GREEN ENGINEERING can save you money. This was the overwhelming message from last week's ICE South Western association conference 'The business opportunities of sustainable development' jointly chaired by Royal Institute of British Architects president Paul Hyett and ICE President Mark Whitby.
Each speaker at the multi-disciplinary conference, held at the Gaia Energy Centre on the north Cornwall coast, recognised that tackling sustainability involves social, economic and environmental development.
A common gripe of engineers often is that their status in society is dwindling. But through sustainable engineering and directly improving peoples lives there is an ideal opportunity to reclaim their rightful laurels, claimed Cornwall County Council sustainable development officer, Anthony Weight.
Presentations on the acclaimed Wessex Water Operations Centre in Bath and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs building in Temple Quay, Bristol, gave examples of the approach to sustainable design being embraced by today's designers.
And sustainable design can offer real savings, explained WSP director of sustainablity Peter Sharratt, in setting out the future potential of carbon trading.
In the near future, he said, large property owners may actually earn money by operating environmentally efficient buildings, selling tradable carbons to less environmentally aware firms.
Water harvesting schemes are also potential money-spinners, according to Polypipe Civils national environmental products manager, Chris Brewster.
'We are currently dealing with a large client who is considering selling the rainwater it collects on its large site to neighbouring firms on smaller sites.
'Schemes which make best use of rainwater for non-potable uses will be even further promoted through the latest planning guidance, PPG 25, which is currently in draft format.'
The influence of planning authorities is arguably the most powerful driver on sustainable development, explained Arup associate director Chris Twinn.
Twinn, who led the Arup involvement in the south London sustainable housing development BedZed (NCE 29 November 2001), told the conference:
'Planners are hiking up the stakes and will demand more and more sustainable design.'
Electric vehicles will also begin to play more of a role, said electric car manufacturer E2V owner, David Bock. 'The cost of batteries will drop tenfold in the next five years, with increased efficiency offering greater range between far quicker recharging.'
Zero emissions and much cheaper fuel make electric vehicles not only sustainable but also economic. Plymouth City Council has introduced three electric vehicles that, although only have a range of 85km, are ideal for short distance trips around town.
'Charging is done via a standard three pin plug and costs just 10p, ' added Bock. 'And they are simple and great fun to drive with uniform acceleration performance at all speeds.'
Alan Sparks INFOPLUS www. e2v.co.uk