Monthly Archives: January 2009

sustainable resources and publications update

Items of interest to built environment + natural environment + sustainable communities filtered from the Sustainability Development Research Network (SDRN) update

Engaging Places
A new initiative has been launched by CABE and English Heritage to help every school exploit the world’s biggest teaching resource; ‘Engaging Places’ will champion and support teaching and learning through the whole built environment, from grand historic buildings to the streets and neighbourhoods where we live. Great web resource here

Creating green jobs: developing local low-carbon economies
This publication outlines measures to help create 150 000 new jobs in the low carbon economy – jobs that help save carbon, reduce fuel poverty, increase our energy security and build resilience in those areas at greatest risk from climate change. A must read document.

Policy Exchange Report – ‘Warm Homes’
This report argues that Government efforts to improve energy efficiency in the existing housing stock have been slow and expensive. The grants available are too complicated to administer and have had to be applied for on household-by-household basis, with those that do wish to upgrade required to cover a large part of the upfront costs. This has resulted in millions of homes not applying for the grants to which they are eligible and those unable to find the cash for upfront installation costs being excluded. In addition, such a variety of organisations are responsible for the delivery of energy efficiency improvements, including the Warm Front Scheme and the Energy Saving Trust, that effective joined-up action is prevented and the costs of bureaucracy increased. To quickly install basic energy efficiency measures in every household that needs them, ‘Warm Homes’ suggests that the structures of energy efficiency finance and delivery have to change and makes recommendations of how to achieve this. More…

Comfort in a Lower Carbon Society
The January edition of Building Research and Information includes a set of five commentaries on the earlier special issue ‘Comfort in a Lower Carbon Society’. The commentaries examine from different perspectives the opportunities, barriers and potential for significant carbon reductions through changing the social expectations and behaviours for what constitutes thermal comfort. The heating and cooling of buildings consumes a significant proportion of energy in developed countries and the trajectory of consumption continues to rise. Given that developed countries have a large and slowly growing building stock (less than 2% per annum), technical solutions to upgrading the building stock will take a substantial period of time. Altering societies’ behaviour and expectations surrounding the consumption of ‘comfort’ – specifically through how much heating and cooling we require – presents an important opportunity for lowering energy use and carbon dioxide emissions. Commentaries are written by Jim Skea, Mithra Moezzi, Harold Wilhite, Russell Hitchings, and Ian Cooper. More…

Tackling Climate Change, Reducing Poverty
A new coalition of leading UK environmental and social justice groups, convened by Oxfam and the new economics foundation (nef) and including Friends of the Earth and the Royal College of Nursing, has released a report – ‘Tackling Climate Change, Reducing Poverty’ – showing that tackling climate change actually offers a huge opportunity to boost the economy and tackle UK poverty at the same time. The report shows how the need to combat climate change could present a huge opportunity to tackle poverty too. Key recommendations include: increasing household energy efficiency, reducing both emissions and fuel poverty; planning for an equitable transition to a low carbon economy (paving the way for the UK to capitalise on the opportunities and reap the benefits of the new low-carbon economy including the creation of new ‘green collar’ jobs; promoting sustainable public service provision, including low carbon food procurement for hospitals and schools; improving the existing housing stock (moving towards low carbon design in housing and urban development); and investing in a public transport system, which is better for the environment and more equitable. More…

Natural England Draft Policy – ‘All Landscapes Matter’
Natural England is leading on the implementation of the European Landscape Convention (ELC) in England.  This document sets out their detailed policy for working with and through England’s landscapes as an integrating framework for managing change and raising the quality of all landscapes and the benefits they provide, whether they are rural, urban or coastal, ordinary or outstanding. Key policies highlighted consider: landscape management, protection and planning; dynamic and evolving landscapes; landscape as an integrating framework; European Landscape Convention; valuing landscape; landscape, design and development; European and International context; Landscape Character Areas; and landscape monitoring. Natural England is keen to hear views on this draft policy, and invite written comments until the 13th March 2009More…

Community development in local authorities
This new report from CDF examines how community development teams are structured in local authorities. Findings are amalgamated from discussions with a number of local authorities, together with findings from a more formal process of investigation. It attempts to give practice-based insights and intelligence about the role of community development teams. It looks at different structural models and the key factors that help community development, and therefore the voice of the community, to have an impact. This report is part of an ongoing project and the final section poses questions for those currently engaged in developing CD within their local authority. More…


More @ SDRN 


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US Green building may follow EU model …

Heres an interesting article that Google alerts brought to my attention:  Future green construction may follow European models in the Portand Journal of Commerce.

As the building industry searches for the next big thing, the likelihood increases that builders, developers, architects and engineers will continue pushing the boundaries of what constitutes sustainable design – and they may look to Europeans for leadership.

But as the article unfolds it does mean Europe… ie Germany, Serbia, and Scandavia …. but not the UK ?

“Because of the energy prices (in Europe), they are building tighter envelopes,”

It is hard to see how these comments sit with the current UK industry opposition to zero carbon and improved airtightness requirements.  Could UK designers loose out to EU designers on the international stage?

interacting with information

“There’s a clear direction … away from people thinking, ‘This is my PC, this is my hard drive,’ to ‘This is how I interact with information, this is how I interact with the web.'”

Occasionally you come across a quote that reinforces up what you have been trying to communicate for ages, such is the comment above from Dave Armstrong, head of product and marketing for Google Enterprise, reported in the Observer article Google plans to make PC’s history .

