Insights from Brighton's Footprint+ 2023 Conference with Hadley's Dominic Spray

Hadley's Director of Sustainability and Innovation attended the Footprint+ 2023 conference earlier this month. Here is what he had to say.
Published Thu 29 Jun 2023

What’s going on at Footprint 23?

The big white conference tent on Brighton seafront was overheating to the point of being uncomfortable if you didn’t get your place next to an open door or were unfortunate enough to be on one of the inner stages presenting. If it was a deliberate tactic, designed to highlight the problems that global warming will bring to the UK and its built environment, it worked.

Despite all this, it was great to be back at the second Footprint conference in Brighton, hosted by Tim Pyne and Emily Day, and be part of a gathering of like minds who are all working towards achieving Net Zero in real estate. Like the inaugural event last year, it was a great mix of practical information, innovation, and a chance to meet the wider design and construction industry to swap notes and ideas around sustainable design. Various engineers we met offered suggestions on how to passively ventilate the conference premises due to the persistent sunshine – hopefully, the organisers will take note.

Meeting up with new and established industry contacts at an event focused on the UK Property market's relationship to the environment provides an opportunity to catch up and see how we are all faring in our attempts to tackle climate change. Comparing efforts to last year, you can benchmark progress and discuss strategy for both company-level activity and the wider industry.
I am encouraged by the anecdotally significant progress made over the last twelve months. There is now a broader and deeper understanding of the impact we can all have by adjusting our behaviour as both clients and as architects, designing buildings for a Net Zero future. All seemingly pulling in the same direction, it made for a collective sense of momentum and purpose when it came to the work we do individually within our respective companies.

The Footprint + Tent, Brighton

There was quite rightly a big focus on how to reinvigorate the UK timber industry with the New Model Building system. This is being pioneered by a group of our favourite consultants whom we have worked closely with already. Other key themes were materials, the circular economy, and the opportunities for retrofit.

“We are led by the client” is a familiar refrain when talking to architects and engineers. At Hadley, the changes we have made to our briefing and process documents are now, at last, taking that excuse away and allowing them to explore for us true, passive, performance-led design solutions, starting with a masterplan, and running through all aspects of a building's design.

Dominic Spray

Talking with architects at the conference, there was a broad consensus that efficient environmental design generally equals efficient cost outcomes, and a new simple and robust aesthetic can emerge from the increasing adoption of environmental-led design solutions. Will it look boring and repetitive? Well, that is the challenge we see for our architects and engineers who need to work smarter and with an increasingly detailed level of coordination from the very beginning of a project. We predict that the One Model design solution will be increasingly important in solving complex environmental challenges, now and in the future, a big subject in itself that will be the subject of a separate blog.

To find out more about Hadley's own commitments when it comes to these topics, give our 'ESG and Impact Report' a read, found under the Sustainability section of the website.