Category Archives: contraction and convergence

Walking the walk – design resources

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) recently launched  “Walk the Walk,” , a multi-faceted campaign to educate, promote and encourage sustainable design among consumers, business owners and architects. 

(It is a pity they don’t include builders, fm and end users in that list.  Sustainability is a collaboartive approach, across all project and facilities stakeholders.)

Walk the walk is rich in resource, including:

A sustainability resource center for practitioners. The Walk the Walk Toolkit 2030   highlighting green building issues and provides samples of effective ordinance language for communities, as well as examples of what others are already doing to pursue green building programs.  A 50to50  how-to resource intended to assist architects and the construction industry in moving toward the AIA’s public goal of a minimum 50 percent reduction of fossil fuel consumption in buildings by 2010 and carbon neutrality by 2030.

I found the Sustainability 2030 Green Meeting Guidelines , a resource to help reduce the environmental impact of meetings and events and the  Measures of Sustainability (PDF) overview of interest.

Most of the resources seems to be available to all, for which the AIA is to be commended.

A visit to the RIBA site brings up an equal wealth of resource at Climate Change including the useful Guide to Low Carbon Standards and Assessment Methods, an overview of recommended low carbon performance standards and associated assessment methods for new and existing buildings.

Of particualr note however is the RIBA’s adoption of Contraction and Convergence,  within its Climate Change Policy

(Contraction and Convergence is the science-based, global climate-policy framework, proposed to the United Nations since 1990 by the Global Commons Institute, itinvolves a globally balanced approach to the stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations at safe levels, consistent with the aspirations of different communities to development and quality of life.) 


The RIBA has adopted Contraction and Convergence as the overarching policy to guide its targets for the reduction of GHG emissions associated with the use of energy in buildings.

So plenty of resources out there, all good stuff, but really does need that walk the walk, the changing of mindset, the rethinking and the collaboratives approach.  The AIA’s Walk the Walk is a step in the right direction – we need a similar ‘outreach’ programme here. How many architects here would be aware of C and C for example and how that can be applied to everyday design.

Code level 6 too easy ? – go to level 7 or beyond

Following on from earlier posts (whats wrong) on this site where I raised the question that Level 6 of the Code for Sustainable homes was seemingly too low a standard – as Barratts and Eddie Shah, and others, already claim they can achieve it , apparently without doing to much different, it is encouraging to see Bill Dunster pushing the goal posts further.

‘Anybody can build to Level Six,’ says Bill

Bill Dunster claims his RuralZED house, which will be shown at the Ecobuild exhibition (26-28 February at Earls Court), meets the unprecedented (and non-existent – he invented the term) Level Seven of the Code for Sustainable Homes, with a wind turbine producing energy to make up for the embodied energy in the materials and construction of the structure. more info at AJ

Level 6 and now Level 7 must remain stretch targets – targets to stretch our rethinking, our innovations and our urgency in addressing sustainability issues. To say we can achieve them today is plain greenwash. (Greenwash sin number 1, 2 3, or 6? )

And, on a similar issue will we see a higher level BREEAM assessment to continue to stretch our sector? After all if BREEAM Excellent doesn’t achieve the targets we need to reach nationally or globally then indeed we do need higher, tougher standards.

As Dr Jo Williams, in the latest edition of Journal of Environmental Planning and Management shows, the current government strategy is unlikely to drive the required increase in technological, infrastructural, service and knowledge capacity needed to deliver zero-carbon homes. If it is going to meet its carbon targets the government should make the current “code 6-star rating” (ie zero-carbon standard) mandatory for all new housing, and invest in the technology, infrastructure and knowledge needed to support its delivery… Without which we will head to an environmental disaster. (Guardian report – where are the green houses)

Or – the will (hearts and minds) and motivation to do so without legislation and standards – ie just getting on and doing it as in the spirit of Contraction and Convergence for example – but thats another post.

no more greenbuild heros?

The Guardian ran a list of the top  50 heros to save the planet on Saturday.  For an industry or sector that contributes to nearly 50% of the carbon emissions and 75% of energy use – it is really sad to see we have no real heros.

