Sustainability in Built Environment dominates Guardian Sustainable Business Awards

Sustainability in the Built Environment dominates Guardian Sustainable Business Award winners:

At British Land – winner of the Guardian Sustainable Business built environment award:

As the relationship with Camden council shows, British Land takes its corporate responsibility seriously and this is reflected in the goals for Regent’s Place. From design to construction, the project team has been expected to apply the highest standards of ISO 14001 certified sustainability brief for developments. As a consequence, all the new office buildings have Breeam “excellent” sustainability ratings.

From fit-out to property maintenance the developer has worked with occupiers and on-site teams to use natural resources efficiently, with a waste guide and sustainability brief for management – leading to 8% less like-for-like energy use since April 2010.

When the masterplan is complete, the Regent’s Place estate will double in size, providing 2m sq ft of office, retail and residential space for 14,000 workers and residents. What an opportunity, then, for a showcase site with sustainability at its core.

At Sainsbury’s – winner of the Guardian Sustainable Business energy award:

Crayford Sainsbury’s biggest UK store … is a breakthrough project – the first time a UK supermarket has used the so-called geo-exchange system to tap natural geo-thermal energy trapped deep under the ground.

At the heart of the system is an advanced ground-source heat pump that is linked to boreholes that capture and store waste heat from the store. This is released, when needed, to provide heat and hot water for the store and on-demand cooling for refrigeration.

Most importantly, it has allowed the supermarket group to increase the size of the store with no increase in either energy use or carbon emissions. The expanded store has exactly the same footprint as the smaller store it replaces.

As such, Crayford provides a blueprint for the UK’s second biggest grocer as it plots its future store development. The system will be used on several new and redeveloped stores now being planned.

At Tescos: winner of the Guardian Sustainable Business carbon award:

An all-timber new look store in Ramsey, Cambridgeshire, is meanwhile creating a zero-carbon template for future store development at home and abroad.

A range of new technologies is being tested, including sun-pipe lighting, renewable combined heat and power (CHP), harvested rainwater to flush toilets and run carwashes, the first ever LED car park lighting system and on-site renewable energy production. Similar stores in the Czech Republic and Thailand will be built in the coming months.

Some 614 UK stores have also been fitted with electronic energy boards showing staff at all levels, and in real time, if their store is operating in an energy efficient way and suggesting ways to improve the results.

The Livingston distribution centre in Scotland will soon be equipped with a six megawatt CHP plant, while the California distribution centre has one of the largest roof-mounted solar installations in North America.

And

at InterfaceFLOR – winner of the Guardian Sustainable Business waste and recycling award:

In 1995 InterfaceFLOR, a carpet tile and commercial flooring company, launched mission zero, a promise to eliminate all of its negative environmental impacts by 2020.

Born from an “epiphany” that founder and chairman Ray Anderson had on reading Paul Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce, the mission moved the company away from the “take, make, waste” cycle of manufacturing towards a more sustainable business model.

The path to mission zero is made up of seven clear and ambitious goals, ranging from eliminating waste and using wholly renewable energy to maximising recycling and using resource-efficient transport.

For InterfaceFLOR, eliminating waste meant eliminating the concept of waste, not just incrementally reducing it. Recycling is seen as a last resort and only considered in cases where waste cannot be prevented or reused in any way. It’s an approach the judges thought eminently replicable.

At Capgemini – short-listed for the Guardian Sustainable Business built environment award.

Capgemini has established a new approach for building energy efficient data centres. Rather than build from scratch, it has used an existing building ‘shell’ and populated it with prefabricated modules, similar to those used as mobile hospitals by the British army in Afghanistan.

This in itself minimises the environmental impact that would come with a new-build project and cuts development time from 18 months to just 22 weeks.

Merlin aims to achieve a step-change in every aspect – from the smart engineering of the building to the use of many innovative features, such as fresh-air cooling, battery-free uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and use of recyclable or reusable materials.

The key feature is the cooling system, which combines fresh air and pre-evaporative cooling. It is set up to ensure the tightest possible real-time control of temperature, humidity and air-flow at minimum energy cost.

Merlin includes new “flywheel technology” in its UPS system, with kinetic energy replacing high-carbon batteries.

