Property Sector Commits to Green Vision for 2012

Cutting Costs and Carbon
Kicking off a new series of seminars and knowledge sharing, Green Vision, the sustainable networking organisation for the property and construction sector, is hosting its first event of the year this week, with ‘Green Building Drivers 2012’, on Thursday 2nd February at Squire Sanders in Leeds.

Part of the 2012 programme of ‘Cutting Costs and Carbon’ this event, to be held at Squire Sanders office on Park Lane from 5.30pm – 7pm, will respond to issues raised in Green Vision’s first tweet chat of the year. This saw representatives from both local and international organisations uncover many questions and uncertainty about the logistics of sustainable building and asset management for 2012, in line with government objectives. It explored Green Deal, potential threats to SMEs, and highlighted that many in the industry remain nervous, fearing the ‘real cost of carbon reduction’, whilst feeling financial strains of the recession.

Bringing in a speaker who advises ministers on meeting the UK’s climate targets, the Green Vision team is keen to set the scene nationally informing delegates of the sector’s challenges as whole, before exploring what can be done locally, within the Yorkshire region. The intention is to provide support for delegates, and to help make 2012 a year where sustainable practices become better understood and more elevated on the corporate agenda.

The programme is as follows:-

18.00 Delivering Carbon Budgets: What will it mean for consumers and fuel poverty, by independent government advisor Dr Ute Collier, Head of Buildings, Committee for Climate Change

18.15 New 2012 Legislation & Policy for carbon reduction and energy use in building, to inform delegates of key legalities coming up this year, by Anita Lloyd, Squire Sanders

18.30 The Whole-Life Measurement of Carbon & Taxation, looking at how we need to tackle carbon reduction in the commercial sector, by Prof Angus McIntosh, who brings his 10 years experience at King Sturge (he was former head of research at King Sturge, now working for Real Estate Forecasting Ltd)

18.45 Intervening to reduce domestic carbon emissions, Dr Emma Hinton, Research Associate, Kings College London, presents findings on the human aspect of occupant behaviour

The session will then conclude with a Q&A session to the panel, followed by open networking For more information on the speakers or to book tickets please visit

Supported by the Construction Sector Network; global legal firm Squire Sanders; social media and sustainability consultancy Fairsnape; Leeds College of Building and EPSRC (research project on carbon comfort and controls), Green Vision is committed to sharing knowledge, experience and best practice on Low Carbon Buildings and Property within the Yorkshire and Humber region.

Targeted at property and construction professionals from across the region, as well as engaging with the wider business community on sustainable development, Green Vision is run by Leeds Metropolitan’s Centre for Knowledge Exchange and the Construction Sector Network. It brings together academics with business, to address challenges and opportunities presented by sustainable building practices.

With the recent expansion of the network this year there are now additional opportunities available for companies interested in supporting Green Vision as a corporate sponsor. Any interested parties should contact

Further spring Gvis2012, events are also planned: 1st March sees another evening seminar, on Carbon Reduction Strategies, led by Richard Francis, Head of Sustainability, at worldwide construction consultancy, Gardiner and Theobald. In addition, Vassos Chrysostomou co-founder at ConstructCO2, will explore the social, environmental as well as economic responsibilities that construction contractors have towards carbon reduction.

This series will conclude on 29th March at Old Broadcasting House with a half day conference, where industry leading keynote speakers and expert roundtable discussions will consider topics such as behaviour change, energy monitoring systems and guidance for landlords, set within the wider debate of how to cut costs and carbon. A feature of the event will be a live international presentation from ‘the world’s greenest building’ in Vancouver and through social media partner be2camp the conference will be web enabled to allow real global input and sharing.

Claire Walker Project Manager for Green Vision, said: “Following the success of the GVis2011 Series, Green Vision has attracted considerable interest as a leading Knowledge Exchange network, supporting and informing regional markets in best practice for sustainable building. We are excited about our forthcoming series as it addresses very real issues and concerns, real opportunities and threats, and will provoke debate and discussion around what will be a big year of change with respect to low carbon policies. It’s important to better understand, as a sector, how we can work towards a low carbon future and these event are a great catalyst for this.”

Attendees to GVis2012 series will connect with leading sustainability thinkers from the UK and overseas, share regional, national and international views on the future of energy in buildings and identify opportunities for partnerships, both within the sector, as well as on a wider scale.

