Do renewables make sense? Can engineers stand up to architects? And can a bolt-on approach to renewable technology really reduce carbon dioxide emissions? The 2006 BSRIA Briefing delivered its verdict.
"Wind power," said John Gummer MP, "is not the whole answer to climate change. There is no silver bullet."
In his keynote speech to the BSRIA Briefing, the Conservative Party's Chairman of the Quality of Life Commission stressed that wind power was only a small part of the renewable energy solution. "We are not going to solve the problems of climate change merely by changing a section of our generating capacity to clean energy," said Gummer. "We are going to do it by a whole range of activities."
Gummer singled out local power generation as one of the potential ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving efficiency of Britain's generation capacity.
"In the next major building phase, which will be around 2010, we will have to have the generation which will be sufficiently localised so we can benefit from the heat as well as the power. If we get power stations up to 90 percent conversion efficiency, then we could effectively halve the emissions.
That will mean siting power stations nearer to areas of population, which will require changes in the planning regulations."
"We will also have to find ways for people to accept that," added Gummer. "Government will have to be legislatively tough and regulatory clever."
Death of the glass box
The celebrated architect of the Swiss Re tower in London, Ken Shuttleworth, called for "the death of the glass box", and a new form of architecture based on highly insulated, solid facades with smaller windows, located and sized appropriately for daylighting and views out.
"When you look at some of the buildings we've been building over the last 20 years, you think: what the hell have we been doing? All this glass, all the floor to ceiling glazing, internal blinds - what have we been playing at?
"The tree huggers were telling us it was all going to go wrong" said Shuttleworth. "But architecture's answer was to stick louvres all over the outside of a completely glazed box, and say it's low energy. We all know that's complete nonsense."
Shuttleworth's ire over high energy architecture was also directed at the services engineers, who, he said, were the industry's invisible men."
"Where are you?" he asked. "You seem to have an inferiority complex; you get biffed by the architects, and give in too easily to the requirements of the glass box.
"Engineers still say 'tell me what the cladding is and I'll tell you what the air conditioning needs to be,' when it should be the other way around."
"This is your moment in time" he added. "You could be sophisticated professionals, trying to save the planet. You need to get away from your normal way of doing things, like incomprehensible graphs, poorly presented. You need to get into communication more, and start campaigning."
Renewables: who where and when?