Sustainability Begins With Cities

Julie Hirigoyen, the chief executive of the UK Green Building Council, the sustainability organisation responsible for the industry’s supply chain and clients, contends that the city-led retrofit and energy initiatives could prove to be one of the defining features of the built environment green agenda in the near future.

The organisation held a Birmingham Summit last week. The summit included 100 public and private sector decision makers from the city and other parts of the country, who gathered to debate the future of sustainable cities. This event is similar to the one that took place in Manchester last year.

Hirigoye believes that we are in the midst of a shift towards seeing cities, rather than regions or nations, as the organising principle on retrofit, renewable energy, and smart cities.

As owner of Kisiel Ltd., I am committed to working with other leaders in the community to build a more sustainable city. “The construction industry plays an instrumental role in creating a more sustainable future. It is important for management within the construction industry to prioritise environmentally-friendly practices and encourage other industries to do the same.

It also appears that we are trending away from the power of Westminster to “city regions.” There are already six devolution deals in place in England, including one for Birmingham and the West Midlands, agreed upon last November.

“We’re gearing up our activities with cities in line with the devolution agenda. This scale provides a better lens to think about sustainability. It’s difficult to achieve a really sustainable outcome when you’re working on one building plot, you need a system-level approach,” Hirigoyen said.

She further emphasised the importance that city-level initiative compliments, rather than replaces, national policy. “The retrofit agenda needs to be addressed through both national policy and city-wide schemes. But city level authorities and the scale of the city certainly offers an opportunity to think about the housing retrofit challenge,” she continued.

The growth of these initiatives is great to see following the recent failure of the Green Deal, a key policy initiative that was designed to cut emissions from the UK’s domestic building stock, as well as the scaling back of incentives on renewable energy.

On a broader scale, the COP21 Paris Agreement renewed the focus on the built environment, with a number of different organisations launching a Global Alliance for Building and Construction. Their shared mission is to build greater climate resilience into cities and infrastructure.

Furthermore, one of the members of the COP21 Paris agreement, UK-GBC launched its own commitments to reduce its operational emissions, upskill the industry, and support and challenge its members.

Hirigoyen is excited by this progress and plans to monitor the progress, saying that “we will be certainly trying to track members’ progress against the pledges. Organisations tend to measure things slightly differently, but regardless of what they measure, we’ll be looking at the trends over time.”

Government Considering Plans To End Solar Subsidies

The Department of Energy & Climate (DECC) is considering plans that aim to end subsidies for some new solar farms by 2016. The department is also undertaking a review of the entire feed-in tariff (Fit) structure that has led to the installation of panels on 1.5% of UK homes.

The termination of the subsidy programs has been met with a great deal of controversy, as proponents of sustainability believe that the a failure to continue the program could have negative consequences regarding climate change.

Householders who were planning to install solar panels next year could find the financial incentives to do so no longer exists. Lukasz Kisiel contends that, “the government’s review of the whole feed-in tariff (Fit) structure for the installation of solar panels is likely to lead to a reduction in the subsidies which will discourage homeowners in the future from using this method of sustainability.”

The government believes that the move is necessary to protect consumers and keep bills down. According to Amber Rudd, the energy and climate change secretary, “We need to keep bills as low as possible for hard-working families and businesses while reducing our emissions in the most cost-effective way. Our support has driven down the cost of renewable energy significantly. As costs continue to fall it becomes easier for parts of the renewables industry to survive without subsidies.

When the Fits were launched in 2010, a typical large domestic photovoltaic system cost between £15,000-£18,000 to install. The early adopters were promised 41.3p per kilowatt hour (kWh) generated for 25 years, plus savings on their electricity bills worth up to £160 a year. Incomes and savings of more than £30,000 were promised for a £15,000 investment.

The prices of these systems began to fall over the past five years, and they can now be installed for around £5,000-£6,000. The government has responded to this reduction in price but cutting the income paid accordingly.

Although the cost of installing a PV panel has reduced significantly, the discontinuation of the subsidies program altogether will most likely eliminate any financial incentive households have to install solar panels. This plan could put a halt to all future installations of solar panels.

This would be an unfortunate scenario, considering how much progress the country has made over the last five years to help fight climate change. The removal of the solar energy subsidy programs appears to be a step in the wrong direction, at a time when climate change is increasingly becoming a more serious problem.

