Monthly Archives: June 2007


I have a meeting planned down at the BRE in a week or so and hope, as part of the visit to view the buildings erected as part of the Offsite 2007 event. (now closed, but the website contains much useful information)
As we lead up to the LCBPC Innovation event on the 5th July, its well worth looking at the modern methods of construction innovations from offsite 2007, both in off site  prefabrication, in innovative on site technology, and near-carbon-zero construction.  The photo diary blog  of the construction and event provides an fascinating insight.

Of particular interest is the Rethink School building from Wilmot Dixon – The school building itself is a teaching and learning tool, with every part of the school’s design, construction and operation an educational opportunity.


Google to Recharge a Car, Recharge the Grid, Recharge the Planet?

And you thought Google was just a search engine?  Take a look at Google’s Climate Change Programe


Slow Home Futures

In comparison to the news that the UK housing sector is to be invetsigated, and with the media quick to pick up on the numbers that only 3 in 4 (76%) of people buying new homes are satisfied with quality, I was intrigued to get news from the USA on the emerging Slow Homes Movement.

This movement is similar to the slow food movement that kicks back against the fast food industry, kicking back as it does against the fast home industry – as the worldchanging website states:

Brown (founder of SHM) makes the increasingly known correlation between suburban living and obesity, indicating that fast food and fast housing not only have comparable results within their respective industries, but literally the same result: a declining state of health across a huge swathe of the North American population.

The movement is based on an interesting, worthwhile and common sense set of 10 principles – which may ring a few bells in our own hosuing sustainability / carbon zero agendas – or maybe not :-

1. GO INDEPENDENT Avoid homes by big developers and large production builders. They are designed for profit not people. Work with independent designers and building contractors instead.

2. GO LOCAL Avoid home finishing products from big box retailers. The standardized solutions they provide cannot fit the unique conditions of your home. Use local retailers, craftspeople, and manufacturers to get a locally appropriate response and support your community.

3. GO GREEN Stop the conversion of nature into sprawl. Don’t buy in a new suburb. The environmental cost can no longer be justified. Re-invest in existing communities and use sustainable materials and technologies to reduce your environmental footprint.

4. GO NEAR  Reduce your commute. Driving is a waste of time and the new roads and services required to support low density development is a big contributor to climate change. Live close to where you work and play.

5. GO SMALL Avoid the real estate game of bigger is always better. A properly designed smaller home can feel larger AND work better than a poorly designed big one. Spend your money on quality instead of quantity.

6. GO OPEN Stop living in houses filled with little rooms. They are dark, inefficient, and don’t fit the complexity of our daily lives. Live in a flexible and adaptive open plan living space with great light and a connection to outdoors.

7. GO SIMPLE Don’t buy a home that has space you won’t use and things you don’t need. Good design can reduce the clutter and confusion in your life. Create a home that fits the way you really want to live.

8. GO MODERN Avoid fake materials and the re-creation of false historical styles. They are like advertising images and have little real depth. Create a home in which character comes from the quality of space, natural light and the careful use of good, sustainable materials.

9. GO HEALTHY Avoid living in a public health concern. Houses built with cheap materials off gas noxious chemicals. Suburbs promote obesity because driving is the only option. Use natural, healthy home materials and building techniques. Live where you can walk to shop, school and work.

10. GO FOR IT Stop procrastinating. The most important, and difficult, step in the slow home process is the first one that you take. Get informed and then get involved with your home. Every change, no matter how small, is important.


Low-Carbon Building Accelerator

Noticed this on the Carbon Trust website recently:

The Low-Carbon Building Accelerator seeks to demonstrate that major refurbishments of non-residential buildings can be completed in both a low-carbon and a cost-effective manner. It involves the Carbon Trust’s specialist consultants working with a range of building projects in the retail, hospitality, government and education sectors. The specialist consultants are working with developers and their advisors, providing input on how to ensure that refurbishment projects are carried out in a way that minimises the carbon emissions from the building. Case studies backed up by robust data will be published at the end of each project

 It will be interesting to review the case studies on this one, but it is significant the Carbon Trust has identified building as one of …

…those technologies that offer the greatest UK carbon saving potential in the short to medium term and also where the Carbon Trust investments can be material in bringing forward these technologies.

