the way to improve the energy efficiency of the existing housing stock is decidedly skewed in favour of any part of the supply chain that isn’t builders merchanting. The fact remains, however, that more sustainable building is on the government’s agenda and isn’t going to get off it, no matter who is voted in next time.

For merchants this is obviously going to be just as much of a growth area but there is still a lack of awareness amongst them, their staff, their customers and their customers’ customers about what is meant by a sustainable product , what is available, what is truly sustainable, and how it can be used and installed.

Training, promotion, dialogue, even advertising for goodness sake: they’re all about getting the message across so that people can make informed decisions. Informed buying decisions. And once they’ve made a buying decision they can buy, because that’s what we need.

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About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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