France requires all new commercial buildings have green roofs | Digital Trends

This sounds like a good plan. My windows look out on the box of a Tesco superstore, which would be much more pleasant with some greenery on its roof.

Rooftops in France are about to get a whole lot greener, thanks to a new law requiring rooftops on new buildings constructed in commercial zones to be partially covered in plants or solar panels.

via France requires all new commercial buildings have green roofs | Digital Trends.

Roof Hens!

Roof Hens!, originally uploaded by spinneyhead.

You may not be able to see them in the photo, but there are chickens behind the coop. They’re on the roof of the biospheric project in Salford. I hope their wings are cropped, because they live on the second floor. If they fly down they may not be able to get back up.

All new homes to be “zero carbon” by 2016 1

The Government has released a white paper that calls for all domestic buildings to be zero carbon by 2016. There isn’t a definition for “zero carbon”, however, though it’s likely to mean buildings which are net-zero carbon over a year. New public buildings will be held to similar standards within a few years.

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Dick Strawbridge on how it’s easy to be green

Top eco-warrior Dick Sytrawbridge addresses some of the common misconceptions about making your home low energy and eco-friendly.

4) Most eco-renovation take decades to pay back the cost

Every time we decide to make an investment in an eco-project, the subject of payback comes up. It is possible to do the sums, and before we spend any hard earned cash I like to make sure that it’s a good investment. For example, loft insulation can pay for itself in two winters, and with the 2010 feed-in tariff I would expect solar PV to pay for itself in about seven or eight years, and a DIY solar thermal system to heat your hot water should have paid for itself in four or five years. But surely this is missing the point: when it comes to environmentally friendly projects we seem unable to accept the fact that it can be an investment and will add to the value of the house. What is the payback time for a new bathroom or kitchen? If you install solar photovoltaic panels you can reasonably expect them to easily last 25 to 30 years. Everyone knows a new kitchen makes a house more saleable, but in the current economic climate, how much more saleable is a house that will cost the new owners very little to run or may even generate an income?

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Old meets new in an eco house

Few people can afford to spend £800,000 on a house, even one that’s going to start paying for itself with the electricity it generates. Architect Richard Hawkes did, and the result is stunning. The timberal roofing is a modern take on an old technique, and will be planted for added insulation. Heat will be stored during the day to be released when it cools, a simple idea made more efficient with new materials.

Few of the technologies Hawkes uses could be affordable to the average housebuilder, but the principles can be adapted for the lower end of the market.

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Hulme has a new eco school

The Rolls Crescent Community Primary School in Hulme has had a £5million revamp to incorporate energy and water saving technologies. All new public buildings should be required to be net zero carbon, or better, before they’re given the go ahead. It sounds like a lot to ask, but in the long run it’ll save money and set a good example.

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Advice for Gordon- save the world by bribing the voters

I don’t have any particular interest in Gordon Brown staying on as Prime Minister, he’s possibly worse than Blair because he’s too much of a coward to actually do anything radical. If he were, however, to suddenly develop a spine and display some of the savvy he claims to have there are ways he could get re-elected, boost the economy and start taking big steps towards hitting carbon dioxide reduction targets.

All he has to do is bribe the electorate.

A small number of people choose to ignore the evidence on global warming and will shout about any environmental initiatives no matter that they often have benefits beyond the green. Let’s just ignore them. Others are determined to cut their footprint no matter what. These converts deserve rewarding, and will be as a bonus of what I’m suggesting. The largest number of people, across a range of scepticism to understanding, aren’t going green because of the initial expense. Also for many of them when Gordon says “Green” they hear the word “Tax”.

Give these people the money to go green.

The recent announcement of a £100billion green initiative by Brown did mention solar power and other grants. What’s needed is for these to be big enough to cover most of the cost of installing panels, insulation or whatever is needed, because at present the payback in reduced bills isn’t enough. Most people would be better off leaving their money in the bank and earning interest. It would also help the uptake if the rates to sell electricity back to the suppliers were better. Let’s say that power companies should write off one unit of power consumed for every unit generated- in summer or on a windy day the house could pay for the electricity it used when it was cloudy or still. After the bill balances then the microgenerator can still sell to the power company at, say, half the price per unit they were being charged.

As important as increasing the grants and improving buy back is selling them properly. Emphasis should be put on giving money back to the consumer and making them independent of big suppliers. Gordon’s too dull to do this well, so he’d have to hope he could find a minister who could do it for him. The Tories have already figured out that this is a good sell, with proposals for feeding landfill savings back to households that recycle more. Their ideas about modifying the tax on petrol are based on a similar idea but seem half baked at best.

Of course, per kilowatt generated and ton of CO2 saved an increase in the scope and size of grants for microgeneration will be far more expensive than offshore wind or any other scheme. But no-one ever seems to think about where this money will go. The workers who install photovoltaics, groundsource pipes etc. will all be based in Britain. With a bit of encouragement the companies creating the equipment could all be British as well. They’ll all pay tax on their increased income, and boost the economy with their spending, as will the households now with extra cash from the electricity they’re saving and generating.

Of course the main reason a scheme like this won’t go ahead is because it will do the one thing all politicians are terrified of- it will allow the electorate to become less dependent on the state and the big businesses that pay for all the lobbying.

