Debate 20 - Tipping points

Thursday, December 4th, 2003 | Debates

“No idea is more appealing”, wrote the Economist earlier in the year in an article about the Tory leadership, “than one which appears to offer not only an explanation for the grimness of one’s predicament, but also the possibility of escape from it”. The article was about tipping points.

Tipping points

Tipping points

The term derives from a mathematical insight known as geometrical progression and is most commonly used to help predict the speed at which epidemics of contagious disease are likely to spread but also for developments such as the spectacular explosion in mobile phone usage, or the fall in New York’s crime rate in the early 1990s. It could be a helpful lens through which to view the success we are having with our sustainability targets.

The idea is particularly topical because of the establishment of Margaret Beckett’s recent New Sustainable Buildings Task Group. “Clients” said Mrs Beckett, “must demand more sustainable buildings. Financial institutions must back developers. We need sustainability at the heart of our skills and professional training. We need architects and designers to incorporate .sustainability in their designs. Manufacturers must deliver efficient buildings services and fabric components. Builders must develop and market sustainable buildings, and we need consumers to demand those higher standards.”

We have been able to find few people in the industry that know anything about this new task group or what it is likely to say when it reports to government in February 2004, but that not withstanding, we wondered how helpful the idea of tipping points might be in getting the right sort of buildings build and moving towards the government’s very demanding sustainability targets more generally.

The debate was chaired by Terry Wyatt, Partner, Hoare Lea and Partners and President, CIBSE.

Paper 1: No Excuse

Mark Whitby , Director of +Whitby, champion for carbon counting and an ICE past President.

Paper 2: Tipping Points

David Fisk , Professor of Sustainability, Imperial College and Chief Government Scientist, ODPM

Paper 3: Tipping Points

Max Fordham , Director, Max Fordham & Partners and a CIBSE past president

Action points generated on the night.

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