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Innovation counts I

Innovation is what distinguishes a leader from a follower said the late Steve Jobs of Apple. Increasingly, innovation is held as being one of the most signifi cant corporate business drivers. It leads to faster growth, increased market share and better corporate positioning, as Apple proves. And innovation through sustainability and CSR is not a pipe dream for the property world either, says OPP columnist Gordon Miller.

n some quarters sustainability itself remains an innovation. For others, innovation within a sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) context is the cutting edge. And these are exactly the sort of issues we will be exploring at a Sustain Worldwide seminar to be held on 23 May 2012 called “Innovation through sustainability and CSR: Driving Profi table Business Growth.” The seminar’s facilitator Andy Caldwell of CoCreate, whose consultants have worked with Sony and SAP, said: “The word ‘sustainability’ is often understood as businesses simply doing things more ethically, or in a more environmentally-friendly way. Yet sustainability is not just a “nice to have” box-ticking exercise. Sustainability is increasingly important in the global marketplace - from government regulation through to product development and consumer behaviour. Factoring in these changing trends and drivers to your business processes is what leads to real innovation and bottom-line return. This could be in product development, effective marketing and PR or internal cost reduction.” Sustain Worldwide CEO Anwar Harland-Khan says to those who might attend the event,

which will follow a case study and workshop format. Attendees will leave the session with: hard hitting facts to present to their MD or board as to why innovation through sustainability and CSR pays; ideas for effective sustainability and CSR strategies that will win new business; practical pointers to recognise how inter-sector collaboration can deliver profi table business growth; and case studies to underpin how sustainability and CSR drives commercial success.

Case studies of companies that are making sustainable innovation the bedrock of their corporate strategy – and in the process are driving profi table business growth – will be showcased at the day, including the event’s headline sponsor Climaveneta. The Italy-headquartered HVAC and HPAC manufacturer is pre-eminent in its fi eld, with a global turnover in excess of £200m. A case in point is Climaveneta’s latest innovation, free cooling technology, which enables air conditioning units to achieve the full cooling requirement without the use of compressors through a direct heat exchange between the plant’s hydraulic circuit and the outdoor air. The upshot, through innovation, is effective performance with reduced energy

Hit return| Building homes that are sustainable is going to be get easier and faster

demand, which means customers enjoy increased energy savings and reduced CO2 emissions. Technology is often considered the cutting edge of innovation ... the point where man’s ingenuity and mastery combine to greatest effect. Consider the potential if nature’s elements could not only be harnessed (as they are in, for example, hydro electricity) but if buildings could naturally respond to humidity and light and adapt their performance for the inhabitants’ comfort and to lessen our need for mechanical heat and power. Such so-called adaptive envelopes are no longer in the realms of science fi ction but are “in research” via material technologies that could be applied within the built environment during the next fi ve to ten years. Bob Cunningham of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, http://wyss. said: “There are natural gels that are mechanically responsive (they swell or shrink) to light, heat, or humidity. Imagine the benefi ts to solar energy generation of a panel comprised of billions of microscopic mirrors embedded in a gel that continually moves the mirrors to focus light on a solar cell as the sun moves across the sky each day. Similarly, refl ective panels on the surface of a building can be tuned via the gel to respond to changing environmental conditions, such as refl ecting more sunlight on a hot day than during the winter when passive solar heating is a benefi t. None of these panels require motors, gears or other mechanisms that consume energy or require maintenance.” Craig Schwitter, Managing Director of international consulting engineers Buro Happold North America, sees adaptive materials technology as hugely signifi cant to mankind. “Biologically inspired architecture is not a trifl e,” he said. “It has the ability to conquer many of the world’s architectural and living

Gordon Miller is the Co- founder and Sustainability & Communications Director of business alliance Sustain Worldwide ( He is a licensed BREEAM International Assessor and consults to housebuilders and developers on sustainability and environmental management systems. Gordon writes for newspapers including the Financial Times and The Guardian.

challenges. “Let’s look at it this way. Buildings’ energy footprint in cities accounts for 40-50% of total energy use. We can effectively control only about 20% of a buildings’ energy use; adaptive building facades could cut carbon use by around 20%. What’s the alternative? We can’t knock down our existing buildings and start again.” Climate change mitigation is only one of the drivers. Shawn Gupta, a Senior Engineer - Façade Engineering at Buro Happold, says legislation, rising energy and water costs, and innovation are the key business drivers. Buro Happold has responded to the challenge (and opportunity) by co-founding, in 2008, the Adaptive Building Initiative (ABI) as a joint venture with architects Hoberman Associates. Technological innovation excites most of us, but often it is as potent when it is dealing with people and their practices. Solar Century, a UK market leader in solar energy, has embraced sustainability to provide differentiation – how in a sustainable industry does one stand out and become more sustainable than one’s peers? In Solar Century’s case, its CSR and employee engagement initiatives create brand value, demonstrate higher employee retention rates and returns profi table business growth. To fi nd out more, please go to “http://www.” |MAY 2012

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