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Delegates’ verdict of the CIC Yorkshire & Humber Annual Conference

Posted: 2nd July 2014

Built environment students and professionals gathered at the National Railway Museum in York last week for the CIC Yorkshire & Humber annual conference.

Inspired by the 2014 Tour de France Grand Depart, the conference looked at the sustainable communities that have been built along the much publicised cycle route, by means of ‘construction checkpoints’ in Leeds, Ripon, York, Bolton Abbey, Hebden Bridge and Sheffield, some of which date as far back as the Prehistoric.

The speakers were Tom Riordan, CEO of Leeds City Council; Paul Oldfield, Senior Design Manager at BAM Construct UK (contractor for the Leeds Arena); Rebecca Thompson, Superintendent of Works at Dean and Chapter, York Minster; Owen Daggett, Sustainability Manager at Joseph Rowntree Foundation; Dr Jeremy Lake of English Heritage; Mary Clear of Incredible Edibles; Charles Campion of John Thompson & Partners; and Simon Ogden, Head of City Regeneration at Sheffield City Council.

Stefanie Stead, CIC Yorkshire & Humber Regional Chair and Architect at Pearce Bottomley Architects in Leeds, said of the event: “The theme of the day was about what makes sustainable communities; but it became abundantly clear from all the presentations, that buildings are only a small part of something much, much bigger. We are but a speck in the history of things. Whether a city responding to centuries of industrial change or a field barn set in a continually changing agricultural landscape, buildings are key points in time. The only constant is change itself.”

The idea that the built environment is part of a bigger, and unknown, landscape was a feature in the presentations by Jeremy Lake, Tom Riordan, Paul Oldfield, and Simon Ogden. Each made the point that the built environment is like a theatre backdrop against which we live our lives. By creating a public square for example, a festival will take place at which people meet, relationships are formed and marriages made.

In his presentation Oldfield pointed out that the reason why so many high quality arenas are being built is due to the reduction in CD sales and that artists now need to tour in order to generate income. Mary Clear and Charles Campion demonstrated very effectively how pride in the local environment can lead to great and incredibly inspiring outcomes; that buildings, and the wider built environment, are a direct result of social, as well as economic and political factors.

Rebecca Thompson showed how the industry can continue to be part of the wider history. She highlighted how most of the techniques used by modern day apprentices would be recognisable to their medieval counterparts; and St Wilfred, in the 7th century, used a mobile, foreign workforce to supplement the local labour market. Owen Daggett also reassured the audience that the principles that built the original model Rowntree communities are still applicable today.

Stefanie Stead thanked Yorkshire poet, Ian McMillan, for doing a magnificent job as Chair, and for “seeing aspects of the industry as a non-construction professional and thereby making us see things perhaps a little differently. He made everyone laugh while we learned something meaningful.”

McMillan’s entertaining rhyming summaries to each of the presentations had the audience laughing from the outset, and his stunning performance of 'The Trousers of Sustainability', a poem which he wrote during the course of the day (available shortly on the website), was indeed a fitting finale to a great conference.

Stead concluded: “I was delighted to have had so many young people from York College at the Conference because they are the future of the industry. This conference has been extraordinary. The Grand Depart coming to Yorkshire will have an enduring legacy on the region.”