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International conference puts housing firmly on the sustainable design agenda

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Experts from across the globe gather to find solutions

An international conference hosted by the University of East London (UEL) and partners has placed sustainable housing firmly on the agenda of architects from across the globe. 

The International Conference for Sustainable Design of the Built Environment (SDBE) 2018 was led by UEL senior lecturer in architectural technology, Dr Heba Ehab Elsharkawy (pictured, far left). Dr Heba's research includes participation in a 24-month project (funded by £288,000 from the British Council.) which is looking at how the procurement, design and sustainability of buildings and cities can be improved.

Over two days in September, a line-up of expert speakers and delegates from as far away as Egypt, the United States, the United Arab Emirates, India, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Cuba and more gathered for the SDBE conference at the Crystal - a world-leading sustainable conference and exhibition space - on the banks of Royal Albert Dock.

Dr Elsharkawy said, “Our conference theme was ‘Research in Practice’ where the focus was on showcasing sustainable design, building energy performance, sustainable planning of neighbourhoods and cities, and emphasising a balanced approach to environmental, socio-economic and technical aspects of sustainability in practice based on research.” 

Many presenters drew upon international examples of how sustainable design, materials, procurement and maintenance were taking shape in places like Argentina, Brazil, Sudan and Ireland. 

Two keynote presentations also highlighted the opportunities for sustainable practices when it comes to designing and building homes. 

Professor Philip Jones of Cardiff University discussed the development of building performance to deliver sustainable buildings through a variety of case studies, including the SOLCER (Smart Operation for a Low Carbon Energy Region) house, the UK’s first smart carbon-positive energy house, which exports more energy to the national electricity grid than it uses.

On the second day, academics, researchers, architects, urban designers and engineers attending the conference heard from Professor Sean Smith of Edinburgh Napier University. He presented on the future of global housing, in particular housing demand, innovation and sustainability where countries in the developed and developing world are facing major challenges in providing sufficient and appropriate housing to their growing populations. 

UEL is leading the 24-month project with partners Ain Shams University, Egypt, and the University of Strathclyde, Scotland. Other outputs from the project to date include a number of training programmes and workshops delivered in the UK and Egypt, as well as conference and journal papers. 

Dr Elsharkawy and UEL colleagues have also been leading research into the energy efficiency and thermal comfort of residential and commercial buildings in London, which could contribute to better working conditions for residents and employees, as well as reduce money spent on utilities.

A special issue in Elsevier’s Journal of Sustainable Cities and Society has been dedicated to the extended papers from the SDBE 2017 and SDBE 2018 conferences.

Dr Elsharkawy concluded, “Housing is an important issue for society, with the demand for affordable homes and environmental concerns at the forefront of current affairs, which means our project and the expertise shared will prove vital in finding solutions to those issues, drawing on UK and international insight.”