Leeds at the front of the Sustainability Challenge – SEEDS International Conference 2019
The timing of this year’s Sustainable Ecological Engineering Design for Society (SEEDS) conference was unfortunately fortuitous, as surrounding events had pushed sustainability dilemma to the top of the news agenda.
The sustainability challenge, whilst still not well understood, is being met with growing interest and the SEEDS scientific community are leading the research agenda. The conference, which preceded the Global Climate Strikes and in the midst of the Greta Thunberg’s lead was alive with scientific debate and passion, which focused our minds on the problem. As the awareness of environmental impact is ever present, the consequence of our actions are still not being taken seriously. While public figures are raising concerns, such as David Attenborough bringing to bear the problem of plastic in our ocean and species decline, we still see the next generation, embraced by Greta’s persona, with grave concern for the damage that has caused by their elders. Since we held our first SEEDS conference, over 5 years ago we have seen the political scene shift, in response to the Paris Agreement, Durban Platform and the launch of the Global Sustainability Goals, yet still global emissions, pollution and temperatures continue to rise at an unprecedented scale.
At the SEEDs conference, we have maintained our position to push forward with activities and discussions that continue to move the local and global endeavours forward. Over the two days more than 150 people from 18 different countries contributed to the papers, presentation, posters and discussions. This year’s conference was jointly organised by the University of Suffolk, Dublin Technical University and Leeds Beckett University, taking place at the Waterfront in Ipswich.
Leeds Beckett University, staff and students were well represented and were successful in a number of awards. Dean Myres a part-time PhD Leeds Beckett University student received the CIOB SEEDS prize for best paper in class. Rochila Kundu a Leeds Architectural Technology student received an Award for Fire and Safety, for a BIM Implementation for Existing High-Rise Social Housing, based on Grenfell Tower. John Heathcote and Markus Bleier won the Sustainability and Stakeholders Award. Professor Alice Owen, Kathryn Janda and Kate Simpson of the University of Leeds also received an award for Sustainability in Education. Leeds is a leader in innovation and movements for change both Universities are members of the Leeds Climate Commission and are working with the Council to reduce our environmental impact in the city.
As a result of all the recent activity in the University and across Yorkshire, Professor Chris Gorse was called upon to speak on BBC Look North’s Sunday Politics Programme. Sitting alongside a student from Sheffield Hallam, Chris commented that when we think about Climate Change we should not just think about global warming and sever decline in the species and the eco system, but the impact that pollution is having on our health. Air pollution alone accounts for almost 40,000 premature deaths every year, we are still a major contributor of CO2 and our emission impact on our own health. Although our emissions have fallen, this is a result of renewable energy, our emissions from residential and personal use are still increasing.
Christopher Gorse is a Professor of Construction and Project Management, Director of the Leeds Sustainability Institute and Head of the Centre for the Built Environment, Low Carbon and Sustainability Research Group, with over 20 years research and consultancy experience.