This illustrates that the move towards a more web2.0 environment is no more about the technology but about people, trust and empowerment.

Over the last week or so I have seen many examples of the silo approach to information and knowledge, from projects to corporates to universities to industry champions, all concerned over loss of some kind of advantage (claims, profit, competitive edge, intellectual rights etc) in the face of sharing on web2.0 platforms or apps.

Maybe the built environment sector need to look at the mess the music industry has gotten itself into by trying to retain some degree of ownership for a solution.

There is also the generation thing here, as Paul commented at last weeks collaborative champions meeting, Y Gen and Google Gen people are unconscious collaborators , and yet the more influential generation (boomers) maybe stifling such collaboration by taking away and banning collaboration / sharing tools such as facebook and twitter and blogs and ….

There is also a parallel here to the anti-benchmarking school of thought, but history has shown that those who share, learn and benchmark mark with others have gained rather than lost advantage and made progress on many improvement fronts.

Time for us in the built environment to re-evaluate how we  interact with information and the internet…

keeping communities of practice alive

This week I find myself involved with and or facilitating four communities of practice (CoP) , two new and getting started like the Leeds Sustainability Forum and Green Drinks Lancashire ( which after the second ‘gathering’ is becoming a useful green business network) one well established like the BAE FM CoP, and the Constructing Excellence Collaborative Champions Group which is looking to move into a web 2.0 environment for communication and collaboration. And of course regular participation in the be2camp and twittering communities.

In preparation for the four CoP’s I dug out a paper from Harvard Business School that I had referred to back in 2005 when starting the FM CoP , Seven Principles for Cultivating Communities of Practice that describes and discusses approaches to evoke a community’s ‘aliveness’, to bring out its own internal direction, character, and energy:

  1. Design for evolution – Remember communities are dynamic; changes can create new demands or reshape the community; “‘Alive’ communities reflect on and redesign elements of themselves throughout their existence.”
  2. Open a dialogue between inside and outside perspectives – effective community design is “built on the collective experience of community members” and “brings information from outside the community into the dialogue about what the community could achieve.”
  3. Invite different levels of participation – Three main levels of community participation: a core group engaged in regular, intensive activities (usually 10-15% of the group); the active group (another 15-20%); and peripheral members, who rarely participate.
  4. Develop both public and private community spaces – “orchestrate activities in both public and private spaces that use the strength of individual relationships to enrich events and use events to strengthen individual relationships.”
  5. Focus on value – “Rather than attempting to determine their expected value in advance, communities need to create events, activities, and relationships that help their potential value emerge and enable them to discover new ways to harvest it.”
  6. Combine familiarity and excitement – “combine both familiar and exciting events so community members can develop the relationships they need to be well connected as well as generate the excitement they need to be fully engaged.”
  7. Create a rhythm for the community – Vibrant communities have a rhythm, a tempo, ideally somewhere between breathless and sluggish. “There is no right beat for all communities, and the beat is likely to change as the community evolves.”

(I should note a word of thanks to Paul at ExtranetEvolution who also blogged on this earlier)

justpractising – new blog on the block

Great to see new blogs being created that address issues relating to the built environment and web 2.0 ‘stuff’

Fellow twitter Su Butcher has joined the blogosphere with justpractising:

So here it is. A blog about architects.

There are three things I want to do with this blog, things I have been doing elsewhere on the internet for some years but in a pretty unco-ordinated way it must be said.

Firstly, I want to help explain what it is that architects can do, what they are good at (and not so good at), how you can use them to get where you want to be with your property, and of course, what they should be doing differently.

Secondly, I’m a bit of a networking nut and very keen on using the internet for networking, so I’m taking the opportunity to investigate how the construction industry is and is not using the internet, so there will be plenty of opinionated posts about that too.

Lastly, I’d like to ask the people who read this for your suggestions on what I should blog about. If you know me already you might have some ideas, and if you don’t, take a look at what I’ve got to say and let me know what’s missing. In good networking parlance, if I don’t know myself, I can find out who does.

 

defining zero carbon

As a post on this blog noted at the end of last year, the definition of zero carbon buildings is currently under consultation by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

I am in full agreement with Casey over at Carbon Limited who blogs for a call to arms on this one, this consultation is so important that all in the built environment should engage with.

The outcome definition will shape and determine design, construction, building services  and facilities management into the future, in a similar (but more profound way) that the HASAW and CDM and other milestone legislations have done.

(from zero carbon consultation:summary)

At the core of the document is the government’s preferred framework for reaching zero carbon. In order of priority:

  1. A minimum standard of energy efficiency will be required.
  2. A minimum carbon reduction should be achieved through a combination of energy efficiency, onsite low and zero carbon (LZC) technologies, and directly connected heat. This is referred to as achieving carbon compliance.
  3. Any remaining emissions should be dealt with using allowable solutions, including offsite energy.

The zero carbon definition will have profound implications for…

… the built environment client in the choice and cost implications

design –  a change the design parameters,

construction, for example with airtight construction calling for a build quality and quality control we are not too good at. (Research at Leeds Met is showing that the cost of retro fixing air leaks in new buildings is  a hugely costly exercise *)

building services – on energy sourcing and management.

And of course on the way buildings are used, run and managed.

If you haven’t read it yet, you can download it here.  or as Casey puts it – get involved or forever bitch about it in the pubs.

(* more on this later)