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Social media platforms can help promote conversations about sustainability, but only if they don’t become silos themselves

Recently, BRE launched its new online community platform BRE Buzz to much anticipation from the built environment community. But don’t we already have so many other platforms? Is there really a need for another?

Firstly, it is clear that BRE is digitising as a brand and offering to make it easier and more effective to use its products. Great news. And the potential impact of a social media platform is so much greater than just commercial value.

Social media platforms like BRE Buzz can really improve the industry’s performance in terms of its sustainability. BRE holds the data for over 250,000 BREEAM assessed buildings and has a wealth of built environment research spanning decades. For roughly the same amount of time, industry has been asking BRE to be more transparent and share some of this data. BRE Buzz could prove to be just the right kind of response - a platform to enable BRE to start the sharing process and initiate conversations. These conversations can grow and get propagated easily via the platform’s “share-ability” features. To quote Jim McLelland, sustainability futurist and panellist who spoke at the launch event, “sharership is the new leadership”. A good soundbite and in under 140 characters.

It will be a real shame if these conversations were to remain online. We should use them as another medium by which physical collaborations can become easier. As an industry, we need to harness the potential for online platforms to bring down the walls around our professional and sectoral silos and seek out opportunities which previously would never have been in our consciousness.

And in the spirit of social platforms, it is critical that BRE Buzz “socialises” and shares with and from other platforms already in this space. Each is slightly different in its intent, design, offering, and levels of engagement. As such, each attracts slightly different people to its community. Just like in everyday life, digital communities are susceptible to becoming silos. And professional silos are still very much alive in the building industry. At another event recently, sustainability consultant and social media expert Liz Male said: “We’re an industry of tribes. We could be waiting a very long time for one campaign or body to unify these tribes, and it might even be against human nature to try.”

Social platforms have to play a large in the unifying process, and there must be interactions between them rather than creating digital fiefdoms. Each platform will have a clear and distinct goal, differentiated from the rest but they must have cross sector engagement, collaboration and co-creation at their very core if they are to stand any chance of success in creating a better and more sustainable built environment. 

(Blog republished with the permission of

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