Weeknotes Week 046

Whew! What a week. I just got back from Abu Dhabi (which brings with it a weather swing of 50 degrees!), where I was a speaker at the World Future Energy Summit, talking about Sitra's Low2No approach to sustainable development. We will post my talk & presentation as soon as it’s available from the WFES website.

It’s been an interesting two days meeting people and connecting thoughts & opportunities. In the context of what is happening here at Masdar, Low2No is an interesting, globally relevant, alternative strategic approach to meeting the sustainability challenge in the built environment. Masdar is undoubtedly a great global experiment creating a carbon neutral city solution from scratch. Low2No addresses the other challenge: how to do it in a legacy-ridden market such as Europe?  Not only do we need to better understand what a sustainable city model is but in Helsinki, and Europe generally, we need to understand how to transition from the current legacy system (infrastructure, political, financial, cultural) to a sustainable solution. It’s not only about what that “it” is but, most importantly, how to get there.

Events like the World Future Energy Summit are of interest as they help create a community around strategic issues, bringing many stakeholders together. On a practical level I had some great meetings, many of whom I’ve been connecting with virtually and now they've finally materialized in person.

Yesterday I had a nice chat with Dan Kammen. We shared notes on what we are doing and rekindled our conversation which began a year ago with Low2No. Also met Khaled Awad briefly- was good to finally connect with one of the driving forces behind Masdar.  Lastly, but not least, it was a real pleasure to spend some quality time with Peter Sharratt. Trained as an architect, frustrated with the object obsession the profession has developed, now working in the strategic  systems/decision making space… he gets it!  He is also very insightful about the global opportunities of the Masdar model. Look forward to seeing him in London soon and continuing our partnership around Low2No.

On a more cursory note: my stay in Abu Dhabi was a bit brief, but it's always exciting to be in a new culture/country. There is a real underlying beauty to this place that is challenged by a new physical and cultural layer that has been built in minutes. The challenge here seems to be how to build a future without losing track of the rich heritage and culture that is embedded here. We are talking about finding a balance between the 10 years of new, versus the thousands of years of old.

Aside from the summit, business continues as the usual whirlwind of activities. Had great talk with Darrel Rhea, a friend who is acting as an advisor to HDL, reviewing what we are working on. Hanna was looking at storefront spaces in the city for one of our HDL experiments, Minna was researching catering and cost cuts in the City of Helsinki (interesting combination but they're separate issues), Bryan visited TEM, and with the time difference Justin is working with Adriel and Ezra on the Challenge Briefings at this very moment. We're working on securing our keynote speakers for September as well as a few very busy guests. And…. our team just expanded: we are joined by the talents of Seungho Lee, Masters student at the School of Art and Design (now part of Aalto University). From Korea, to Helsinki, to HDL. Welcome aboard!