The 2015 Paris Climate Conference, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, has aimed to achieve a legally binding an universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C. The forum is looking for the cooperation of over 190 countries in its efforts to address climate change.

“I would like to see the government taking a longer view on sustainability especially within the energy field so that plans can be made for the longer term and not short term quick fixes,” says Kisiel.

 

Promoting Sustainability: Carbon Action 2050

The construction industry plays a vital role in creating a more environmentally-friendly society and more sustainable planet. In order to create a more sustainable planet, it is important for the construction industry to build more sustainable buildings with more environmentally-friendly methods.

The Chartered Institute of Building has been an influential player within the construction industry, working to promote the science and practice of building and construction for the benefit of society. One of the CIOB’s current initiatives is Carbon Action 2050.

The Carbon Action 2050 is an initiative created to provide guidance to the built environment sector on how to cut carbon emissions by applying the best practice to project design, construction, maintenance, operation, retrofit, and waste management. The goal of Carbon Action 2050 is to help the Institute, its members, and the construction industry as a whole reduce carbon emissions from the built environment.

There are many challenges that lie ahead for the construction industry. Globally, the built environment accounts for around 30% of total greenhouse gas emissions and the construction industry uses about 32% of the world’s natural resources. In the UK alone, CO2 emissions relating to the built environment account for a total of 256 million tonnes. This is the single largest contributor to CO2 emissions.

Through the Climate Change Act, the UK is working to reduce CO2 emissions to 80% of their 1990 levels by the year 2050. There are currently five-year carbon budgets in place, which help the industry gradually decrease emissions of CO2 and reach their 2050 goal.

In order for the UK to reach these CO2 emissions goals, the construction industry will need to do more than build more new sustainable buildings. One of the greatest challenges the industry is retrofitting the existing building stock. There are currently around 26.7 million homes in the UK and 70% of them will still be standing in 2050. It is vital that effective tools and practices are put in place in order for the construction industry to prepare the existing building’s for the future.

The Chartered Institute of Building and the Carbon Action 2050 provides the industry with practical information that can be used to overcome these obstacles. This information is vital to the construction industry, which is constantly evolving, as it provides simple and practical steps that help everyone play their part.

It is important for people within the construction industry to be familiar with Carbon Action 2050 and stay up to date with its evolving resources. Carbon Action 2050 is more than just an initiative to comply with legislation. The action plan will help to improve efficiency. cut costs, and breed innovation within the construction industry.

You can view Carbon Action 2050’s expansive page of resources here.

The UK Looks For New Retrofit Initiative After Unsuccessful Green Deal

The Green Deal is considered to be a huge disappointment, however, there is a new mass retrofit initiative that is slowly building support. This new initiative, which began in the Netherlands, has made its way to the United Kingdom and has gained support among contractors.

The Green Deal was abandoned by the Conservative government earlier this year. This government scheme was originally set up to help homeowners pay for double-glazing, solid wall insulation, boiler upgrades and other projects that would help save homeowners money on energy bills. Unfortunately, the Green Deal was not effective.

With the funding now pulled on the Green Deal, the UK has been searching for a plan to retrofit the country’s existing housing stock. The Netherlands think they have the solution to this problem. They have tackled the issue by following these four principles:

1) Provide high quality, warranted, guaranteed energy performance

2) Use non-intrusive methods, so that refurbishments are all carried out within one week

3) Maintain affordability, with the retrofit financeable from energy cost savings

4) Improve the look and feel of the house overall

The third principle — the concept of paying for energy efficiency upgrades via savings made on energy bills — may look similar to the underlying principle of the Green Deal, however, that is where the similarities end. Under this initiative, energy bills are replaced by an energy plan, with the loan repayments included.

“The main reason the Green Deal didn’t work is that it wasn’t particularly green or a deal in a commercial sense, because there was no energy performance contract,” stated Arno Schmickler, Energiesprong UK programme director.

This new initiative has achieved a great deal of success thus far in the Netherlands with social housing. The United Kingdom plans to follow in these footsteps.

Energiesprong has retrofitted almost 1,000 homes to date, with a total of 110,000 planned already. They are intently focused on targeting social housing within the UK.

