Monthly Archives: December 2007

Cost of carbon

A good note to end the year on and a new perspective on the cost of carbon to start 2008 with was reported in the Guardian last Friday. (also picked up by fellow blogger Phil at Some Seasonal Cheer ). Effectively ministers will now have to include a cost for carbon emission on all projects, starting at £25.50 a carbon tonne for 2007, rising every year to reach £59.60 a tonne by 2050. (This seems lower than other figures suggested!)

It will be interesting to see how this plays out through construction and fm – what would the additional cost of PFI’s, and BSF, building schools for the future projects etc now be. Would these costs be predicted over the life of a building. Can they be offset by carbon reducing measures built in?

And the Code – suddenly the cost of zero carbon homes may well be less than business as usual carbon construction.

Will the costs be applied to construction process emissions as well – and if so will this be tracked back up stream to the cement industry for example.

Not sure who actually will pay for these costs – the developers?, the supply side? the clients? More questions than answers at the moment, more detail is still to announced, but as this is a Treasury initiative it will surely be forced into being rapidly and with teeth. A whole new carbon based currency is being created.

Lets hope there is not a cop out by allowing offsets to offset these costs, and that the costs are real contributions to tackling sustainability

Whatever the detail,  we will start 2008 with a new, more meaningful perspective of sustainable construction, and more debates and discussion.

Brilliant.

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Green fatigue?

The report in yesterdays Observer (Green Fatigue leads to fear over climate change backlash) highlights a growing concern over green issues and sustainability:

A backlash is now a real threat, said Phil Downing, head of environmental research for Ipsos Mori. ‘There’s cynicism because on the one hand we’re being told [the problem] is very serious and on the other hand we’re building runways, mining Alaskan oil; there’s a lot going on that appears to be heading in the opposite direction.’

Barbara Young, chief executive of the Environment Agency, agreed. The ‘vast majority’ of British businesses ‘are still not into sustainability and climate change’, she warned.

I notice the same in the built environment. There remains a lot of scepticism at all levels in our industry, the following being typical of those heard recently:

“why should we bother with sustainability at site level when the architect and client specify roofing from Germany, and when our head office appoints subcontractors from the Midlands or where-ever to install it…

“we have no control over our suppliers and subcontractors….

“we have to go through so many hurdles on environmental issues to win work, then the client only pays very minor lip service to sustainability – its a waste of time …

“why should we bother going green – we will only get criticised for not doing enough if we put our heads over the parapet …

“this governments not serious – they talk of codes for sustainability and zero construction – and yet plan to build more coal fired power stations and airport expansions …

“Its a joke to be expected to travel to London for a sustainability conference …

“its just more paper work -we cannot make any difference…

All leaders and those of influence in our industry need to address these concerns head on. By leaders and influencer’s I include the government, clients and customers, directors and owners, bloggers, event organisers, specifiers, designers et al.

2007 was the year of awakening on sustainability issues – we need to build on that momentum with clear, accountable actions and visibility on decisions, not let it be undermined by green fatigue and scepticism. Players in our industry need all the encouragement and reason to change the built environments lifestyle.

As they say … walk the talk

Postnote:  see also Phils post over at 2008 – is a backlash on the way

Seasons greetings

Whilst isite will continue posting issues of interest, many readers and subsribers will be finishing up today for the holiday period, so an opportunity to wish you all the best for a peaceful holiday and new year.

This isite project started just under one year ago, initial as a trial to see what all this blogging stuff was about and has grown to become a significant contribution to what I do.  The numbers of viewers to isite has been amazing with tens of thousands over the year – from all across the globe – so a big thanks to all those who have posted comments, subscribed,  just viewed or passed on through to other linked locations.

The isite blog archives now provide a record and overview of 2007 – the year the built environment woke up to what sustainability really really means and started to face the challenges it will present. Will 2008 be the year of action?

I have plans for more a more exciting isite early in the new year – so watch this space …. and of course I  look forward to your comments and contributions in 2008.

Links roundup

Building Schools for the Future – Low carbon schools Children’s Plan – web based presentation – cast from Andrew Thorne, Department for Children, Schools and Families and Ian Butters, Faithful+Gould available here

Pink is Green –  from Green Girls Global

New M and E sustainability website“single source of topical and technical information for mechanical and electrical contractors provided by the ECA and the HVCA.”

And a seasonal Christmas News from Ian Martin at bd online – excellent stuff

Whats wrong with Code level 6?

My post on Code level 6 has drawn a mixed reaction. Fellow blogger Mark over at House 2.0 makes an excellent response. In my opinion this is what blogs are for – to inform, debate and cut through the rhectoric and greenwash we see today.

My point on Code 6 remains the same – we have some 8 years to innovate, develop solutions and collaborate to acheive Level  6, so to claim we can acheive it today is just greenwash.  And if these claims were correct then the bar has been set too low.

Acheiving zero carbon, along with all the other requirements is one hell of a challenge lets not underestimate it.

Build into the challenge the need for a zero carbon footprint in design and construction without offsetting – then the first truck to arrive on site, the first brick to be manufactured, the first operative to drive to site … you get the picture. (I did see some claim that the construction process emissions account for some 11% of the buildings total carbon footprint – I will confirm and post that link asap)

Lets not claim zero anything, recognise the reductions and the progress being made, but also the challenge that lies ahead.

Arup pick up greenwasher of the year award

Arup and the Dongtan project has received much ranting on the Ethical Corporation (EC) website over the year so no surprises that they pick up the EC Greenwasher of the Year award .  This for the ... long announced, but never started, ‘eco-city’ in Dongtan, an island of pristine wetlands just outside the teeming city of Shanghai … more

Another EC award – which I would call the No Giraffes Killed This Year award goes to the Mercedes ….

The company’s “head of motorsport”, which provides engines to the Formula One McLaren team, told various news websites that the sport could be defended on the basis that the millions of people watching Formula One races on television were therefore not using their cars while the race was under way.

Now, looking at the greenwash sins checklist ….. Sins of Vagueness and Irrelevance nicely covered there

Any nominations closer to home?

Is code level 6 enough?

Am I missing something here.

I was encouraged by the inclusion of what I took to be a stretch target – level 6 in the Sustainability Code. Yes a stretch target for 2016, one that would drive innovation and improvement in construction, design, micro generation, energy suppliers and all the other necessary components. And one that would drive the real collaboration of all these sectors. To deliver by 2016.
And yet here, some 8 years away from that date, we are already letting contracts for level 6 (Hanham Hall) saying we can deliver (Barratts). Even failed newspaper baron Eddie Shah is reportedly building low cost homes that meet level 5.

So maybe we need something more stretching that will make us rethink our approach to sustainability.

We also have a fair amount of doomsaying – that it is not feasible, not practical, not necessary or will cost far to much.  Isn’t this to be proven or dis-proven by working towards level 6?

I see a similar reaction to the Code as we did to Egan’s Rethinking Construction – we didn’t need it, we couldn’t do it – it will cost too much and then suddenly with a great coat of whitewash everyone was Egan compliant. (Strangely linked to funding!) And now looking back nearly 10 years after Egan we see what a significant catalyst that was.

So, a thought for the holiday period – Standing in the future of 2016, in a carbon zero built environment, what message would you send back to todays industry leaders, influencer’s and politicians. (A nice seasonal Dr Who link). Would it be strive for level 6, do something beyond level 6 – or give up on it all together?