There were a couple of big questions in my mind on the way to EcoBuild. Would the event retain it’s audience with the move to excel? Would it be hit by the downturn or buoyed by FiT and RHI? Would an increase in size be good for the event, or would the need to sell more floorspace open the show up to snakeoil salesmen?
Well I didn’t meet any snakeoil salesmen but then I didn’t spend time with any of the hordes of PV salespeople that populated the show. I estimate that 30% of the acres of floorspace at Ecobuild are taken up by renewables sales teams. This is evidence of the impact that the feed-in-tariff is having on the market and opens up the question whether this is where out main effort should be targeted. I found only one supplier of PV-T (Anafsolar) at the show, which indicates to me that the quantity of PV sales effort isn’t being matched by levels of innovation in the product. PV-T is a technology that integrates solar thermal panels with PV panels that thereby improves the efficiency of both. These are currently only available from a few sources, but could become the most cost-effective way of achieving high code levels in some properties.
Did the crowd follow the show to Excel? At the busiest time of he day the show felt busy but not crowded, which was welcome as there wasn’t really enough room at Earls Court for the last couple of years. It will be interesting to see if the numbers agree with my estimate, but it looked to me as though the move has not hurt visitor numbers. The halls are big at ExCel, real aircraft hangars, which offers some opportunities but comes with some penalties. The distance travelled in a day to visit all the show must be a couple of km, so wear comfortable shoes! Bring a bottle of water and a snack as well, the prices at the show are ludicrous.
There are a lot of big stands (see pictures), a lot of money has been spent by a number of manufacturers on advertising their built product in the form of demonstration buildings, I counted six large installations. I question whether this is a good use of their money, among the stands I most enjoyed were the Jewsons and the Natural Building Technologies stands where they built small sections of building fabric to demonstrate their products.
An area where the organisers have work to do is on the organisation of the seminars. The one I was in was overcrowded, it got too hot, and when the door to the terrace was opened to cool things down, the noise of aircraft landing at City Airport disturbed the seminar. Another attendee remarked that the separation of the seminars from the exhibition floor resulted in a loss of the buzz of Earls Court. On the plus side the seminar rooms themselves are much better than at Earls Court.
The few seminars that did run on the exhibition floor suffered from acoustic problems, as you need a lot of amplification to make yourself heard in an aircraft hangar.
On balance I am relieved that the suppliers turned up in numbers and so did the people, ecobuild may be the new interbuild but it is here to stay.