It wasn’t that long ago, when visiting Ecobuild*, that people were confidently declaring it as the new Interbuild – and in many respects that could be true because it too seems to be disappearing fast as a major general building event.
There was no doubt that when the current owner, UBM, bought Ecobuild from International Business Events (IBE) in 2011, it did so when the exhibition was at its peak. The move from Earl’s Court to ExCel was not a very popular one but it seemed to be a growing show and needed the space. UBM stated it had clear and ambitious plans with the commitment to double the size of the event over the next four years.
Given we were in the middle of the recession, this might have appeared a little too optimistic but we had a ‘green’ sector that was showing all the signs of having a momentum and direction that was almost irresistible. After all, only 6,100 visitors had attended in 2006 but with clever marketing and organising of it, the figures shot up to more than 55,000 in 2011; net floor space was 28,000m².
Alas, it soon became clear that whatever the previous owner had in expanding the event, it was not shared by UBM. Visitor numbers in 2013 were down about 22% to 45,000, compared with 57,000 the previous year. Exhibitor numbers also showed a significant decline in 2013 with more than 1,000, against 1,500 in 2012 – a sizeable drop of approximately 33%.
It was becoming clear that Ecobuild was struggling and not just in the fenestration sector. The solar industry had been hit hard by the savage cuts in support by the UK government and with the continued poor general economic performance, the large gaps and dwindling figures could be excused.
Last year the malaise seemed to have continued, along with a reticence by UBM to explain what it was doing to rectify the position. This has continued and although MYTTV has asked questions about this year’s event in terms of size and other aspects compared with 2014, nothing has come back. But then, a glance at the exhibitor list shows that fenestration representation has shrunk greatly. Five or six years ago there was a healthy presence of PVC-U systems companies, showing their green credentials. This year, I could only spot Synseal and the Epwin Group.
Of course, we have the new UK Construction Week show that takes place in October at the NEC which may or may not be doing damage but as the organiser, Media 10, has yet to put up an exhibitor list itself, that is a difficult one to call. The FIT show in 2013 ticked more boxes than many of us thought possible and did well again last year, so that may have accounted for a number of potential exhibitors choosing a more focused event than Ecobuild.
So, we are left wondering if Ecobuild is an event for you, the fenestration professional, to make the journey to ExCel. The answer is that it will probably have less to justify the time and effort, unless you have a clear objective in mind. Its days of satisfying the curious may well be well behind it.
*Ecobuild takes place Tuesday, 3 – Thursday, 5 March 2015 at ExCel, London. Opening times 10am-18.00 Tuesday/Wednesday, 10am-16.00 Thursday.