Exploring Sustainable Solutions: A Closer Look at FOOTPRINT+ and BCO Conference

As the conference season continued in full force with FOOTPRINT+ and BCO, June certainly delivered the goods.

First up was FOOTPRINT+ which, despite being a relative newcomer to the annual calendar, is already very influential with its laser focus on a zero carbon future, dubbed ‘the centre of excellence exploring state-of-the-art techniques on carbon reduction’.

Thousands of professionals across every sector of UK real estate and representatives from local authorities grabbed their sunscreen and – together with two of our team – made their way to the iconic Brighton seafront for three days of insights, knowledge sharing, new innovations and plenty of networking opportunities.

It was great to see so many come together to explore tangible solutions and best practice to address the challenge of reducing carbon emissions across the built environment. Feedback was very positive, with people saying that they felt many of the valuable learnings were directly relevant to their current projects.

The agenda was packed with 60 presentations and brilliant panel discussions led by top experts, with four topic ‘streams’: Efficient Buildings, Zero Carbon Energy, Retrofit & Circular Economy and the Carbon Revolution. Some of the highlights included discussions on green finance, the need for standardised methodology to assess the impact of ESG on market valuations and asset value, the importance of boosting transparency into the embodied carbon of building services, the rise of NABERS UK as the rating of choice to measure and improve energy performance and why we should allow for flexibility through both retrofit and redevelopment approaches.

Other sessions tackled how design can be a driver of the circular economy; materials (use of timber, decarbonising concrete and re-use of steel) and an excellent roundtable on the role of data and smart building technology in delivering sustainable solutions. Digitalisation has been a recurring top theme at many of the recent events we’ve attended, as a key enabler of a greener future.

There’s no denying the urgency for the built environment to decarbonise and contribute to net zero targets, so it was encouraging to see such appetite for change and finding innovative solutions to pressing issues. Sign us up for next year!

Meanwhile, Dublin played host to the hugely popular British Council for Offices (BCO) Conference for its milestone 30th edition. The BCO’s senior vice president, Despina Katsikakis, noted that the Republic of Ireland’s capital was a fitting setting, given its rich architectural heritage and incredible transformation in the last twenty years – particularly the regeneration of its Docklands district that is attracting more and more world-leading finance and big tech HQs (including Meta’s first non-US site).

Spread over two days, this event saw some of the leading voices in commercial real estate debate issues such as how the sector can approach the post-pandemic new normal and a market landscape of higher interest rates and lower occupancy rates. With the shift to hybrid working models seen in cities including London, there was recognition that the role of the office has evolved and companies need fresh approaches to enticing back employees. Offices are increasingly focused on people-centric design, experiences and making flexible, creative, inspiring and collaborative spaces.

There was talk also of how offices can (and must!) contribute to the circular economy and the net zero agenda. Further, there’s a need to focus on repurposing and revitalising existing, grade B office stock, and how developers are increasingly integrating workspaces into the fabric of communities. Offices can bring economic and social value together with sustainability benefits to support thriving and resilient cities. The 2024 conference will take place in Birmingham.