–      Ends –

Notes to Editors:

  • Images are available:
  • Claire Walker is available for further comment
  • Dr. Ute Collier is Team Leader for Buildings and Industry at the Committee on Climate Change, the independent body advising the UK Government on setting and meeting carbon budgets and targets. She also leads the Committee’s forthcoming (April 2012) advice on the role of local authorities in delivering carbon budgets, as well as its work for the devolved administrations. Prior to joining the Committee in April 2009, Ute was based at the Greater London Authority as manager of the London Energy Partnership. Previously, she held a number of different roles in the public sector, NGOs and academia.
  • Dr. Emma Hinton is a research associate working on an EPSRC-E.On strategic partnership consortium project called ‘Carbon, Control and Comfort: User-centred control systems for comfort, carbon savings and energy management’, with colleagues from eight other universities.  As a social researcher, her role in this project is to understand the ways in which householders use energy and practice comfort in the home, and conditions under which these practices might change.  Emma holds a PhD in Geography (King’s College London), an MSc in Natural Resource Management (Cranfield University) and a BSc (hons) in Environmental Biology (University of Nottingham).  Outside academia, she has worked in a number of environment-focused roles in the third sector and the civil service.

For More Information Please Contact:

Chocolate PR 0113 236 1835


Constructing CSR iTransparency

I have commented elsewhere on this blog that ‘transparency’, driven by the increasingly easy access to information and the seemingly ubiquitous use of social media, could well become a central theme and driver for sustainability and CSR during 2012 and beyond.

Last week Apple released their supplier responsibility audit report, see the excellent CSRWire article: itransparency: Is Apple Catching Up? by Elaine Cohen (also good reads are Will Apple Finally Embrace Corporate Social Responsibility & Sustainability and on Apples own the supplier responsibility web pages)

Like many users, whilst loving the Apple technology, design and ease of use, as a sustainability advocate, I have always felt uneasy about environmental and social aspects of the Apple organisation. However, with Apple having now set out their stall and commitment to improve, they will be watched closely by CSR observers and others who will undoubtedly use Apple devices and platforms to make any failings and achievements public, and transparent.

Constructing itransparency

I can’t help wondering:

How and when transparency within the built environment will have an impact.

If we were to undertake a ‘deep’ social responsibility audit throughout the sectors supply chain, just what would we find lurking under rocks?

We are starting to have the tools available to understand, for example, ConstructCO2 can measure the carbon and social impact of transport and delivery miles on a construction project, SourceMap can monitor material carbons, from raw material and transportation,  (see construction sourcemap for CITRIS building, Berkley USA), and Living Building Challenge is challenging responsible construction and increasingly we hear of construction organisations looking at or adopting ISO 26000, …. and so on …

So, it may or may not be 2012, but only is it just a matter of time before the sector, like Apple, is forced or nudged towards ‘iTransparency’.

Related reading:  Mapping Transparency – Why it pays to be open 

If you wish to engage in conservations on CSR in construction follow and join me on twitter @fairsnape, subscribe to or share this blog post, or get in touch.

Summary of Green Deal Consultation Responses

A Summary of Green Deal Consultation Responses collated via twitter:

The public consultation process for Green Deal closed last Wednesday with DECC reporting over 600 responses. It will be interesting how DECC make sense of all. A quick read through those made public via twitter (listed below) indicate:

  • A general agreement for the Green Deal process and benefits for industry.
  • Need for more clarity on funding mechanics and links to other initiatives
  • Concerns for SME’s
  • Concerns for generating demand
  • Little mention of timescale (although there is a call for delayed introduction for commercial sector)
  • More than one of the response listed below call for the introduction of a Green Deal Project Manager, to site along site the Provider, Funders and Installers.
  • SME’s in particular should prepare for Green Deal if they dont want to miss the boat.

Next step in the Green Deal run-up is the issue of PAS 2030, expected during January.

These responses indicate that Green Deal will happen, most likely in October, the orginal commencement date but that DECC have a lot of refining to do, in a very short time. In the meanwhile SME’s should start preparing for Green Deal.

