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Sustainability on the late radio show

I was delighted to be invited on to the Elizabeth Alker Sunday late radio show on BBC Lancashire / BBC Manchester and discuss sustainability and improving energy use in the home. Below is a precise of my comments, links and references:

My intro:

“Based in Inglewhite on the south western edge of the Forest of Bowland, a great part of Lancashire in which to live and to work from. I run a sustainability consultancy business, Fairsnape, supporting organisations in the built environment on sustainability issues. Typically this means working with construction organisations clients, contractors,architects as well as individuals. I am Chair of Constructing Excellence Lancashire and UK Ambassador for the Living Building Challenge”

As I followed inspiring sustainability sessions from Vincent Walsh (Biospheric Project Salford), Kerry Gormley (OnePlanet) and Jacqui Brocklehurst (Hungry Gardener) I continued the ‘green nature and plants’ theme with a quick intro to the Living Building Challenge: 

“The Living Building Challenge encourages us to look at buildings differently, and imagine buildings and indeed homes using the metaphor of a flower, one that is independent, self sufficient, using only the energy and water that falls on it. The Challenge covers  7 Petals; Place (location, relationship to nature and food) Water; Energy (100% sun!); Health and Happiness; Material; Equity and Beauty. It is based on the philosophy of doing more good, not just less bad. Regenerative Sustainability”  More at

Why do we need to do this?

“Sustainability is often described as having three elements – Economic; we want to reduce the money we spend on fuel and services for the home, Social; we want to be healthy, happy and feel good in the home, and Environmental; we all want to play our bit in improving our local environment, reducing carbons and addressing climate change, And it is our buildings that have one of the biggest impacts on climate change” And we see the affect of climate change increasingly through extreme weather patterns.

What can we do in the home to improve energy sustainability?

Easy / Low Cost – Check energy and water wastage – gadgets left on or on standby for example. (Its is estimated that 8% of energy production goes just to keep our stuff on standby!) Switch to LED and low energy lighting. Get an electricity meter and find out exactly where you are using energy, and watch how that kettle boils!

Medium Cost: Ensure insulation and draughts – 43% of UK homes have serious energy leaks through ill-fitting windows and doors. Get an EPC ( an Energy Performance Certificate for your home – it will show you how energy-efficient your home actually is)

High Cost: Look at alternative energy supply – PV and Solar Panels are most appropriate, Ground Source/Air Source if you have the space. However the investment can be high and returns slow, so make sure you tackle any energy waste and home efficiency issues first!

For more tips and information check out the Energy Saving Trust via their informative web pages at and follow on @EnergySvgTrust

Funding is available from time to time although initiatives like the green deal are a political football, and has been called the ‘green sub-prime’ For advice from approved Green Deal organisations see the Green Deal ORB site 

And importantly for any builders and trades people you may use make sure they carry the TrustMark – find out more at or via their twitter feed on @trustmarkUK

Other topics I mentioned included:

Healthy Materials – be sure that the materials used in any improvement scheme are healthy. There are some great materials for energy efficiency once they are in the place, but increasingly we should be concerned where the materials come from (is the manufacturing process harmful to the environment or workers) and where it goes (is the removal or demolition hazardous, can then be reused?) Note that PVC and other ‘Red List’ materials are the next harmful products to consider avoiding in this respect!

Circular Economy – moves us from our traditional Make, Buy, Dump linear thinking to a circular approach that keeps materials and products in use as long as possible, up-cycling and recycling in the home for other uses rather than put in the bin. Brings back the Make Do and Mend concepts!

Passive House – a standard that sets very stringent limits on how much energy for heat a house can use – requiring super levels of airtightness and insulation. Mechanical Ventilation is used to deal with air quality, fresh air and managing humidity levels.

The show is (still) on iplayer, with my session just after midnight (2.10.30 in) following Gypsy Tramps and Thieves up to just after Babooshka, Kate Bush around 12.30. Enjoy!





