Bob Harris, FMB Master Builder of the Year 2005

The Future

Global warming is likely to give rise to increased sea levels between 1m and 10m in the next century (as a conservative estimate) there needs to be a review of the type of buildings we build to accommodate these changes in our UK environment and the suitability of certain types of building in certain areas.

For example: in areas where flooding is possible it may be appropriate to build lightweight structures that can be transported easily to higher land. The use of floating foundations similar to that used in Holland is another alternative, as well as the creation of built environments that will accommodate flooding at a later stage. Such buildings may be built on stilts or within walled areas. Even floating cities may be appropriate. On higher land, it may be appropriate to construct thermal mass buildings which react favourably with both hot and cold climatic conditions.

A cold climate is also a possible scenario we ought to be considering. The gradual slowing of the gulfstream caused by the desalination of the arctic ocean by melting polar ice may result in extreme cooling across northern Europe.

It has been estimated that the UK's average temperature could be reduced by up to 10 degrees. Given that our average temperature is only 10 degrees to begin with, we could be in for a very long cold spell indeed.

A review of the UK in relation to infrastructure links across high land needs to take place, and adjustments made where necessary. Alongside this strategy it would be prudent to create buildings which are autonomous and self sufficient, able to deal with their own energy and efflueft requirements.

The policy of a planned movement from the lower terraces to the higher terraces needs to be considered within an economic framework where loss of property values does not occur and an orderly relocation takes place. In some intstances such as the Thames valley and other areas of strategic importance, damming of the area against the sea may be appropriate based on the possibility of sea levels not continuing to rise and/or CO2 emmissions being stabilised. It is important that the UK takes a lead in this planning and implementation in such a way that other countries can learn from our example.

As part of the NASA space programme, design and development took place for the construction of shelters on the Moon using locally available resources - primarily dust. This technology has been developed into an earth-building technique where longitudinal flexible tubes are filled with earth and thus walls and roofs can be created from them. Other than the tubes, these buildings consume very few resources other than locally available earth. This practical, futuristic thermal mass building technique lends itself to the construction of buildings throughout the world and offers a cost-effective, low energy requirement form of construction. This is currently being pioneered by A1ZUP in the UK and CalEarth in the USA.

Being a thermal mass type of construction, these buildings offer protection in both hot and cold climates. Alongside this innovative technology is the development of drip-feed irrigation systems and low-tech home power generation systems.

The chances are that we can accommodate the rising sea levels and increasing or decreasing climatic temperatures, and it is inevitable that in certain places around the world, there are likely to be human casualties. The real issue is that the resources we have at our disposal are finite and should be managed as such.

Throughout the construction of the Earthdome, there has been a continuing dialogue with manufacturers about the appropriateness of their materials in relationship to energy efficiency, health and sustainability. This has lead to innovative solutions like the "Bobbette wall" and the lifecycle analysis of product ranges. It is expected that out of this liaison will follow other initiatives of a similar nature. Out of the Earthdome project, we are starting to see large industry players, such as n-Power, put in place a methodology for encouraging the more widespread adoption of renewable energies such as ground source heat pumps.

Within a review of thermal mass structures, it would be sensible to look at the building's relationship to the Earth's natural electromagnetic spectrum in order for the building to co-exist in harmony with the Earth and with human beings, rather than in opposition to the same. A review of classical geometric sizes and proportions within this design framework is also worthwhile because it links the structure with the natural order that can be found within nature.