By Suzette Jackson, HASSELL

Helsinki

2 November 2011 – The aim of the World Sustainable Building Conferences is to share leading knowledge, and find new solutions which enhance sustainable ways of living and working within built environments, while addressing new opportunities for improving the quality of life and mitigating effects of climate change.

I recently attended the SB11 Helsinki where the conference certainly delivered on its aim, additionally ensuring greater involvement by developing countries in discussions on evidence based design and new theories for sustainable buildings, communities and cities.

The SB conference series have been running since 1998, bringing together the world’s leading technical experts and researchers on sustainable built environments. This year saw attendance by leading thinkers in the sustainability sector, architects, designers, scientists, ecologists, academics, researchers and those applying sustainable development, training and housing in developing countries.

The conference provides a feast of new ideas and case studies, and the opportunity to connect with those at the forefront of sustainable development.

Key note sessions began each of the four days individually themed including: recapping our past and speculating on the future 40 years; new scientific product developments; sustainable rebuilding activities in developing countries; and recent northern European sustainable developments.

Key note speakers included international experts such as Richard Lorch, Ray Cole and Ger Maas, but also speakers such as Christophe Lalande from UN-HABITAT and Cameron Sinclair, co-founder of CEO of Architecture for Humanity speaking about sustainable building, training and job creation in the developing world.

With six streams, keynote sessions, international meetings and special forums it would have to have been the most ambitious conference to date. As usual the Australian contingent was well represented by university academics, engineers, architects and designers. I enjoyed the company of international colleagues, such as David Clark of Cundall and Ambassador for the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) in Europe, Chrisna du Plessis from the University of Pretoria, and new found colleagues from Aalto University, Finland, and TU Delft University, Netherlands.

The four major rating tools were debated in Special Forum 8 titled “Cross-Scale Performance Assessment”.

Interestingly the four tools included LEED in the US, BREEAM from the UK, CASBEE from Japan, and Green Star from Australia, ranking the Australian tool as one to watch and reference. These tools all now or will soon offer both building and community tools (The Green Star Communities pilot is due for release in 2012). The Japanese tool offers the CASBEE City rating tool.

Case studies utilised international benchmarks and indicators, with regional differences being highlighted particularly in the northern European countries with their strong focus on Zero Energy Buildings (Denmark and Sweden), PLUS Homes (Germany) and One Tonne Living (Stockholm Resilience Centre).

SB11 Helsinki clearly demonstrated a move towards assessing communities and cities, embedding sustainable development at all scales from housing to whole cities, from access to safe and healthy food, transport, housing and jobs, to improve the quality of life for all people.

Helsinki put on a great weather (for this time of year), overcast and 6 degrees, free travel and plenty of design and shopping for all, including the pride of Finland, with product design from Ittalia, Merrimekko and of course the design of Alvar Aalto, Poul Henningson and the Moomins.

With the next World Sustainable Building Conference set for SB14 Barcelona and regional conferences in 2013, we can look forward to progressing sustainable cities and communities across both developed and developing countries in the coming years.

Suzette Jackson senior associate HASSELL presented a paper, “Organisational Sustainability” at the recent SB11 Helsinki conference in Finland.