THE 2021 SBE VIRTUAL CONFERENCE 22 – 24 February 2021

THE 2021 SBE VIRTUAL CONFERENCE  22 – 24 February 2021

Date: 25.09.2020

THE 2021 SBE VIRTUAL CONFERENCE 22 – 24 February 2021

One-day introductory seminar: A New Approach to Architecture

Resilience, restoration, regeneration, carbon neutral, embodied energy – these and similar terms slip off the tongue of every millennial out there. Ageism has entered the design debate with a vengeance and the youth are blaming everyone older than 35 for the climate mess that we are in. Whether this blame is justified or not, ignorance definitely is not - “It’s not OK, Boomer!”

It is time for established practitioners to get with the programme and up-skill ourselves to be able to participate and influence the future. Design needs to deal with both mitigation and adaptation – adapting design for a very different climate and extreme weather will be critical.

Two-day conference presentations: Focus on the Future - The Future Is Now

Enough debate on whether the climate is changing, whether it is man-made, whether this or that way is the best to combat it. We all know that human development is destroying the earth, whether through plastics in the oceans, pollution of the atmosphere or habitat destruction. So, what are we going to do about it? How we counteract the impact of the built environment and adapt to a very different climate, extreme weather, variable resources, social emergencies and biodiversity loss will be critical. What can we proactively relinquish from our current/past design concepts, in order to achieve the transformative change necessary?

Each event – regenerative design and hand-building training, the seminar on new approaches to architecture and the conference itself - will consider the following two questions:

1. In view of the climate and biodiversity emergency/crisis, what can we expect to happen?

2. How can and should we deal with what may happen?

These two questions will be addressed through three lenses – the classic triumvirate of people, planet, profit - re-interpreted through a more holistic lens, and linked to the regenerative design mantra of “earth care, people care, fair share”

.. and variations

Earth, our future - regenerative design and construction

The world continues to design and build, causing increasing damage to the natural environment that sustains us. What can practitioners in the building professions do to turn around our negative impact on the planet’s biodiversity and climate? Designers are meant to be innovative problem-solvers and able to connect the dots. These papers, posters and presentations will showcase approaches to these critical problems.

The future of humanity - addressing climate migration, and food and water security

Whether one believes that “technology will save us” or not, it is clear that this will not be either a short-term or comprehensive solution for the problems that most people in the world face today. During the entire existence of Homo sapiens, people have migrated for a better future for themselves and their families. But this persistence of human existence is becoming increasingly unrealistic – the grass cannot be greener elsewhere if there is no grass. What are the challenges we face in this regard and what solutions are there? How can we achieve climate justice?

Confronting the future - creating action through advocacy and mobilisation for change

Are we doing enough to combat the climate and biodiversity emergencies and crises? Brilliant proposals remain just that – proposals - unless there is political, institutional and financial support for implementation. Construction professionals are notoriously ill-equipped to source such support.


This practical course will combine Permaculture design and hand building at a local school. The increase in temperatures, decrease in water availability as well as extreme weather events dictate that we generate a pragmatic implementation that will be of benefit to the school and school-goers. Permaculture design processes and principles will be used to determine the siting of buildings, earthworks and implementations before participants get their hands dirty.

The cob/adobe top structure will be built onto a double chambered composting toilet which addresses water scarcity, the collection of humanure, diversion of sewage out of water-based systems and shares an appropriate technology with the school community. This tried and tested solution can be replicated and maintained without hard-to-find parts, and is less vulnerable to human error than manufactured composting toilets.

The climate context is one of increasing severity in drought/flood cycles, so participants will also be working on managing rain runoff with earthworks, as well as water collection off roofs. Rain runoff will be directed to earthworks that support vegetation which will cool and shade buildings. The plant guilds selected should eventually become self-managing perennial ecosystems that continue to develop and improve the microclimate around the school. There is potential for productive species to be included in the vegetation mix. These simple design approaches can be adapted to other contexts. Participants should leave the course armed with the right questions to ask in any context, as well as some simple skills and techniques for building climate resilience as well as regenerating landscapes.

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