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a transition view of the uk transition housing plan

A welcomed and important perspective on the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan was posted by Rob Hopkins on the Transition blog:

lowcarbonplancover

After many months of Ed Milliband putting himself out there are a Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change that actually gets climate change, finally his big Plan, the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan was unveiled on Wednesday, in a speech in the House of Commons that name checked Transition Towns and which is the boldest national vision for a low carbon society yet seen.  Many others have since pitched in with their thoughts, I thought it might be useful here to offer an analysis from a Transition perspective.  In his speech, Milliband said “we know from the Transition Towns movement the power of community action to motivate people..”, clearly an outcome of his attendance as a ‘Keynote Listener’ at the Transition Network conference in May. So how does the Plan measure up, and does it actually advance what Transition initiatives and the wider relocalisation movement are doing?

On Housing (of particular interest here) Rob Comments:

tpcommThe Plan restates 2016 of the date by which all new housing will be zero carbon, which is entirely laudable, although Wales has actually managed to introduce this 5 years earlier, by 2011.  It might have provided a good push to this had it been brought forward to, say, 2014. Much of this part of the report is as you would imagine, but it does contain the intriguing statement that “the Government is investing up to £6 million to construct 60 more low carbon affordable homes built with innovative, highly insulating, renewable materials”.

Does this mean that there is now £6 million for hands-on research into straw bale, hemp construction, earth plasters and so on?

Or does ‘highly insulating, renewable materials’ refer to Kingspan and other industrial oil-derived building materials?

At the moment ‘zero carbon homes’ refers only to a building’s performance once built, not the embodied energy of the materials it contains.

The role of local and natural materials in strengthening local economies is key.

My Comment: it is these points that need a wider, open and urgent debate as raised in a previous blog item here. If zero carbon is the solution what was the question? and are we defining zero carbon with enough insight?

Rob scores the Plan as follows:

Addressing Peak Oil:  1 out of 10.

Energy: 7 out of 10.

Transport 4 out of 10

Housing: 6 out of 10

Community involvement: 2 out of 10

Food and Farming: 1 out of 10

and Overall : 6 out of 10


If zero carbon is the answer then just what was the question?

If zero carbon is the answer then just what was the question

Is it ‘just because’ I am currently  seeing things from a different perspective as I re-read Cradle to Cradle, (which I feel  has more resonance with where we are now)  but a number of recent issues and events  have left me questioning our approach to zero, and that going to zero is not enough.   Indeed it may even be dangerous ‘just’ going to zero.

Lets consider the built environment in its widest sense, not just from design to FM but from wining raw materials through construction to end users, and consider the opening premise from Cradle to Cradle, and ask who today would allow a sector to :

Put billions of pounds of toxic materials in the air water and ground every year

Produces materials so dangerous they require constant vigilance by future generations

Results in gigantic volume of waste

Puts valuable materials in holes all over the planet

Requires thousands of complex regulations – not to keep people and nature safe, but to keep them from being poisoned too quickly

Measures productivity based on how few people are working?

Creates prosperity by digging up or cutting down natural resources and then burning or burying them

Erodes the diversity of species and cultural practices.

McDonough and Braunghart were referring to the industrial revolution in these ‘consequences’, but they do describe the construction sector oh so well.  OK so no-one today would allow such a sector which exhibited these ‘by- products’ a licence to trade, so why then do we allow the ‘built environment’ to continue doing so but at a reduced rate?  As McDonough and Braunghart comment – doing only a little good may well be doing no good.

Indeed Janis Birkeland comments in her argument for Positive Development – if we build all new buildings to the highest, greenest standards, then the net contribution to carbon reductions would be only 0.04%.

And with this in mind, the questions that kept forming last week included:

How much do we spend within the global built environment on waste management, (disposal, recycling, regulation, etc) in comparison to the amount spent on eliminating waste full stop, through for example cradle-to-cradle paradigm thinking?

A rule of thumb is that the built environment uses 40% materials, creates 40% waste and generates 40% emissions. Ed Mazria from Architecture 2030 puts this figure higher at 48.5%.  We need to monitor and watch these figures reduce, but at the moment the production of cement remains responsible for about 7% of all carbon dioxide emissions.  Am I the only one who feels guilty with these?

Indeed another rule of thumb puts the quarrying sector at a third contribution – but what proportion from this sector is used to derive materials for construction? If the Cradle to Cradle authors are correct then the consumer (end user) only deals with 5% of the total waste of a product, the remainder 95% is waste created in manufacture.

So why are zero carbon definitions largely ignoring embodied energy and putting them in the ‘too difficult to deal with box’ ?  Dealing only or mainly with a carbon zero definition for buildings in use?

Passivhaus is emerging as the aspirational darling or solution. But what is the true embodied energy of passivhaus, in particular the massive amounts of insulation, sheeting and duct tape?  Passivhaus will reduce energy requirements and costs. Excellent. But I would love to see the payback time on the total and higher than normal embodied energies and waste.

