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Archive for the ‘architecture’ Category

It’s Mies van der Rohe’s 126th birthday today! In celebration, here’s a fitting piece of tribute punk (originally spotted by the mighty Rob Annable about 5 years ago, but it’s always stuck with me).

Mies’s work is still hugely influential and mostly loved – but always horrifically inefficient and guaranteed to overheat. And four decades after his death, we’re still cranking out the glass boxes. ARCHITECTS, IT’S TIME TO MOVE ON!

Ah well, happy birthday mate.

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PAYS (“Pay As You Save”) is getting a lot of airtime these days. Born in the US, it figured largely in yesterday’s low carbon transition strategy and the Government clearly hope it will take the pain out of the £10bn per year (or so) that needs to be spent on improving existing stock.

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I just received a very interesting comment from a “simple builder” about the regulatory maze. There are some interesting points in there. I don’t agree with all of them but I wanted to draw attention to them just the same:

Sorry guys I just have to speak out.

I speak as a simple Builder, we are a practical breed, not scientists, but we are being treated with rafts of legislation written by lunatics…

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The requirement for all homes to be zero carbon by 2016 is going to fail unless we take action now. In particular, a set of interim requirements under the Code for Sustainable Homes must be imposed on private housebuilders. In addition, the Code must allow more flexibility in how zero carbon is achieved.

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Phil Clark and Fulcrum have put together a fantastic list of upcoming proposed policy changes relevant to construction. Though I couldn’t find the attached doc he talks about: Fulcrum’s housing chart – where is it? Phil’s promised to keep the list updated as more information is released.

That’s just saved me a pile of research this morning, Phil. Thanks.

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The Draft Statutory Instrument (DSI) for Stamp Duty Exemption for Zero Carbon Homes, announced at the last budget, will undermine the majority of attempts to deliver the greenest of housing. The DSI doesn’t appear to be available online, but the link is to a copy we acquired from the Treasury after badgering them.

The DSI is to be laid before Parliament at the end of next week for Committee approval by the end of the month. It is at best a misguided piece of well-meaning legislation that will do more harm than good, or at worst a genuine attempt by central Government to limit the loss of stamp duty receipts from too many zero carbon homes.

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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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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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(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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Gibbs BuildingFollowing our recent blog conversation about the energy consumption of Portcullis House, Phil at the Sustainability Blog has pointed out the recently published consumption figures for another Hopkins scheme – this time the Gibbs Building owned by the Wellcome Trust. Like Portcullis House, it’s an office building kitted out with plenty of green gear. And like its cousin, the Gibbs Building is consuming more energy than predicted at design stage. So is the green office building just a myth?

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