For each 250 that join, I’ll donate £1 to solve Climate Change through C&C

As Dave Hampton over at Carbon Coach says:  “Take a look at this new group – its membership has soared from 0 to 1000 in just 72 hours – please consider joining and helping”

I endorse Dave’s comment and urge you to look at the groups intentions and commitments – and consider joining – the group can be found through Facebook

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Asta La Blackpool Baby

Many of the news items this week covering Arnold Schwarzenegger attendance at the Tory Conference at Blackpool,to speak on climate change issues posed the question – what can the Californian Governor tell us about environmental issues? (What can Arnie Teach Cameron?)

As Blackpool is on the Lancashire Construction Best Practice Club ‘patch’, I also asked the question what can the Californian construction and facilities industry teach us?

Well, plenty – from a quick search through web sites and on line case studies

Long regarded as leader in environmental issues in the states, adopting such programmes as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – promoting a ‘whole building design’) and California Title 24 standards, the State of California has an impressive web presence to inform and educate on Green Buildings.

In Dec 2004, as Governor, Arnie issued an order to take aggresive action to …reduce environmental impact of construction and facilities… (I am guessing when Arnold Schwarzenegger issues an aggressive order people take notice!)

The Green Building approach recognises that ‘Buildings account for one-sixth of the world’s fresh water withdrawals, one-quarter of its wood harvest, and two-fifths of its material and energy flows’ and sees building green as an opportunity to use our resources efficiently while creating healthier buildings, providing cost savings to all Californians through improvedhuman health and productivity, lower cost building operations, andresource efficiency–and it moves us closer to a sustainable future.

Check out Green Building Design and Construction site, it contains a wealth of information, tool kits, overview of training programmes and case studies illustrating the benefits gained through building green (a cost saving of 1$ per sq foot in one case)

And with Californian temperatures probably close to what we can expect here if climate change predictions materialise, can we learn for example how they address school buildings that work in summer? For example CHPS, the the Collaborative
for High Performance Schools
programme offers a BestPractices Manual to assist architects, engineers, and school
administrators in designing and building schools to provide an enhanced learning environment for children. In 2006 Californian voters allocated $100 million dollars to fund the designand construction of energy efficient, healthy school facilities for theCalifornia public school system.

So – over to you Roger to invite Arnie along to the LBPC rescheduled sustainability meeting at Blackpool’s Solarus Building !!!!

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Green Property

If you didn’t get the Observer property section on Sunday it could be well worth tracking down.  The whole section was devoted to Green Property issues which will be of interest to those in the housing market as well as us as individual house owners.  (I will post the links here when I can find them, they seem to be hidden in the depths of the Guardian website).

What surprised me was the home assessments necessary for the Energy Performance Certificates, that will be required from June 1st for each house put on the market, and the amount of work to be done to raise a property from a ‘F’ rating to a ‘D’ rating as the example given in the article describes.

There was also an interesting article on the light versus tight discussions in construction at the moment – do we design and construct with lightweight technologies or not?  How will climate change, and foreseen increases in temperatures effect design? Interesting to note that there is very few lightwieght properties in the hotter Med countries.

This reminds me of issues raised at a recent local CIOB event regarding Modern Methods of Construction. The speakers from the Concrete Society made a useful argument as to why concrete construction can be seen as green and environmentally friendly such as light weight or timber constructions. 

This issue would make for a great event and debate for the Best Practice Club.

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PFI versus PPP in Liverpool BSF

News on the Contract Journal web today reports that Liverpool BSF (Building Schools for the Future) is to take a PPP route rather than PFI

I recall this debate taking place at a previous LBPC event on the Blackburn area BSF, which as we now know took the PFI route.  The concern amongst LBPC members was that a PFI route was only for the bigger players in the industry and smaller organisations will loose out on local school work.  Time will tell on that one.

The Contract Journal web article cites two quotes from Liverpool BSF on their chosen route,

“We have already built a
partnership with the private sector for ICT and design – clearly that
narrows the scope for the potential of a PFI deal. It also allows us to
start delivering the programme about a year earlier than if we had gone
down the conventional route.”


a PFI deal would have been a “bureaucratic
nightmare” involving “seven sets of lawyers representing seven
different bodies from different schools”.

Your views?

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