Why are plastic, polyurethane and uvpc now considered green (such products now abound at eco exhibitions and within green guides) based it would seem solely on their performance, not on the harm done during production.

Why doesn’t BREEAM and LEED make more of a  focus on embodied energy  in its scoring?

Oh and why isn’t responsible sourcing to BS6000 more widely known or enforced?

Are we trying to solve the built environment environmental problems with the same mode of thinking that created them in the first place? I have always accepted that within sustainability we will make mistakes, take dead ends and end up in cul de sacs, and that this is all part of the learning and moving forward. But is time running our too quickly, to be so ‘narrow’ and we are just storing another problem for future generations to deal with?

Are we looking down the telescope the wrong way?  Turn it around and we may see the scale and maybe solutions to our problems.

We are in a period of developing strategies, codes and defining zero carbon itself.  Now is the time for that debate to be wider, for a collaborative debate across the sectors that make up the built environment, from raw materials to end users. And here  is where I mention be2camp, as it is through web technologies (in both the widest and most specific aspects) that will allow and enable such debate and dialogue to take place.

And as the Cradle-to-Cradle sub heading says – its time to remake the way we make things

(This is a rewitten and shortened and hopefully bettered reasoned version of the rant I started at the end of last week)

Carbon Consultation Confusion (update)

There are a number of papers and proposals out for consultation at the moment, one just closed and another still to come.  So as a guide (and really looking for correction here if anyone can add to):

Code for Sustainable Buildings Consultation closed – expected feedback from UKGBC at Eco-Build

Zero Carbon Definition for Housing and Non Domestic – consultation closes 18 March (see my post defining zero carbon – more clarifications (for homes at least))  Doesnt include non domestic definition.

Heat and Energy Saving Strategy – sets out emissions from existing buildings to be approaching zero by 2050 – consultation opened yesterday 

Zero Carbon Definition for Non Domestic Buildings – expected later this year but anticipated to follow the principles in the Defintion for Homes.

*Update:  today National Energy Action (NEA) released their own strategy document entitled “National Energy Efficiency Strategy”. To view this document please Click Here.  According to the paper, this Strategy should establish a Code for Sustainable Existing Homes 

Confused?  It is not clear how these will ‘mash’ together, and indeed that is part of consultation, for example how will the Zero Carbon Definition (for Homes) relate to the Code for Sustainable Homes (in particular CSH6) – will it endorse or replace the CSH definition?

Whatever, this is an important aspect of the future of design, build and fm in the UK. The government are to be congratulated on being open on consultation – it is down to us to respond, make our points known …. for forever hold our peace and as Casey put it bitch in the pub.

 

For more informed views on LZC (low zero carbon) see Carbon limted blog posts

defining zero carbon – more clarifications (for homes at least)

On Wednesday I sat in on a Zero Carbon Hub consultation event relating to the defining-zero-carbon-homes-presentation2zero carbon definition  for buildings. I did manage to send some tweets via twitter during the session, and here, I have pulled these together to give a view on the consultation paper.

The event was not quite what I was expecting, as confusingly although the document out or consultation is entitled Definition of Zero Carbon Homes and Non Domestic Buildings, it doesn’t, Neil Jefferson head of the Hub informed us, cover Non Domestics – a separate consultation is expected soon.

Key to the proposal and principles are three elements expressed in the pyramid:

zero-carbon-hier

There is so much thinking, science , technology and even politics behind this hierarchy that isn’t (imho) expressed in the paper, but was covered in the slides from the session, handed out on USB drive and from here : defining-zero-carbon-homes-presentation2

Some interesting thoughts:

As to the rate of homes being built to CSH 6 (zero carbon) the following profile helps to explain the anticipated progress to 100% post 2016:

of-homes-to-zero-carbon

The aspirational target is a UK version of the German PassivHaus concept.  (as Denise Chevin mentions in Building Its principles are simple – the best way to go low carbon is to build a well-insulated, airtight envelope that is nice to live in. It also comes with a copper-bottomed pedigree, with thousands of completed buildings over its 17-year history.)

Nearly 50% present at event were developers and contractor and saw the on site achieving of standards as most demanding aspect of zero carbon. (Cost and quality) 

Will allowable solutions be just another complex carbon off-setting scheme? Could offsite allowances mean business as usual for designers / developers / builders ?  although 2/3 of those present thought that offsite renewables should n0t be included within carbon compliance.

