Survival of the fittest in the project to Build Britain 2050

What does the cutting edge look like? A stunning mix of high rise and low rise, a mixed community that is zero carbon, zero waste and beautiful to behold. All materials are locally sourced, and all are recycled in a vibrant, green and biodiverse setting. Super efficient design and energy demands are met with renewables, primarily solar. Infrastructure connects seamlessly, meeting the needs of all inhabitants, and is constantly renewed and replaced. An architect's fantasy? No, a forest.

Bio mimicry has been around for a while in our built environment industries. From landmark buildings inspired by the form of pine cones to carpet tiles that save waste by imitating the random pattern of leaves on a forest floor, we've realised there's an awful lot business can learn from Mother Nature. But we're only scratching the surface.

Big businesses, like dinosaurs, go extinct. Kodak, Blockbuster, even Woolworths, once thought 'too big to fail', have gone the way of their reptilian forebears, caught out by a change in the climate and evolutionary pressure they didn't know how to respond to. Will our biggest developers, contractors and product manufacturers go the same way? Will the household names of the construction industry - which frankly hasn't evolved all that much in the last few hundred years - vanish into the primordial mud?

Because the climate is changing - both literally and metaphorically. Some interesting, even unlikely athletes are emerging in a new survival of the fittest contest. Many are smaller, leaner and more responsive to the changing environment they find themselves in. Or they are old enough and wise enough not to get caught sleeping.

Igloo Regeneration and Hab Housing are evolving a new approach to deliver new homes - 'custom build'. Potentially appealing to the 6 million of us who would love our own Grand Design but without the risk, expense and TV humiliation. Traditional Housebuilders beware - a choice of kitchen worktop may not cut it in the mid 21st Century.

Social housing provider Gentoo has created the Genie, and it's well and truly out of the bottle. No deposit, no mortgage, just the home young people want, paid for with a monthly fee that gives them not only security of tenure, but accrues equity equivalent to the value of the home over 25 years. Maybe the big mortgage lending banks will disappear too, in a puff of smoke as the next housing bubble bursts, and be replaced by a new generation of Green Building Societies.

But take another look at the forest. No one living thing, be it an insect, a mammal or a plant, can make it on its own. Only the most intense collaboration - or symbiosis as the scientists might call it, ensures on-going renewal, evolution and survival. Profit depends on cooperation as much as competition.The charismatic megafauna of our world would do well to recognise that while they must continue to fight, to hold their dominant position in the pecking order, they must also collaborate furiously too .

Our high street retailers should give up their sustainability IP and share the best of what each of them is doing, largely alone. The biggest contractor developers should work together to figure out the best approaches to building sustainable communities. Last year over 40 companies from across the built environment industry came together to work on UK-GBC's 'Plan for Growth in a Resource Constrained World' and the results were inspiring. Because there's a big project to get our teeth into; we've got to build Britain 2050. And it's a jungle out there.

Written by Paul King, CEO, UK Green Building Council

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