Recommendations for preparation include:

  1. Understand your clients intentions – this will be your Green Deal workflow.
  2. Understand PAS2030 and skill levels required, without which you cannot deliver Green Deal any work.
  3. Look at your own organisation – is it a good example of being green, sustainable?
  4. Be visible – engage with events, get involved with green deal conversations across social media eg twitter, shout out about your preparation and achievements


Links to public responses: (if you know of any more please add in comments)

For more information please do not hesitate to get in touch, join me in green deal conversations on twitter, and if you like this blog article please subscribe or share using the buttons below …

Green Deal Needs a Radical Boost to Succeed, warns Federation of Master Builders

Yesterdays, press release from the FMB illustrates the frustation developing within Green Deal and hindering preparation for Green Deal and addressing the requirements of PAS 2030 and Code of Practice.

These are the same frustrations I hear from green deal related workshops I am engaged in, on one hand their is promise of work, the biggest home and property improvement programme since the 2nd world war, and on the other hand far too much confusion. The result is that many contractors and installers who do the scope of measures to be covered by Green Deal are just not engaging, playing the green deal or not green deal waiting game.

Danger, is of course that when green deal does go live there will not be many accredited (PAS 2030 etc) contractors and installers available

FMB Press Release reads:

The Government’s Green Deal initiative to makes our homes more energy efficient is in danger of failing at the first hurdle unless it provides a range of additional incentives to encourage householders to take it up, warns the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) in its response to the Government’s Green Deal consultation, which closes on Wednesday (18th January 2012).

Brian Berry, Director of External Affairs at the FMB said:
“With rising energy bills there is an urgent need to improve the energy efficiency of our housing stock as it is far less energy efficient than that of our European neighbours’. However, householders will need to be convinced of the value of retrofitting their home particularly when the price is having a new charge attached to their electricity bill. The quickest and easiest way to create consumer demand would be to reduce VAT on Green Deal improvements or reduce Stamp Duty.”

Berry continued:
“Another concern is how local building companies will be able to access the Green Deal given that few, if any, will become recognized Green Deal Providers because of the onerous conditions attached to providing the finance packages. This is a lost opportunity as it is the local builder who is best placed to advise householders about energy efficient improvements when they are carrying out other home improvements or repairs.

Berry added:
“The Government has rightly tacked the need to eliminate rogue traders by insisting on the need to have Green Deal accredited installers. Local builders already have many of the key skills in place to carry out energy efficiency improvements but now they need an operational accreditation framework that enables them to demonstrate their skills and knowledge at the standard required. The Government’s delay in approving recognised competency schemes is not helpful and swift action is needed if the building industry is going to be ready for the launch in October. We know that the Green Deal has the potential to create some 65,000 new construction jobs which is why it is so important that we have the training courses ready at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Berry concluded:
“We want the Green Deal to be a success but it won’t be unless the Government considers seriously the need to introduce fiscal incentives for homeowners, creates a level playing field to enable local building companies to access the market, and ensures that training courses are quickly approved to accredit local builders.”

Green Deal – heading for failure or success?

There has been a spate of interesting “Green Deal will fail articles” recently, for example

DECC research suggests Green Deal will flop from Business Green

Green deal suffers setback as loft insulations set to plummet from the Guardian

and on George Monbiot’s Blog: The green deal is a useless, middle-class subsidy

It is great that we debate the issues around green deal, in particular mechanics of funding and energy performance of building, and I must agree with Monbiot

Even if we agree on nothing else, can we agree that a policy is not green if it discriminates against the poor?”

Based on this Greenest Government Ever track record to date who knows?

However, as I mentioned on my last blog  “Where Greendeal will succeed …” debate is good and there are some certainties emerging, like for example the Green Deal Code of Practice, and,  PAS 2030, at the moment a poorly crafted document but one that should put some control on cowboy builders, protect clients and improve the image of installation.

The arguments to date focus on domestic Green Deal, I await with interest for the same debates to kick off within the commercial and private sectors…



#GreenSkills a serious barrier

The RAE (Royal Academy of Engineering) have today published their report:

Heat: Degrees of Comfort, Options for heating home in a low carbon economy. 

There is no possibility that the UK can meet its 2050 target for CO2 emissions without a fundamental change to the way our homes are heated, according to a report published today (12 January) by the Royal Academy of Engineering. Even with the most modern gas boilers and state-of-the art insulation, we cannot continue to heat so many homes by natural gas and still achieve an 80% cut in emissions as laid down in the Climate Change Act 2008.

