Max Fordham: rent-seeking since 1966

A downside of writing about oil and gas affairs is being spammed by people who write articles about “energy”.  One such example received over the holidays was a link to the predictions for 2016 of somebody by the name of Max Fordham, a building engineer who “started his own practice in the spare bedroom of his Camden home” in 1966.  Good for him.  Let’s see what he thinks will happen in 2016.

1. Infrastructure-scale solutions to climate change

Governments will be forced to tackle the problems caused by climate change by introducing infrastructure-scale solutions. Hopefully these will give way to exciting examples of urban design, such as the $335 million scheme to upgrade Lower Manhattan’s storm defences.

Translation: taxpayers’ money will be hosed around as normal with priority given to those projects on which the label “Climate Change” can be somehow attached.  The upgrade of the Lower Manhattan storm defences is in response to hurricane Sandy: I suppose we’re expected to take it as given that climate change caused it.  As predictions go, “governments to spend more money” and “climate change” is hardly sticking one’s neck out.

2. A “Trip Advisor” for buildings

The development of a ‘Trip Advisor’ for buildings and building comfort. Users will be able to rate office, retail and hospitality buildings on a number of criteria such as temperature, daylight, acoustics and ventilation that will then be fed back into the building management systems for efficiency based on big data. Enabling consumer pressure to drive improved performance.

This one sounds like something a building services engineer would dream up without taking into account what human beings actually do in a building.  For a start, nobody outside a handful of weirdos is going to go to a retail outlet, interrupt their shopping, and start contemplating the temperature, lighting, acoustics, etc. and share their opinions with the building management in order to make the building more efficient.  Trip Advisor is a tool which helps people to choose a hotel based on criteria that really matters to the customer.  Nobody chooses where to do their shopping based on the acoustics and ventilation: they might complain it’s too hot or too cold when they get there, but it’s not something they’ll go online to check out beforehand.  And offices?  Set the thermostat at 22 degrees and see who complains (women mostly: they like to wear dresses, whereas men wear suits or trousers and jumpers).  The consumer pressure won’t materialise because they won’t give a shit.

3. More plants on buildings

The increased use of living roofs on commercial and domestic buildings, and an increased awareness of the role buildings can play in maintaining biodiversity.

Sorry, what?  Biodiversity? Are we going to transplant endangered species from the Amazon and stick them on the roofs of offices in Sunderland?  Plants in – or on – offices might look nice, but otherwise they serve no purpose whatsoever.  It’s not like wildlife is going to move in, is it?

4. Global harm tax on fossil fuels

The introduction of a global harm tax on both the extraction and use of fossil fuels which makes visible the damage caused by these sources of energy and also encourages the development of alternative forms of energy production.

So electricity, fuel, and heating is going to be made more expensive.  Marvellous for wealthy and successful business owners like Mr Fordham.  Not quite so exciting for the poor who will be left shivering in the dark.  And a global tax?  What’s the legal basis for that, then?  And who receives the revenues?

5. Population control

The need for action on global population growth will be addressed by ensuring universal access to contraception. This will provide positive impacts in terms of both economic growth and public health.

Translation: brown people are having too many babies.  I don’t know how many children Mr Fordham has, but you can bet your last dollar he doesn’t think they form part of the surplus.  Ironically, it isn’t condoms that the poor need to start having smaller families, it is 1) increased wealth and 2) reliable, cheap electricity.  Both things which a “global harm tax” on fossil fuels will make more difficult to achieve.

6. Wider awareness of carbon impact of construction

In design and client teams, we’ll see a wider appreciation and understanding of embodied energy and the total carbon impact of the construction process.

Translation: we’ll fill people’s heads with more jargon in the hope that, one way or another, it will increase our revenues.

7. In-building energy storage

The development of In-building energy storage systems or daily heat stores to spread the peak energy demand of a building over a day.

This hasn’t been done before 2016?!  What were those Economy-7 storage heaters in the 1980s, then?

8. Energy Performance Contracts become the norm

Energy Performance Contracts become expected for more new builds. Better prediction of actual energy consumption and then having to deliver on this in practise. It will put a much better focus on the way we design and the way we build.

Ah yes, just what British property market needs: yet more expensive, bureaucratic regulations which the eventual owners will have to cough up for.  Didn’t the Home Information Pack get scrapped?

9. Death of “tick box” sustainability

The death of BREEAM and ‘tick-box’ sustainability with a move to a more appropriate choice. We will see an even greater rise in the employment of sustainability matrices such as the one developed by Max Fordham.

So useless bureaucracy shouldn’t be scrapped, it should just be changed to one that favours our line of business.

10. Greater recognition of the impact buildings have on health

Comfort, health and well-being will become a much larger part of considerations when designing and building non-residential, commercial lettings.

Allowing fortunate office workers to see bare, unrendered concrete all around them, residents to enjoy 1970s-style flat-roofed rabbit hutches with community heating, and visitors to NHS facilities to marvel at bare chipboard.

In short, Fordham is your run-of-the-mill statist, authoritarian rent-seeker who has amassed a veritable fortune of taxpayers’ cash by preaching to governments from the environmental pulpit (naturally, his grubby mitts can be found all over the London Olympic 2012 facilities).  The world would have been better off if he’d stayed in his spare bedroom the past 50 years.

“No, we’ve not stuck you in the basement, this is how it’s supposed to look.”


2 Responses to Max Fordham: rent-seeking since 1966

  1. dearieme says:

    “nobody outside a handful of weirdos is going to go to a retail outlet, interrupt their shopping, and start contemplating the temperature, lighting, acoustics …”: weirdo is as weirdo does. I avoid Asda because the bastards assault me with effing muzak. Pity: their wines often seem to be good value.

    There are two restaurants we boycott because their dreadful acoustics give me headaches while ensuring that I can’t hear what my beloved has to say. And there’s one we boycott at dinner time (but not lunch time) because it is always grotesquely overheated in the evening.

    • Jake Barnes says:

      As they say, there is always one! 🙂

      Restaurants are a different matter, though: ambience is a major selling point. Supermarkets are giant metal sheds, but I concede the muzak is annoying.