In early March, I attended the Ecobuild 2010 Conference and Expo in London, England to see how the sustainable and green awareness message and activity level is handled in the United Kingdom and Europe. Our parent company, Saint-Gobain was an event sponsor and large exhibitor at this event displaying our sustainable solutions and systems. This show is the equivalent of the GreenBuild Conference and Expo held annually in the U.S. It was an eye-opener, to say the least. The U.K. is far ahead of us in the development and integration of energy efficient products. The show had 1,000 exhibitors, attracted 41,000 attendees, and hosted 600 speakers on sustainable topics. The enthusiasm on the show floor ran high. It is clear that even in this time of downturn in the construction industry, the goal of a lower carbon built environment continues to accelerate in other parts of the world.
The heavier emphasis on energy efficiency at Ecobuild verses the trade events I have seen here in the U.S. could be because the cost of energy in the U.K. is higher for both homes and automobiles. In addition, government regulations are more stringent with regard to requiring industry to reduce carbon emissions.
Not surprisingly, there was a strong emphasis on insulation products, primarily fiberglass but also reflective foils and foam insulations. I am an Insulation guy so I was particularly interested in these products. A new product I saw was a wood fiber insulation product that is used in side walls as a replacement for other types of insulation. Solar panels, either for roofs or ground installation, were also heavily displayed.
But most intriguing was the fact that in every product display, regardless of its place in the building structure, for example a roof truss or steel stud, the marketing story had some energy efficiency twist to it. They weren’t just selling wood, roofing or insulation every product had an element of how the product contributes to saving energy and reducing the carbon footprint. The small effort to include more energy efficiency visuals and words in terms of the products we promote would go a long way in raising the consciousness of energy efficiency in the U.S.
The construction industry could learn a good lesson from the activities that the U.K. is undertaking in terms of the development of energy efficient products, and in generating awareness of energy efficient products. We shouldn’t wait until regulations change or mandates kick-in to step-up sustainable product development and implementation. The momentum started over there could easily be transferred over here which would not only be good for our planet but also for our pocketbook.
Eric Nilsson is Vice President, Corporate Marketing for CertainTeed Corporation