Green building

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.

Technorati tag:

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?

Technorati tag:

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.

Technorati tag: , ,

The Leading New York General Contractor Goes Green

I’m not sure what the UK equivalent of a general contractor is, some sort of one stop building renovations. My Home say they’re they’re the leading general contractor in New York and have announced in a press release that they intend to promote green options for their projects.

There are some deniers whose argumnents have moved on to moaning about the cost of going green. They just can’t see, or refuse to acknowledge, the flip side of their argument- that the economy is going to get a boost from all the companies being paid to work on green projects.

Technorati tag:

Become a Domestic Energy Assessor is the National Home Energy Rating scheme’s sites for people who are interested in assessing homes for Energy Performance Certificates to be issued with Home Information Packs. NHER will train and accredit you, when accreditation terms are agreed upon, for £3,250 + VAT (£2,750 + VAT if you are already an experienced practitioner in the field). I don’t know if career development loans would cover this, I may do some research.

Technorati tag: ,

Greening the construction industry

Leading property and construction firms have formed the UK Green Building Council and given themselves 10 years to transform their industry and make it sustainable. They also make the sensible observation that energy saving measures shouldn’t just be applied to new builds as houses that have already been built will still account for 75% of the housing stock in 2050.

Technorati tag:

Local planning inspectors- not doing their bit to save the world

A Wilmslow man who wants to build an “excellent” eco home has had planning permission denied a second time because it wouldn’t look enough like the buildings surrounding it. The design called for lightweight concrete for the walls, reconstituted timber for the frame, recycled rubber for the flat roof, and solar panels to generate electricity and had impressed Macclesfield council’s design officer, the Wilmslow Trust, and Cheshire Wildlife, who all supported the proposal. However the council planning sub-committee rejected the scheme because of the views of a planning inspector who had said the new house would be so different from any other in the locality in terms of shape, style, and design and materials that it would fail to reflect any aspect of the local character, making it unacceptable in the countryside.

I can see the reasons for wanting to retain local character and not knocking down historically significant buildings, but planning inspectors seem so damn inconsistent. They’ll let butt ugly modern builds go through if they’re “traditional” looking cookie cutter designs, but have hissy fits over bespoke low energy houses designed around their location. It makes me despair.

Technorati tag: ,

Out of the rat race and under a green roof

Leonie Davies, a former department head with the investment bankers J P Morgan, finalised her divorce, quit her job and left London for Norfolk. There she spent four years and £400,000 building her dream eco-house. The green roofed, earth sheltered geothermally heated building has set her back more than planned, but she’s glad to be away from the city and its skewed priorities.

“I was paying a huge mortgage so that I could have a home close to my office, where I was working so that I could afford the huge mortgage on my home. I realised just how crazy that was.”

Technorati tag:

Life in the Project:LIFE House

The Parnell family spent a year in an experimental eco house to test a number of features that could be incorporated in the home of tomorrow. It was originally meant to be a six month trial but they loved it so much they doubled the length.

Although the Project:LIFE house contains so much that is environmentally friendly and technologically advanced, the prime aim of the project is to investigate the changing households of the future, according to James Wilson, the development director of David Wilson Homes. “As house builders we often have to be more conservative than we would like,” he says. “In this project, we have pulled together a big collection of ideas. We’re trying to consider demographics and changing lifestyles, different expectations and requirements and combine all the latest ideas and thoughts.”

Technorati tag: ,

Auf Wiedersehn, Pet?

A robotic wall laying machine could dramatically change the way buildings are erected. From an eco point of view, the materials used can be changed and complex shapes formed- if the solar ventilation for a pbuilding requires complex ducting the robo-builder can do it from CAD designs- and labour savings can bring the prices down.

Khoshnevis is inspired by the technology’s potential to build dignified low-income housing. “A billion people today do not have adequate shelter,” he says. Using soil dug from the building site and stabilized with cement, the contour crafter could erect inexpensive dwellings customized to a family’s needs.

via Slashdot

Technorati tag:


A “Personal Wind Generator” that can save up to 30% of a household’s annual electricity bill. There are grants available to pay for them as well. A wind turbine, even a small one, is quite high visibility. I don’t think it would be an option for a rural location like Mum and Dad’s Eco House (but don’t quote me on that, I’m not designing it), but I imagine they could work well in the urbs and suburbs.

Technorati tag:

Round up

I thought I’d mine the main blog for stuff relevant to the Eco-House. So here’s some old news-

English Nature suggests turfing roofs to re-green the country

The Guardian’s ethical living experiment

An interactive guide to greener housing, and a related article.

Kingsmead Primary, a green school.

Bio-diesel. Jo and I both want veg oil powered Land Rovers.

The majority of house buyers would pay a bit more for energy efficiency.

Tidal energy turbines.

The Eco House

Jo’s designing an Eco House for Mum and Dad. I’m interested in the subject, and have been for a while. So now we have this blog, for swapping ideas back and forth and pointing to cool green stuff.

I’m going to start out by recommending some related books from Amazon-

The Passive Solar House: Using Solar Design to Heat and Cool Your Home

The Whole House Book: Ecological Building Design and Materials

Sewage Solutions: Answering the Call of Nature

I’m off to do some research and come back with a longer list.