Of note though:

Aubrey Meyer: musician and activist. a 60-year-old South African violinist living in a flat in Willesden, north London,  Aubrey developed the Contraction and Convergence approach that is seriously challenging developing countries.

Oh and the RIBA sustainability strategy endorses C&C and recently made an award to Aubrey.

Meyer still plays the violin every day, but seldom with an orchestra. “I just did not realise that it would take quite so long to change the world,” he says.

Other mentions are Peter Head a director of Arup master planner of the world’s first true eco city”  This you will recall won the Greenwash of 20067 award for the project that isnt. (very confusing )

and, Ken Yeang as the world’s leading green skyscraper architect and Lenardo Decaprio – for amongst others stuff  – building – Eco-Town,  a “model of green living”.

But to include Lomberg reduces the lists credibility – of the Great Warming Swindle school of thought, Lomberg is seen as a distorter of science and doing more harm than good to environmental causes

But where oh where are the green leaders and activists in our sector.  If you can think of anyone  you can join the debate  at The Guardian 

Contraction and Convergence – UK Gov response

I recently participated in an online petition to 10 Downing St on the governments response to C and C.  The response here is well worth a read, covering C and C and personal; carbon trading, the climate bill and other carbon iniatives.

Cant help thinking there is some political greenwashing here.

Incidentally the petition was organised through Facebook and blogs – demonstrating the emerging recognition and influence these new social networks have.

Built Environment and GEO 4, the last wake up call?

In 1987 (sustainable development) was about meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (Brundtland) but now in 2007 – the bill we hand our children may prove impossible to pay (Steiner UNEP)

The GEO4 report, Global Environment Outlook: Environment for Development launched yesterday by the UNEP (United Nations Environmental Programe ) should be read and considered in the context of the contribution that the global built environment has made to our current environmental crisis. (Just under 50% of global carbon emissions, 50% of all UK waste etc, etc- the figures, although varied, have been well documented in many places)

The GEO4 report received much news coverage and hopefully will be the last wake up call we need, and seen as another key milestone in our awareness of what we are doing, along side the Brundtland commision, the Stern Report, Inconvenient Truth etc

From GEO4

“all too often [the response] has been slow and at a pace and scale that fails to respond to or recognise the magnitude of the challenges facing the people and the environment of the planet,” said the environment programme’s executive director Achim Steiner.

“The systematic destruction of the Earth’s natural and nature-based resources has reached a point where the economic viability of economies is being challenged – and where the bill we hand to our children may prove impossible to pay,”

The report said irreversible damage to the world’s climate will be likely unless greenhouse gas emissions drop to below 50% of their 1990 levels before 2050. To reach this level, the richer countries must cut emissions by 60% to 80% by 2050 and developing countries must also make significant reductions, it says.

(see Contraction and Convergence)

The 550-page report took five years to prepare. It was researched and drafted by almost 400 scientists, whose findings were peer-reviewed by 1,000 others.

One of the report’s authors, Joseph Alcamo said that race is on to determine if leaders move fast enough to save the planet. “The question for me, for us perhaps, is whether we’re going to make it to a more slowly changing world or whether we’re going to hit a brick wall in the Earth’s system first,” he said.

“Personally, I think this could be one of the most important races that humanity will ever run.”

Guardian – Environmental failures ‘put humanity at risk’


The Independent – Not an environment scare story

neutral, zero or offset?

With the proliferation of websites and services offering to calcuate your footprint and allow you to offset, it is good to come across one site that offers a very different approach to get the offset message across.

About CheatNeutral

Cheatneutral is about offsetting infidelity. We’re the only people doing it, and Cheatneutral is a joke.

Carbon offsetting is about paying for the right to carry on emitting carbon. The Carbon offset industry sold £60 million of offsets last year, and is rapidly growing. Carbon offsetting is also a joke.

It is also very encouraging to see that the people behind Cheat Neutral support, recommend and provide links to Contraction and Convergance.  Again from their site:

  • Learn about Contraction and Convergence. C&C is a framework for agreeing a global cap on carbon emissions. We believe that to make our individual sacrifices count, we need a global framework that caps the amount of carbon emitted, creates a timeframe for reducing emissions to a safe level, and distributes carbon credits equitably. C&C satisfies all of these, and would make carbon trading fair and effective. Good resources are at