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Archive for September, 2007

far end
A project I’ve been involved in at XCO2 won the Building Design /100% Detail Cool Wall contest last Sunday. It’s Far End House, set to be the first PassivHaus in the UK (fingers crossed). My involvement has been limited to working through the PHPP spreadsheets – Jayde Austin has done all the hard work – but I wanted to shout about it anyway.

In this case, mob justice was right.

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David Orr’s comments at the NHF annual conference last Friday have sparked off a row with the Homes Builders’ Federation. In response to Orr’s suggestion that developers won’t hit the governments target of all new homes being carbon neutral by 2016, head of the HBF Stewart Baseley said oh yes we will.

But given that it appears the Treasury is trying to make it much harder (and more expensive) to officially go carbon neutral, it’s likely that developers will have to pay up or change their tune before long. Maybe to one of the old protest songs – We shall overcome perhaps?

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The Green Building Council published a response in July to the Draft Statutory Instrument (which comes into force on October 1) for stamp duty exemption as proposed by our now Prime Minister in the last budget. I wish I had read it more carefully at the time…

Colleagues and I have been trying to disentangle the most cost-effective routes to achieving Code Level 6 of the Code for Sustainable Homes for a number of far-sighted and sincere clients who want to deliver the most efficient housing possible, and not just for those that can afford it.

Anyway, the budget announcement stated that zero-carbon homes would be exempt from stamp duty, which in reality is nothing more than a political gesture as the costs involved outweigh the stamp duty savings. Originally, the Code was written to allow for accredited offsite renewables which could demonstrate clear additionality, to be acceptable in achieving true zero carbon status. This was a bold step that, despite the uncertain mechanics of administration had the potential to allow developers the choice of investing in off-site renewables. Imagine being able to deliver say 30-50% CO2 reductions for the cost of a planning requirements of 10%? Or even a 100% reduction for an acceptable extra over to secure a particularly plum site. Too good to be true perhaps?

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In Building yesterday, a study by London South Bank University says a quarter of schemes in London are exceeding the 10% target. The article states:

In total the study, undertaken by London South Bank University, looked at 113 detailed energy statements for schemes that had been given planning approval.

Erm, but none of those scheme has been built yet. And currently there’s no mechanism for enforcing adherence to the commitment by developers – unless it’s written into a Section 106. This enforcement mechanism is a tricky issue that hasn’t been resolved as far as I know. The study also finds that:

…the most effective technologies at cutting carbon are CHP and CCHP, particularly where biomass fuel is used.

Fantastic, and I’m looking forward to seeing more biomass in London. We’ve specced it on a number of jobs, the first of which is up and running. But I can say that using biomass heating (never mind biomass CCHP) brings its own logistical tangles. It’s one thing to tot it up on a spreadsheet and another entirely to bring to fruition.

Without succumbing to the pessimism that seems de rigeur when blogging about the government’s or the GLA’s green policies, I’d just like to add a note of caution. The schemes have been granted planning permission but are by no means home and dry. A follow up survey is needed to see what’s actually built.

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(Spotted by Mel at Elemental) Cyril Sweett have published their research into the potential for improving energy performance of existing building stock. The importance of greening existing buildings is brought home by two facts:

  1. 44% of all CO2 emissions in the UK comes from energy use in buildings
  2. According to one of the report’s authors, in 2050 60% of Britain’s buildings will still pre-date the 2006 revisions to Part L

So we can  look forward to the carbon reductions required by Part L being ratcheted up in future, but the overall effect will be modest, even in the long term. If we want to save carbon NOW then energy consumption in existing buildings is too important to ignore.

Predictably, the report’s top recommendation is for “brave decisions” by the government. But in a political climate where politicians would rather engage in creative accounting than be decisive on climate change, it’s hard to be hopeful.

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What’s going on?

There’s been a fierce debate among energy bods this summer over the environmental effectiveness of combined heat and power (CHP) and CHP with cooling (CCHP) – a debate closely tied to assumptions about the carbon emissions associated with grid electricity in the UK.

What happened?

As noted in this blog in May, Arup associate director James Thonger opened up with a broadside aimed at the GLA policy of requiring CHP and CCHP on new developments. In particular he refuted LCCA claims that gas CHP saves 54% of carbon relative to grid electricity. The LCCA is headed up by Allan Jones, former green god of Woking and now darling of the London Mayor, who didn’t take the criticism lightly.

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