New build house projects to (could?) decarbonise existing housing stock – this is an exciting new idea but received low interest in terms of potential (votes) from those present 

And as to who should monitor and police zero carbon?  Given three options ( Local Planning Authority/ Building Control Bodies/New form of accredited body) those present opted for c, New form of accredited body.

musing on a carbon 1:5:200

Reading many items and articles on the carbon issues that the built environment faces in the coming years, I have jotted a number of random thoughts in google notebook, which may one day be useful ‘spin’ for example:

…almost every building uses more energy than design calculations …… technology alone is not enough …… design 20%, people 80% … attitudes and behaviour towards energy use need to change …….. it is our responsibility to make sure that the building users understand what they need to do to meet the carbon objectives set at the design stage…… people just change the lightbulbs and appliances as soon as they move in ……. eco bling in buildings is too complex for fm’s so they switch it off and open the window..

And then, describing the 1:5:200 concept to someone today, it clicked, maybe it is the  1:5:200 thinking that joins these snippets together and is a new paradigm required in relation to sustainability and carbon management.

Maybe, if  the impact of construction is set to 1, then could the impact or influence of fm be 5 and the impact of building users 200? (in this thinking the influence of design is 0.1)

(and of course, as with the cost 1:5:200, these are indicative magnitudes to illustrate relationships between construction fm and buildings in use, not absolute figures)

Comments welcome ….

sustainability concerns on Preston Tithebarn

Picked up from Prestonblog, CABE (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment), a letter of concern to the developers of the Tithebarn scheme for Preston city centre on the PrestonLancs forum, . In the letter they raise concerns that the new development does not seem to have had enough thought put into sustainabilty and other key aspects.

(comments of interest underlined)

Sustainability strategies

A scheme of this size and the mix of uses proposed suggest that it should set high standards in terms of energy efficiency and environmental design. We are therefore disappointed by the minimal targets set in this planning application. On page three of the statement under the ‘Energy’ heading, reference is made to the use of renewable energy sources to provide a proportion of the energy requirements of the private dwellings. However, the only targets relating to carbon reduction are the statutory minimum allowed by the building regulations. We are concerned that this might lead to the relaxing of energy standards of the dwellings and use of an unspecified level of on-site renewable energy to improve this up to the minimum allowed by the regulations. Therefore, we would question whether the proposals satisfy the council’s Interim Planning Statement No.3 (IPS3) which requires a 10% saving in carbon over and above total energy use.

We are also concerned that the central energy centre serving a community energy system has been excluded from the current planning application and that this might result in control over the energy systems adopted in most of the buildings being handed over to future developers. In our view, the commitment to a central energy centre should be established in this planning application and conditioned appropriately. Comprehensive redevelopment of the site creates an opportunity to put in place such infrastructure, which is far more difficult to retrofit. The document also suggests that not all buildings would connect a common energy system to achieve the benefits and synergies between different uses of CHP to reduce carbon, which would be a missed opportunity.

The sustainability statement does not seem to acknowledge the existence of the PPS1 Supplement on Climate Change and the need to consider systems at the community scale. Furthermore, given the likely extended build-out phasing (likely to extend beyond 2016) there appears to be no strategy for dealing with zero carbon homes or the scale of carbon reductions likely to be needed of the non-domestic stock given that Government intend to achieve zero carbon by 2019.

The reference to being on target to meeting the UK’s pledge to cut carbon emissions by 60% by 2050 does not acknowledge the recent revised target of 80% and is, in our view, misleading because it does not consider all the energy use of the buildings or acknowledge that the proposals are adding to the UK buildings stock and hence energy demand.

(this is an important issue – the difference between 60 and 80% would have a  very significant impact on design and energy considerations)

We would ask the design team to address the concerns raised above at this point to give the local authority the assurance that Preston Tithebarn will be meeting the standards on sustainability expected of a development of this significance.

On a related sustainability theme, that of transport, CABE also has concerns

While we acknowledge the masterplan brief required that Preston’s existing bus station be replaced, we are disappointed that an alternative way to bring buses into Preston could not have been found. Examples in other cities have shown that a simple on-street drop-off point can be more successful and effective than an expensive bus station building. Furthermore, the large footprint of a conventional bus station with many parked buses and attendant noise and exhaust fumes can have a negative impact on adjacent areas; we would expect that the necessary measures have been undertaken to minimise these nuisances. The overall strategy for the bus routes also needs careful consideration in terms of bus movements and congestion to prevent detrimental effects on the streets used by buses.

Ouch. Back to the sustainable drawing board

It will be interesting to see how Preston now deal with the planning application and whether CABE’s comments are taken on board, or a development tagged as unsustainable is allowed to proceed.

I have searched for but cannot find the application online – if I do I will review and comment – and links would be useful.