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…


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local authority in peak oil tranisition

Last week, Somerset County Council voted unanimously to endorse a motion that they become the UK’s first ‘Transition Local Authority’ reported the Transition Culture blog yesterday

What this means is that SCC will take a more integrated approach to its planning processes, putting peak oil, sustainable communities and climate change at the heart of its forward planning, which would/should/will include its construction and maintenance procurement and management.

Is this the start of local authorities adopting a wider and longer term view of sustainability?  It will be very interesting now to see the PQQ (preliminary qualification questionnaire) issues the county ask of its bidders, the selection criteria used in procurement and the performance indicators.  One big impact should be the real focus on local labour, local materials and construction miles.

Just as the built environment sector is (slowly) getting to grips with answering basic environmental questions with in bidding documents, this may not only move the goal posts but put them on a different playing field.  Try addressing a PQQ question along the lines  “What steps have you taken to address peak oil”

At last we may have some real effort in addressing the impact we in the built environment have on the environment and climate change.

As the Transition Culture blog states: Something Wonderful Just Happened in Somerset

The proposal put before the Council ran as follows;

That this Council

  1. Acknowledges the work done by communities in Somerset on Transition Towns and that the independence of the Transition Movement is key to its grass roots appeal.
  2. As demonstrated in its Climate Change Strategy, fully endorses the Transition Town Movement and subscribes to the principles and ethos of the organisation’s goals to reduce dependence on fuel oil and create more sustainable communities.
  3. Commits to providing support and assistance to all towns in Somerset that wish to join this initiative to help them achieve the goals they set for themselves as local communities, as demonstrated under the ‘Community Initiatives’ section of the Climate Change Strategy.
  4. Therefore, requests the Scrutiny and Executive Committees to consider through the council’s strategic planning process; allocating funds to assist in achieving the outcomes of the Transition Towns Movement in Somerset and requiring all directorates to engage with and provide support for Transition Initiatives in Somerset

Through the work outlined above, seeks to become the first Transition Authority in the UK. Agrees to undertake a review of its budgets and services to achieve a reduction in dependence on fuel oil and produce an energy descent action plan in line with the principles of the Transition Initiative.

News from the SD research network

News from the SD research network

CABE ‘Climate Change Festival’
31st May – 8th June 2008; Birmingham
CABE is joining forces with Birmingham City Council to host the world’s first climate change festival to link climate change with urban planning and design. The Festival aims to illustrate how a successful planning response to climate change can transform the quality of life for people working and living in the city, and to stimulate fresh thinking about low carbon cities. Events will include a range of community-based projects, a green day for schools, a hothouse event for professionals working in the built environment sector, and the launch of Birmingham’s first climate change strategy and action plan to coincide with World Environment Day. It is hoped this festival will become an annual event, involving at least eight cities in 2009, and going international in 2010. More…

ASO Conference – ‘Obesity and the Built Environment’
3rd June 2008: The Kennedy Lecture Theatre, Institute of Child Health, London
This one-day conference will discuss and review the role of the physical environment in providing opportunities for, and barriers against, the adoption of healthy lifestyle choices.  more

JRF Report – ‘Regeneration in European cities: making connections’
In this report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, case studies from a range of European cities are used to explore different approaches to tackling deep-seated urban problems, such as the regeneration of run-down industrial areas.  More…

BRASS Working Paper 45 – ‘Supporting skills and knowledge to deliver sustainable communities: an exploration of the conceptual and policy context’
Written by Julie Newton, Terry Marsden, Alex Franklin and Andrea Collins
Delivering ‘sustainable communities’ is increasingly being recognised as an implicit component of the wider goal of sustainable development. However, a lack of appropriate skills or sufficient understanding of which skills are necessary has remained a significant obstacle to attaining this goal. This paper responds to a growing academic and policy interest in the role of skills in delivering sustainable communities. I Download the paper…


is the code for sustainable homes working

Building Design asks the question is the code working and carries two viewpoints. Andy von Bradsky sees it as credible tool that will evolve and allow us to lead the field in zero carbon futures, whereas Mark Brinkley sees it as a graveyard of intentions.

The article finishes with a what do you think prompt…

I couldn’t resist replying, and include my post to that page below

Code level 6 is, as I have mentioned more than once, the wrong tool for the wrong job.

Why?

It doesn’t pick up on the wider sustainable communities issues, the triple bottom line and CSR issues that contribute to sustainable homes/developments, ie the eco-home within the context of an eco-place.

More importantly it does not address the construction process as Mark illustrates, allowing business as usual for the builders, other than integrating or assembly new bits of building kit. (I was not surprised to hear that the Hanham Hall project will not be monitoring or attempting to improve the carbon footprint of the construction process)

I also question whether we (the UK) are indeed leading the field in zero carbon futures. Are we not just waiting to be led by legislation, and then complaining when its too hard, too expensive, too different ? (as illustrated by bidders pulling out of the next eco-challenge project at Peterborough). I sense elsewhere they are just getting on and doing it – because it makes good sense, commercially, for image, and for the planet.

Time for a re-think on this one. But then thats what targets are for – to learn and improve.

Postscript:

Jonathan Poritt’s view point on this is well worth a read – as he says, Continue reading