Architects lose green sheen by winning third runway contract

Posted by jamie — 18 November 2009 at 5:07pm - Comments

One of third runway architects Grimshaw's earlier works (photo by Mat Strange)

Even though it hasn't been officially announced, it's been widely reported that architectural firm Grimshaw has won the bid to design the third runway at Heathrow. How much design a strip of tarmac needs I don't know, but presumably there's more to it than my ignorant assumptions suggest.

Grimshaw are, of course, the firm behind such eco-hits as the Eden Project and the firm's chairman Sir Nicholas Grimshaw has something of a reputation for sustainable and environmentally considerate approaches to architecture.

The environmental policy on their website talks in grand fashion about how they "recognise that the construction and operation of buildings have a significant impact on the environment." It goes on to say that various factors are considered when undertaking a new project, including "local communities". I'm sure the residents of Sipson will be grateful to hear that.

Needless to say adding the third runway to their portfolio will demolish their green credentials and bizarre comments from the UK Green Building Council aren't going to help their case. "Where does this stop?" asks council spokesperson John Aiker after saying we should be protesting to the organ grinding policymakers and not the monkeys. "Should we be protesting against the people that pour the concrete for coal-fired power stations?"

Funny he should pick another controversial, carbon-intensive industry as an example. But I think we should take to task those who are making a profit while leading us towards climate chaos - not the workers pouring concrete or laying tarmac, but the companies involved.

In any case, we should certainly root out hypocrisy and double-standards wherever we find them. A company keen to flash its green credentials shouldn't be surprised if activists take an interest in their work on one of the most controversial and damaging projects in the country.

Meanwhile, BAA has started the war of attrition on people whose misfortune it is to live on the proposed third runway site, offering to buy their homes. As AirportWatch has pointed out, this is very peculiar - BAA has yet to apply for planning permission and instead of allowing a few families who are trapped to leave, this smacks of a last-ditch attempt to bully people out of the way and squash local opposition.

Anecdotal evidence suggests this is already happening around Stansted where BAA has bought hundreds of properties to clear the way for a second runway, although a question mark hangs over those plans now Stansted is up for sale following the Competition Commission ruling earlier this year.

Standing firm with the residents of Sipson and the other affected villages is so important. Projects like Airplot help give people the confidence to resist these corporate bullies and show that ultimately they will not be moved.

And finally, one piece of good news. Tag, owner of Farnborough Airport, has been denied permission by the local council to increase the number of take-offs and landings there from 28,000 to 50,000. Of course, Tag can appeal but it's a small and satisfying victory.

About Jamie

I'm a forests campaigner working mainly on Indonesia. My personal mumblings can be found @shrinkydinky.

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