Dr David Vincent, Technology Director of the Carbon Trust, explains, “The assessment enables the Carbon Trust to focus its resources effectively. By targeting those technologies which offer high carbon savings potential and where our resources can be material, we can take the lead on low carbon technologies innovation in the UK.”



Schools rebuild project ‘ignores green initiative’

The Sunday Times yesterday reported that the BSF programme is missing a big opportunity to promote sustainable building methods.

A report from the education and skills select committee, headed by Labour MP Barry Sheerman, will slam the programme for missing a big opportunity to promote sustainable building methods.

About £150m has been set aside to improve environmental standards on the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) scheme, but MPs believe this is a drop in the ocean in the context of the £45 billion BSF programme.

The Sustainable Development Commission told the MPs that it would add 15% to 20% to the cost of building schools to make them carbon neutral and more energy efficient. Schools account for about 15% of the public sector’s carbon footprint in the UK.

One committee source said: “There is no doubt the green stuff has just been tacked on as an afterthought in this programme � which is amazing given the government preaching about its green agenda.”

Read more online

It would be interesting to hear comments from BSF programmes in the area….

Construction Carbon Calculator

Update:  see latest post Construction Carbon Calculator – no more excuses for best yet calculator 

Zero Champion in a recent post poses the question ‘How the hell do we measure our carbon footprint‘?

Businesses need a single, unified standard for displaying the carbon impact of their activities to ensure companies can see a visible competitive advantage to sustainable development.

This made me think and look around for a construction process carbon calculator – and surprisingly did not find too many, and most linked to some carbon offsetting (carbon off-putting) scheme, which makes me doubt the formula being used.

If you want to take a look at a couple :

C Level has a calculator, but lacks many energy aspects (fuel on site, small tool and lighting, office energy and resources) and is linked to their off setting scheme. C Level lists constructing excellence as one of its customers.

Over in the states BuildCarbonNeutral has an interesting approach focusing on the embodied energy released through construction and the life of a building. It also contains the following comments

13-18% of the total embodied carbon footprint of any construction project (UNEP, 2007) and 100% of the total embodied carbon footprint of any landscape project is released the year the project is built or installed. The remainder of the carbon footprint is the operational carbon released and the landscape carbon sequestered over the life of the project.


Embodied construction carbon is a more significant factor than air travel, and has an equally immediate impact.

Gulp !

Does anybody out there know of any reliable, unbaised (ie not linked to carbon offsetting schemes) for the construction process?

Net Waste Method

As reported on today’s Contract Journal website, WRAP has published plans for a new standard to measure waste neutrality.  Further details and a pdf brochure can be downloaded from the WRAP web site Net Waste Method page.

In simple terms, WRAP considers ‘waste neutral’ to be where the value of construction materials wasted is matched by the value of additional reused and recycled content employed on a project. Adoption of this approach promotes consideration of all aspects of materials efficiency: reducing waste, recycling waste that does arise and using materials with recycled content. This is to be achieved with a reduction in overall environmental impact. By focusing on the commercial as well as the environmental costs of waste, it should deliver real benefits for the construction sector.

In particular, it highlights where companies can reduce costs and increase profits through greater efficiency. It also supports the demonstration of Corporate Social Responsibility.

Don Ward, chief executive at Constructing Excellence reported in Contract Journal said:

“We hope that contractors will look carefully at the real opportunity that the Net Waste Method can unlock in terms of improved profitability and reducing the impact on the environment.”

Comment:  But are we still missing the point here – real effort need to be applied upstream in the construction process, in the design, specification, procurement and planning stages to eliminate waste in the first place.  With recent reports from Defra that 1/3 of all solid materials  going to a site are not used on the project, and the UK Green Building Council that construction accounts for 20%  of all waste, we really need to focus on the first stage of the waste planning – elimination, then the other stages of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Dispose are not as much an issue, and reduction in costs along with increased profits will be easier to achieve.  Take a look at the pre-construction sections of the WRAP construction web pages

The WRAP website contains a wealth of information and should be on all construction / facilities management managers bookmark or favourite lists. (there is a section on Asset Management – within the construction section !)

It is possible to sign up for a construction wrap newsletter, but unfortunately I cannot see any RSS feed on the site, even for the news items