This year's Government Property Conference which took place on April 22nd was all about "building a greener future". The focus was on achieving net zero and sharing best-practice insights.

I was invited to join a session with Joanna Averley, Chief Planner, MHCLG. Our session had the title "Durable and beautiful – planning for the long term". Joanna started the session by referencing the three attributes that make a good building: firmness, utility and beauty.

Defined by the Roman writer Vitruvius 2,000 years ago, these principles are still relevant today. We both agreed that beauty can come in many disguises – whether high-tech or traditional – and is not linked to any stylistic concept.

Joanna then introduced the new National Model Design Code which will shape England's three-dimensional character and appearance and influence the way towns and cities will look like.

I introduced my interpretation of the definition of good design. I believe we need to approach design in a more imaginative way and ensure buildings are really renewable.

We need clients with a vision and the courage to choose alternative solutions, particularly with regards to existing buildings. Re-inventing a building often creates more interesting – and sustainable – outcomes than completely new structures. Ideally, a building should be renewable, i.e. flexible and adaptable to changing user requirements. Why throw building parts away when they're still in good condition?

The BT Centre project demonstrates how the existing concrete structure and façade cladding can be re-used for an exciting new building. After all, we still love Victorian houses because they're wonderfully robust and easy to use.

The session ended with a lively discussion and the commitment that we're all in this together and need to work collaboratively to achieve the paradigm shift towards zero carbon in the construction industry.