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…

More @ SDRN 

US Green building may follow EU model …

Heres an interesting article that Google alerts brought to my attention:  Future green construction may follow European models in the Portand Journal of Commerce.

As the building industry searches for the next big thing, the likelihood increases that builders, developers, architects and engineers will continue pushing the boundaries of what constitutes sustainable design – and they may look to Europeans for leadership.

But as the article unfolds it does mean Europe… ie Germany, Serbia, and Scandavia …. but not the UK ?

“Because of the energy prices (in Europe), they are building tighter envelopes,”

It is hard to see how these comments sit with the current UK industry opposition to zero carbon and improved airtightness requirements.  Could UK designers loose out to EU designers on the international stage?

defining zero carbon

As a post on this blog noted at the end of last year, the definition of zero carbon buildings is currently under consultation by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

I am in full agreement with Casey over at Carbon Limited who blogs for a call to arms on this one, this consultation is so important that all in the built environment should engage with.

The outcome definition will shape and determine design, construction, building services  and facilities management into the future, in a similar (but more profound way) that the HASAW and CDM and other milestone legislations have done.

(from zero carbon consultation:summary)

At the core of the document is the government’s preferred framework for reaching zero carbon. In order of priority:

  1. A minimum standard of energy efficiency will be required.
  2. A minimum carbon reduction should be achieved through a combination of energy efficiency, onsite low and zero carbon (LZC) technologies, and directly connected heat. This is referred to as achieving carbon compliance.
  3. Any remaining emissions should be dealt with using allowable solutions, including offsite energy.

The zero carbon definition will have profound implications for…

… the built environment client in the choice and cost implications

design –  a change the design parameters,

construction, for example with airtight construction calling for a build quality and quality control we are not too good at. (Research at Leeds Met is showing that the cost of retro fixing air leaks in new buildings is  a hugely costly exercise *)

building services – on energy sourcing and management.

And of course on the way buildings are used, run and managed.

If you haven’t read it yet, you can download it here.  or as Casey puts it – get involved or forever bitch about it in the pubs.

(* more on this later)

on zero carbon and routes to get there …

There have been some very worthwhile and considered articles and comments on the definition of and feasibility of zero carbon recently – take a look at Mels post .. and Phils post for excellent round ups and for good technical comment take a look at CarbonLimited from Casey

The difference in opinions and views is healthy – maybe there is no ‘one’ definition, maybe we should not waste (mental) energy on defining – but as per the zero accidents, zero waste and zero defects debates of recent years accept it as a worthwhile, Utopian goal and work how how to best get there. I recall from my TQM days the concept of zero waste drives lean management approaches, but absolute zero waste is not ‘defined’ – it is a philosophy.

From the supply, contractors, perspective the very confusing debate on what is zero carbon just encourages the ‘keep heads down until it blows over approach’. Understandable, but a strategy that will return to haunt those not prepared to address the changes we will have to make. Most do not have a strategy or vision for moving to a low carbon future, content to be led by circumstances.

Within the Route to Zero programme I run, we start to understand, from industry intelligence, what an organisations customers, shareholders, people and even suppliers are expecting in the context of zero carbon over the next 10 – 20 years. From this intellenge we can develop a maturity matrix of strategies and objectives that would be necessary, ie a Route to Zero. A matrix that would be reviewed regulaly as ‘requirements’ will unfold and change and most likely toughen up. Armed with such a route-map, organisations may not achieve zero , but have the evidence that they are thinking of a zero future.

And as to the general public, those who will buy the zero carbon homes, Mel is correct in pointing out the confusion we as an industry may be giving, a damaging message maybe? What home owners would like to know is the balance between capital purchase and the running costs per month, and what savings per month would a code 6 or zero carbon home give me over a traditional home? Take a look at the house sale literature in the states – this is exactly what green homes are sold on – a reduction in energy bills, making the purchase of green homes desirable, a no brainer and making non green homes nearly unsaleable.

Ad then there is the existing housing stock issue …. which is where effort must be put, not on new build, eco challenges, eco home etc etc ….

a guide to zero carbon homes

Zero carbon homes in 100 words.

The UK Green Building Council released a report this week defining what a zero-carbon house should be in practice. Download from here

Still to read in detail but on first read appears to be a welcomed, considered and helpful guide, with a time-line to help organisations on a route to zero.

There would however appear to be little focus on the construction process, the actual building of zero carbon homes, (an estimated 3-4 years or 11% of the total carbons in the homes life cycle). This is the one issue we desperately need to address, to get buy in from builders. Many of whom may look at this and conclude it has nothing to do with them – other than install or assemble different bits of eco kit and / or materials. For example, construction waste, construction site impacts and considerate contractors scheme – all part of the Code 6 requirements isnt mentioned within the guide. (Site waste management planning is mandatory)

Others, and I know fellow bloggers will, soon comment on the renewable energy and technology aspect of the guide… watch this space…

Finally (for now) I hope that this definition is the same in the soon to be released UK Construction Strategy for Sustainability !!