Plumbers unprepared for move to energy-efficient homes, report warns (from the Guardian 12/01/12)

In addition to the technical options and considerations, throughout the report there are a number of important and timely comments around the skills issue for installation, AND, for behavioural operation, as the following extracts show:

… skills shortages will be a serious barrier to decarbonising heating unless addressed effectively

… behavioural aspects are very important. Studies in the UK and overseas tend
to reveal a variation of typically 3:1 between the upper and lower tails of the
energy use (between the 5% and 95% cases in the distribution) in technically
similar dwellings occupied by people from demographically similar
backgrounds. To make radical changes, it will therefore be essential to engage the occupiers.

… the lack of inter-discplinary work:

(A Cautionary Tale Case study): The initial problem they faced was finding a single contractor who would take responsibility for the whole installation including the GSHP, ground coils, underloor heating and the integration of the new system with their existing heating and DHW installations. Eventually, despite having contacted the Low Carbon Partnership and the Energy Savings Trust, they had to place separate contracts with a heat pump installer, a groundwork contractor, a plumber and an electrician for different parts of the work.

The work went ahead and a 16kW heat pump, 150m of slinkies, a thermostore tank, solar collectors, two underfloor heating coils and room thermostats were installed.

When the system was operational the householder was shocked to find the electricity bill increased from £30 per month to £250. After 18 months of high electricity consumption and many visits by the different companies involved, it emerged that the heat pump had been wrongly connected so it was providing heat to the underfloor heating at the temperature required by the storage cylinder for DHW and, although the room thermostats were controlling the pumps on the underfloor heating manifold, they had not been interlocked with the heat pump which, in consequence, was running continuously at its maximum return temperature.

… often there was no single contractor responsible for the installation, which might involve a ground works contractor, a plumber, a heat pump installer and an electrician. As a result of there being no ‘design authority’ for the whole system, there was no single point of responsibility or any liability for the eventual performance of the installation

… there is clearly a need for many more engineers and technicians who understand the systems engineering that has to go into a heat pump installation and who can integrate the various energy systems in a customer’s house. The present provision in higher education and further education is well below what will be required. This could be a significant brake on the deployment of low-energy systems

“Our building performance studies show unmanageable complication is the enemy of good performance. So why are we making things more complicated in the name of sustainability?” – Bill Bordass,  The Usable Buildings Trust

and in conclusion:

17.4  Skills
The levels of applications engineering required to integrate a heat pump in a property along with local energy sources and other intelligent loads, such as chargers for electric cars, is much higher than is generally available in the trades that traditionally provide heating and related services to domestic consumers. A new type of energy use professional will be needed. Recruiting these will compete with the demands of new nuclear power, offshore wind and other energy industries that are already flagging-up staff shortages.

Skills shortage will potentially be a serious barrier to decarbonising heating unless addressed effectively.

Where Greendeal will succeed …

We are now some 9 months away from Green Deal going live in the UK.  Whether or not the initiative meets its very ambitous, even courageous aims, and manages to unravel its complexities and confusions,  be assured Green Deal could be very successful and instrumental in changing and hopefully improving our industry.

How? My thoughts …

Re-Igniting the sustainability debate in construction, particularly in areas of the industry not as yet engaged with sustainable construction.

Forcing an open and general debate about eco and energy performance of our buildings. (Some of which have been completed recently in the last decade, when we have all been building and upgrading sustainably,  or not?)

Creating the need for a total review of education and training in the industry. Are we really only now debating just what is a green skill and how we train for building green.

Revisiting collaborative working relationships in the built environment. Will we see new look consortia comprising of funders, clients, builders, energy providers, renewable energy companies and more. Who will lead?

Redefining the client – the building owner, the green deal provider, or the funder of the eco improvements.

Cutting through Green Wash in construction.  Could PAS 2030 be seen as a green build standard in the UK providing some form of green accreditation for all eco work, whether Green Deal or not.

So, to those who think that green deal does not apply to them, I would urge you to find out more – its possible the green deal concepts will reach into most areas of the built environment.

To find out more, I invite you to join me in the green deal debates on twitter, subscribe to this blog or just get in touch for more information on preparing for green deal