“We’ve started working with the social housing providers because they manage over the long term, with 100-year perspectives on their properties, and have asset management strategies of 25 to 30 years,” Schmickler says.

This initiative is still in the early stages and only time will tell if this strategy will prove to be more successful than the Green Deal. Energiesprong believes that there is a great deal of promise and potential and if they can achieve economies of scale by working on appropriate property types.

If Energiesprong proves to be successful, many people in the UK stand to benefit from lower energy costs and society as a whole will be a step closer to a more sustainable planet.

To learn more about this new retrofit initiative, check out this article.

 

 

Understanding Sustainability In Construction

In order to create a more environmentally friendly planet, everybody needs to play a part, including the construction industry. It is important for the construction industry to implement sustainable practices in order to tackle some of the critical environmental issues of our time, including diminishing natural resources, conserving energy, and creating less waste. In order to support sustainable construction practices and successfully implement them, it is important to have a solid understanding of what sustainable construction really means. I found this great article on sustainable construction and thought it was important to share some of its key points.

Buildings play a vital role in creating a more sustainable future. According to OECD, buildings in developed countries account for more than 40% of energy consumption over their lifetime. Furthermore, for the first time in history, over half of the world’s population now lives in urban environments which further compounds the problem. We need to build more sustainable buildings to secure long-term environmental, economic and social viability.

As humans, we need to take the proper steps to meet our present day needs for infrastructure without compromising the ability of future generations to meet these same needs. The construction industry, and people as a whole, have a social responsibility to be more efficient in our practices and more cognizant of how our decisions affect the future.

Here are some areas where the construction industry needs to continue to improve:

1) Innovation

The construction industry needs to continue to innovate and develop new practices which help to conserve resources, energy and waste. This involves finding new materials and methods for building, mechanical systems, and much more. Here are some examples of where the construction industry is already making great progress.

2) Resource & Environmental Performance

Construction projects need to demonstrate a more sensible use and management of natural resources. Project plans need to be environmentally-conscious when making decisions on anything from land use to recycled materials. Understanding our social responsibility when it comes to constructing buildings and becoming more resourceful will help to minimize the industry’s ecological footprint.

3) Economic Viability

Understanding the long-term consequences of our present day decisions will help the construction industry make a lasting contribution to the economic and environmental well-being of our world. We need to implement technologies that will make projects more affordable, reduce operation costs of buildings, and increase the return on investment of projects. Implementing sustainable practices will help secure a more stable economic future.

3 Ways Modular Construction Helps The Environment

Modular construction is a process in which a building is constructed off-site, under controlled plant conditions, using the same materials and designing to the same codes and standards as any conventionally build facility would – but in about half the time. Modular construction is a growing practice within the industry as it presents many great advantages over traditional methods. Most importantly, modular constructing involves a number of great sustainability benefits which can help our industry become more environmentally friendly compared to traditionally constructed buildings. I found this great article that explains a few of the great ways modular construction is helping and thought it was important to share.

Here are 3 ways modular construction is helping to improve the environment:

1) Less Energy

Modular buildings are prefabricated, with nearly 90% of the construction taking place off site. With such a significant portion of the construction taking place off site, in a controlled factory environment, there is a dramatic drop in the disturbance to the environment surrounding the construction site. This eliminates a great deal of wasted material and allows for a high efficient use of energy. It also takes almost half the time to complete a modular building compared to a traditionally constructed building. Modular buildings also tend to incorporate many energy efficient systems, from efficient glass to solar panels, making the buildings better for the environment even after the construction is completed.

2) Recycled Materials

Nowadays, it is possible for us to recycle and properly dispose of almost any material. Modular buildings are actually constructed, in large part, with recycled materials, including: recycled steel, recycled wood, and recycled glass. Mobile Modular uses 100% recyclable glueless carpet tiles made from post consumer materials. This is just one of many great examples of how materials can be repurposed into new construction projects. While not every part of the building can be made of recycled material, modular construction is helping to incorporate as much as it can.

3) Modular Buildings are Recyclable Buildings

A modular building can actually be transported from one place to another, even after it has been assembled on site. This means that a modular building would not have to go through the wasteful practice of demolition. Modular buildings are portable buildings that can be dismantled and reassembled on a new site if need be. This helps keep the environment free of dust, debris and other pollutants that exists during a demolition.