The story of Ecobuild is almost part of industry folklore. The show, first launched in 2005 as a niche event for those interested in green buildings, which then grew to become one of the biggest events in the world for sustainable design, construction and the built environment.
From just 6,000 or so visitors at the start to its heady peak of 55,000 in 2011, at which point the show was bought by UBM for £51 million. Only then to be sold again on the eve of the 2017 event for a “nominal sum” following years of decline in the market and having cost UBM the best part of £35 million in lost goodwill.
Almost everyone can tell you about the ‘rise and fall’ of the event. It’s become one of those allegories for almost everything eco since the Great Recession.
But under new ownership and despite all sorts of schadenfreude, the show continued again in 2017 and 2018.
And this year, just like every Ecobuild we’ve attended, we found it full of gems.
Take, for example, Ongéan.
Named from the Old English word for ‘again’, this company is an ‘environmental design lab’ run by Adam David Ge-Saelis. Adam has built all sorts of buildings using reclaimed and recycled materials, and did the same to build all the entrance furniture for the Ecobuild show itself.
Vickie and I met Adam at the show, and he explained that he is working towards establishing reclamation centres near large new build housing and other construction sites where all sorts of damaged, defective, surplus or unwanted building materials can be put to use for the local community instead of ending up in a skip. We were completely inspired by Adam’s creativity, and support his very practical and beautiful approach to the circular economy.
At Ecobuild, we also discovered Passive Purple, the world’s first BBA-approved airtight liquid-applied vapour control membrane.
It’s a VOC-free spray, bright purple, which can be applied to any form of construction and which apparently guarantees to achieve Passivhaus air test results of 0.6 or lower. It also acts as a very successful Radon barrier.
We liked their innovative product, we liked their distinctive branding, and we liked their simple, very small stand. Who says that you need mega-bucks to make an impact at a trade show.
At the other end of the scale though was the stand for the ICE / Wavin / Ecobuild feature on flood water management, which must have cost a small fortune.
The Future of Drainage was a stunning feature at the show, complete with an audio-visual display projected onto a giant wave with thunder and lightning effects, and a huge graphic of disaster-movie style waves swamping Tower Bridge.
It was a very interactive exhibit, inviting visitors to contribute to an engineering “brain storm” with ideas on how best to manage increasing rainfall and flood waters in towns and cities. Wavin has cleverly set out to say “we don’t have all the answers” and has encouraged others to collaborate and interact with its brand in a year of true thought leadership.
So these are just three of the many interesting highlights of this year’s show. A grand goodbye by Ecobuild.
In 2019 it will become Futurebuild – a sensible rebrand to reflect the pivotal time of change we are already in and which will most certainly transform the construction industry over the next 12 months.
We’re looking forward to it already.