on going local – part one

Mel Starrs over at Elemental has a great and useful article on local resources as seen from the LEED and BREEAM perspectives. Local materials, for local people (or a review of LEED credit MR5.1)  Essential reading for those using these standards and grapling with the concept of local resources.

And yet there is another local resource debate emerging that may well eclipse these standards:

The transition movement approach based on the concepts of peak oil and local resilience necessitates the use of local labour and resources. Rob Hopkins within the Transition Handbook includes building materials as one of the key products, along with food, that can be produced locally.  Re-localisation calls for the production of the means to produce locally – something lost in the cheap transport, cheap oil economies.

A recent presentation from Tom Woolley advocating the use of hempcrete and other cropped based construction products as the  material of the future, paints the picture of the hemp being grown fields local to the new housing project.

Within the UK regeneration projects there is often KPI requirements on the use of local resources and labour, as high as 70%  in an attempt to keep spend local to regenerate the regional and local construction markets.  It remains a key selection criteria on most if not all public procurement PQQ’s.  Corporate organisations often have grand CSR statements on positive approaches to using local labour and organisations. 

And yet a simple plotting of supplier / subcontractor locations on a google map can reveal to clients the visual distribution of spend away from the local area. 

Re-localisation is a debate that will continue, driven by the drive for low or zero carbon, the economy, politics and concepts such as transition and peak oil.  How the standards, LEED /BRREAM and the CSB / CSH influence or reflect this will be of great interest.

… off now to view the Hanham Hall sublitted application plans for their intentions for use of local labour and resources … part 2 to follow.

out breeam’d ?

The UK Green Building Council has promised an open source sustainability code, to help address the confusion arising from the myriad of different green building standards with a new Code for Sustainable Buildings, joining in the debate / tussle between LEED and BREEAM.

Paul King, Chief Executive of the UK-GBC,: “Industry needs a clear and practical route map and milestones that are aligned with Government policy to give it the confidence and knowledge to move forward on a trajectory to 2019.

UK-GBC Chairman Peter Rogers , “The UK-GBC wants to see very wide take-up of robust and customer-friendly tools, and we believe that the standards at the heart of a new Code for Sustainable Buildings should be ‘open source’, meaning that such a Code could potentially be incorporated into a range of different tools, from a range of providers who could then compete in terms of service provision, without confusing the industry with different standards.”

The concept of open source, is to be welcomed, allowing the code to be incorporated into regional, corporate and community developments, and also allowing other standard bodies, building firms and consultancies to use elements of the code in their own green building guidelines.  And it flies in the face of the more closed and commercial approaches from BREEAM and LEED

The final code, which is scheduled to be published in March next year, is expected to mirror the government’s Code for Sustainable Homes and as such, will feature wide-ranging rules and guidelines on the metrics and best practices builders should embrace to limit the environmental impact of offices, commercial properties and other non-domestic buildings.

Is there something else here,? Can codes, approaches, tools and technologies which in essence will improve environmental performance, carbon emissions, sustainability generally, and ‘save the planet’ morally be closed and commercial. The emerging models of wikinomics, freeconomics etc must be applied to sustainability, where the economic model is built upon giving away free ‘lead’ products.

I would love to see much more open approaches with the built environment sustainability agenda using for example the creative common model.

LEED 2009 V3

The new edition of LEED – version 3 for 2009 is open to public comment here – promising to reset the bar for green building leadership because the urgency of the LEED mission has challenged the industry to move faster and reach further than ever before.

More comments when I get chance to view the documents …..

BREEAM LEED – wrong tools for the wrong job?

Hardly a day passes with out some news, comment or blog-post passes across my computer that is related to BREEAM, LEED, POE’s, or even EPC (that’s environmental property code from IPD). Mel at Elemental has posted some interesting observations on a forthcoming BREEAM review, which in conjunction with the UKGBC is aimed to shore up the British scheme in face of the growing influence of LEED, I assume.

Yet each item I read reinforces my feeling these are the wrong tools for the wrong job*. Maybe we are looking down the telescope the wrong way. Are we too pre-occupied with moulding our designs to the needs of the organisation or business and its people, rather than really listening to the organisation or business, its people and the society or community in which it lives (or will live)?

