AECB conference 2023: from edible landscaping to whole life carbon
Charlie Luxton describing how the ratio between carbon emissions from operational energy use and embodied carbon can shift as low energy building efforts advance.

AECB conference 2023: from edible landscaping to whole life carbon

Delegates at the 2023 AECB Conference heard a wide range of speakers covering everything from guerrilla edible planting to peak oil to detailed discussions on whole life carbon calculation.

This article was originally published in issue 46 of Passive House Plus magazine. Want immediate access to all back issues and exclusive extra content? Click here to subscribe for as little as €15, or click here to receive the next issue free of charge

The two-day event, held at the School of Natural Building at Tod College in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, started with an inspirational talk by community activist Mary Clear MBE on the work of Incredible Edibles. The local community benefit society that runs several initiatives to forge community within the town, centring on food, growing fruit, herbs and vegetables around the town – sometimes on an “ask forgiveness, not permission” basis, and runs weekly meals which are free to all.

The food theme was complemented by the plenary talk from Prof Steven N Newman of Biodiversity International, who spoke about food forests and new forest villages as a peaceful path to real reform.

AECB CEO Andy Simmonds updated delegates on the association’s work over the last 12 months, including the development of a step-by-step approach to retrofit under the CarbonLite Retrofit standard – an approach designed to enable significant decarbonisation of existing homes even when significant fabric upgrade measures are not possible.

Passive House Plus editor Jeff Colley chaired the Sponsors Under Scrutiny session, where the AECB invited the event’s carefully selected sponsors to articulate their business in terms of specific sustainability concerns, with talks given by Platinum sponsor Partel’s director Hugh Whiriskey, and Gold sponsors including Medite Smartply’s head of technical affairs David Murray, Green Building Store MD Andy Mitchell, and Airflow Developments’ national business development manager Stephen Parker.

Day two opened with a plenary talk from broadcaster and architectural designer Charlie Luxton, who described how his firm’s projects approach sustainability, with an emphasis on passive house energy performance levels and a creative yet rigorous approach to a range of sustainability considerations including reducing embodied carbon, circularity and biodiversity.

Luxton’s talk was followed by a joint plenary by Prof Robert Lowe and Dr Lai Fong Chiu of UCL Energy Institute on systems shocks and peak oil, including the problem of negotiating multiple constraints on energy, economic and geopolitical development through the 21st century.

Over the two days a number of interactive, hands-on and technical workshops were hosted on a diverse range of subjects, with highlights including Dr Huda Elsherif and AECB CEO Andy Simmonds describing their work on creating climate resilient buildings in the global south; a panel discussion with QODA Consulting’s Dr Sarah Price, MCS Charitable Foundation’s Alastair Mumford, LEAP’s Mark Siddall and AECB standards manager Tim Martel on the CarbonLite Retrofit step-by-step standards; Greengauge’s Toby Cambray on deep home retrofit; and workshops by The School of Natural Building’s Barbara Jones on pre-fabricated straw panels and Partel’s Dara McGowan on airtightness application.


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AECB (Association for Environment Conscious Building) is a network of individuals & companies with a common aim of promoting sustainable building.