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Archive for May, 2007

Chiltern Downs visitors centre

A project I led at XCO2 is being featured in the Ecotech supplement in Architecture Today this month (no link yet). It’s a visitors centre for the National Trust in the Chiltern Downs expected to provide services to around 400,000 visitors a year. And it’s loaded with green goodness: woodchip boiler for space and water heating, rainwater harvesting for toilet flushing, and an earth coupled ventilation system that brings air into the building through a 90m long concrete pipe buried below ground. (more…)

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There’s another fridge discussion at No Impact Man, where he’s asked for ideas on how to keep milk fresh. In one of the comments, someone pointed to a passive ice box that freezes about a cubic meter of ice in winter and keeps your food cool the rest of the year. Kick ass. Unfortunately it looks like it requires much colder winter temperatures than we get here in Marche.

Someone else mentioned the Mitti Cool, a passive clay refrigerator invented in India. That’s more like it!

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freezer iceI was lamenting in a post about compact florescent bulbs how I didn’t know where else we could significantly cut electricity consumption. Then I saw this post from Greenpa. Turns out I wasn’t thinking hard enough.

(more…)

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The New Scientist published a fantastic article this week answering the 26 most commonly used arguments against climate change. Keep it close to hand.

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Via Tom N, a great article in BSJ on whether CHP (and CHP + cooling) actually has as much potential to reduce carbon emissions as the industry (and Ken Livingstone) would have you believe.

In general, I agree with James Thonger’s conclusions. However… (more…)

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According to online energy auction house BuyEnergyOnline, during April 2007 UK gas wholesale prices rose by just 1% while electricity prices increased 13%, making the widest spark gap since deregulation. (more…)

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pellet delivery 2
Maurizio brought round our last one-tonne bag of wood pellets a few weeks ago and I’ve been meaning to post photos since. He’s been holding the last bag for us since last autumn when we only managed to get five of the six tonnes we’d bought into the pellet store.

We’ve now got plenty of pellets. A few too many, actually, because when you buy pellets you should a) buy in the summer when pricespellet delivery 1 are lower and b) buy as much as you can so you spread the cost of transport across as many tonnes as possible. We’ve now got enough pellets to get us through to the start of the heating season, which is a problem. If we buy in the next few months we won’t be able to fit more than 3 or 4 tonnes in the store because of our leftovers. If we buy in winter, we’ll buy at a premium and have to wait in line with everyone else. As a solution I’m hoping to find storage space somewhere (like Carletti’s barn or Marco’s cantina) so we can buy maybe 10 tonnes over the summer and transfer them to the pellet store as we need them.

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After I mocked Italy’s efforts to combat climate change, it turns out their funding for microgen (in particular photovoltaic panels) makes the UK’s policy look even more pathetic. If that were possible. (more…)

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A London borough used thermal imaging from the air to help identify properties with high heat loss and they’ve put the results online for anyone to see. Here’s the article in the The Times. And here’s the map showing the results.

I think it’s fantastic, provided the council follow it up with constructive advice to the worst homes and other buildings. Now what we need is a thermal version of Google Earth.

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bow drill 1In the Dorset woods last summer, I spent a day learning to make fire with a bow drill, starting with just a knife and a log. There were eight of us on this bushcraft course, each one tasked with making his own fire from scratch. We all worked in a charged silence and then eventually someone would get a fire going and he’d howl and hoot and punch the air. The others would look up enviously for a moment and then bend back down to their own bow drills.

In the evening around the campfire we talked about the lesson and some of the guys agreed that making fire was more satisfying that most things they’d accomplished in their professional lives. Fire is the foundation of civilisation – you could argue that fire defines humanity. We’re human, we’re more or less civilised, so making fire should be easy. But it isn’t – because it’s too simple.

By its nature, a complex society requires specialists. Most of us in Europe and the US have jobs that fill a tiny niche, jobs that would be useless in a simpler society; meanwhile our needs stay the same regardless of the complexity of the society we live in. Because of our specialisation, we often lack even the basic generalist skills that are needed to satisfy those needs. Instead, we specialists are reliant on other specialists (themselves reliant and yet other specialists), each of us operating many layers of abstraction away from the processes by which our needs are met. (more…)

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