If we were to throw away these schemes, and start Continue reading “BREEAM LEED – wrong tools for the wrong job?”

Eco … build, homes, villages and towns – pah… greenwash?

James Meikle’s article in yesterdays guardian paints a picture of growing concerns and gaps in the thinking behind the current push towards ‘eco‘ villages and towns.

As a flagship for the huge number of homes to be built and eco towns to be created, Northstowe, if the Guardian report is correct has problems:

As the town takes shape, en route to at least a 20% – and hopefully higher – supply of renewable energy, combined heat and power plants could prove more efficient and cost effective than solar gadgets and micro generation on separate houses.

Sounds great, but the debate is our on micro generation – but only 20% renewable? !!!

More recently, Cooper decided that Northstowe must not be delayed by having to meet zero-carbon standards subsequently imposed for all new houses from 2016.

Ah ha – explains the 20% but if we can do it as an eco-challenge at Hanham Hall in Bristol – why not here?

James too makes the point on the level expected on the homes:

To start with, … private homes will only be at level 3 on the code for sustainable homes, producing 25% lower emissions than legally required so far, but no more revolutionary than homes already being built on some smaller developments. The requirement for affordable homes will be slightly higher at code level 4 – a 44% improvement on minimum standards, but again not as tough as might have been expected, given the experimentation already under way elsewhere.

In my opinion this is not flagship or even eco…

David Bard, a senior councillor on South Cambridgeshire council, which, with the county council, will consider the Northstowe plans in the next few months, says: ” I am not sure that anyone actually knows what is meant by an ‘ecotown’, let alone a ‘prototype ecotown’.

Time to rethink? Time to get back to basics?

Time to recall where Eco comes from – as it is a prefix used in most ‘sustainable ‘ iniatives at the present. Eco-this eco-that and eco-other is indeed the zetigeist of the moment. Eco is of course an abreviation of ecological – and as a prefix used to describe things realted to ecological issues. Except it isnt today, at least in its use for eco homes and villages etc.

Eco villages stem back to 1960’s community living, alternative technologies, living off grid with alternative lifestyles. Are todays eco villages just a clever greenwashing of of that ideal? (A greenwash that probably covers all 6 of the greenwash sins!)

Where is the community, social enterprise, regeneration, ecological diversity protection thinking in these developments?

It would be very interesting to see calculations for the ecological footprint of eco-developments such as Hanham Hall and Northstowe and how they would compare to other or non eco developments. There is much focus on carbon footprints, understandably as its tangible and easy to understand – but if we use the prefix eco – lets focus on the ecological footprint as well.

I have posted on the LEED ND (neighbourhood development) scheme here a few times – it would be fascinating to assess Hanham Hall or Northstowe against this standard. Just looking at the evidence required for submission for this standard would (hopefully) cause a rethink, or dropping of the prefix Eco ! for example:

  • Smart Location and Linkage, (smart location means ecological consideration!)
  • Neighborhood Pattern and Design,
  • Green Construction and Technology and
  • Innovative Design

Any BREEAM assessors, any LEED ND assessors out there looking for a challenge? Anyone out there willing to fund a project to ‘test’ the claims being made? These projects underway now will shape our future housing construction, living, and social well being.

Why do I hear the Pete Seger song when I think of eco-towns

Little boxes on the hill side, little boxes made of ticky-tacky.
Little boxes, little boxes, little boxes all the same.
There’s a green one and a pink one and a blue one and a yellow one,
more

So time for a rethink and real innovation – as Henry Ford famously said “If I asked people what they really wanted they would have asked for faster horses” Will we still get little boxes ?

And quietly the transition-towns movement gains pace …. but thats another post !

LEED to take on the world?

Whilst the BRE and Prince Foundation square up on Code Level 6, watch out for the creeping LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) the US version of BREEAM.

In an article in the latest Plenty journal, Robert Watson (often hailed as the father of LEED ), talks about his determination to turn LEED into a worldwide benchmark, with a focus on developing countries of China and India.

In the interview, when asked how home  owners can get involved in LEED, Robert replies – Look for the LEED label on your homes …   And just demand it as a consumer.

Cant quite see the consumer demanding such labels here – yet – but come 2016?