Tuesday, 30 April 2013

All’s Well That Ends Well (or not)…


A month in which your President does a few quick trips abroad, putting Europe and the Mayor of New York to rights and sadly prepares to hand over the Blog ….

Presidential April started with not much of a Spring but a trip to touch base with REHVA. Donald Leper and Derek Braham have done CIBSE and REHVA great service over the years. Their terms are coming to an end and it was time to make fresh contact with REHVA. REHVA has a very different constitution to CIBSE, but then everything is more complicated in a large European Union. Over lunch with the outgoing REHVA President and the Chief Executive we strove to put Europe to rights.  The rest of the brasserie had emptied long before we even got to the Euro or anywhere near defining Near Zero.

April ended with a speaking slot in New York at the New York Times Conference on Building Sustainable Cities. It was a surprise format - if very NYT. Each session was run without PowerPoint, as a kind of Jeremy Paxman Newsnight panel, led by sharp witted NYT staff writers, punctuated by Andrew Marr style one-on-one interviews with other Thought Leaders (sic). No roving microphone for questions, so no impromptu speeches from the 400+ audience or failure to turn the thing on. Instead the audience were invited to tweet, with the feed appearing on large screens that the panels could not see.

Jeremy Irons (as you’d expect your President would only move abroad amongst such glitterati) gave an impassioned interview on governments’ failure to handle a city’s waste stream. One tweet simply said ‘GOSH His accent is awesome’. Tweeters are that deep. What, I wondered, were the screens saying when it was my turn? OMG Who is this most worshipable plumbing and fanmaking dude?  Anyway my panel session was hosted by NYT’s architectural correspondent Michael Kimmelman. Michael’s the other critic of the Shard, so naturally my hero, and did an excellent job on a broad ranging session.

Overall as a format it was a very slick day and great to meet so many native New Yorkers interested in urban energy on their own patch. But I left with a paradox in my head. My spiel had been on energy systems and how cities could achieve remarkable things if only they knew how to deliver system integration. Systems engineering needs a lot of thought. We do not run a two year course on it at Imperial for fun. But if that is right, how on earth could a day’s worth of tweeting even by the young enthusiastic well-educated audience get anything done with any degree of complexity? Maybe nowhere. New York was the home of the best selling book ‘the Wisdom of Crowds’ written by just one Wall street Journal journalist – not that anyone noticed.

So finally this is my last blog. One of the CIBSE traditions I discovered as President–Elect is that you seem to spend a third of the year proposing votes of thanks to the outgoing President, starting with the last Council Meeting and every formal meeting thereafter. I’ll let George Adams off a special invited blog on this occasion as he is probably too busy re-writing his Presidential Address. Blogging has been great fun, and a privilege and I hope provided a little entertainment at the expense of Presidential duties in these overcast times. 

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