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The Virtual Forest

The Virtual Forest is a Spanish endeavour to get people cutting their greenhouse gas emissions by appealing to their wallets. The energy saving questionnaire it offers stresses the financial benefits of saving energy as much as the environmental. They also promise to plant trees for you, in Second Life and real life.

The site is bilingual and there are phrases that seem imperfectly translated, but not as badly as I’ve seen elsewhere. The questions on your energy consumption are also formed from a Spanish perspective. For example, here in Manchester I find I never have need for any form of sun shade to keep the house cool. The cultural differences don’t minimise the message however, and I’d really like a Second Life tree.

This review was paid for through ReviewMe.

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Green home blues

The Prince of Wales plans to build a low carbon house out of natural materials, even if that means it won’t attain the highest possible green building rating.

Some people are becoming convinced that the Government’s stamp duty rebate for zero carbon homes is actually a con. It’s possible the scheme will take off slowly, but I would be unsurprised, though a little disappointed, if the requirements for eligibility have been set too narrow deliberately.

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Comparative Planetology

Kim Stanley Robinson has some interesting things to say about mankinds effect on the environment and the badly thought out assumptions behind some ideas of sustainability.

It’s easy to imagine people who are bored in the modern techno-surround, as I call it, and they’re bored because they have not fully comprehended that they’re still primates, that their brains grew over a million-year period doing a certain suite of activities, and those activities are still available. Anyone can do them; they’re simple. They have to do with basic life support and basic social activities unboosted by technological means.

And there’s an addictive side to this. People try to do stupid technological replacements for natural primate actions, but it doesn’t quite give them the buzz that they hoped it would. Even though it looks quite magical, the sense of accomplishment is not there. So they do it again, hoping that the activity, like a drug, will somehow satisfy the urge that it’s supposedly meant to satisfy. But it doesn’t. So they do it more and more – and they fall down a rabbit hole, pursuing a destructive and high carbon-burn activity, when they could just go out for a walk, or plant a garden, or sit down at a table with a friend and drink some coffee and talk for an hour. All of these unboosted, straight-forward primate activities are actually intensely satisfying to the totality of the mind-body that we are.

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Living Space 21

Living Space 21 aims to provide cheap, low impact housing for the UK. If you have 40 square metres of land with access you can have one of their Studios on Stilts for £60,000. What’s more, they’ve teamed up with the Co-operative bank who will provide a 95% mortgage, with stages if you choose to go the self build route.

If you do go the self build route they will supply the frame with doors, patio and stilts, if necessary, for less than £20,000. Plotsearch is recommended if you need to find the land for your build.

via TreeHugger

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Hard Rain

Greenhouse gasses are causing shifts in rainfall patterns, leading to summers like this one (so far the wettest since records began). Just to make things more complicated, this heavier precipitation is going to alternate with hot summers like last year, but in entirely unpredictable ways.

Aside from focussing on the root cause of all of this I think it’s time to do some better planning around water use. Perhaps every new build should have mandatory rainwater storage for grey use (toilets etc.) All of those tanks would provide a buffer during heavy rain fall that would lessen run off and thus flooding and save water in dry spells. Whilst we’re about it, how about fines for the fools who concrete over their gardens and/or rewards for anyone who rips the paving up and plants a lawn.

Neither of these measures woudl stop flooding, particularly with water volume such as that seen in the last week, but they could soak up overflow in lesser events, and cut the burden on reservoirs.

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Heywood Gardens low energy homes

Seddon Homes have put some serious thought into this new development, turning cookie cutter looking homes into energy efficient buildings. The designs have been thought through from first principles, with well planned insulation and energy saving measures so that the houses require less (solar and wind) power in the first place. I’m not in the market, so I don’t know if the £245,000 asking price is comparable to similar mundane homes, but Manchester Confidential seem convinced.

Most of us are still ignorant to the fact that energy efficiency doesn’t mean compromising standard of living. Yes you can give up your car and wash the dishes as oppose to using a dishwasher, but where eco-homes are concerned there really aren’t any sacrifices because the changes are already in place and finely tuned to provide maximum comfort.

Seddon Group’s case study on Heywood Gardens

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Dojo Ecoshop

Tucked away in Manchester’s old textile district is a wonderful souinding source of ethical and eco beds and furnishing.

We are a small, independent company with strong roots in the textile heart of Manchester, we’ve been making tough, beautiful furniture here since 1990. We left our jobs in scientific research to set up a sustainable business where we could be responsible for the ethical and environmental impact of every aspect of our actions. We wanted to extend our holistic outlook on living to the way we worked too, as a positive and practical force for fairness, healthy living and a sound environment.

Our approach has always been simple and down to earth, we use the best organic and natural materials to produce well designed, functional eco goods that are made to be used, to be enjoyed and to last. We are committed to fair trade from start to finish, from sourcing ethically produced fabrics and fillings to honest pricing of our products.

Our journey has been challenging, exciting and creative and would mean nothing without the support and inspiration of family, friends, producers, suppliers and of course our customers. We look forward to developing more of our plans for new products and meeting new people along the Way.

Sarah and Jonathan

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