I’m sure that those of you who have read the Stern Report will find yourselves wondering what you as an individual can do that will – on the one hand – ‘help the planet’ and at the same time improve your own lot!
The realities of our present fossil fuel economy worry me greatly. There is much discussion on the likelihood of running out of oil – or at the very least a colossal increase in oil prices that effectively put it beyond of most of us. Certainly, the ‘Peak Oil’ lobby who argue that the demand curve on oil is just about to break through the global supply curve and move away from it at an exponential rate may or may not be a real concern. However, if as expected by many, the Chinese and Indian governments with their pact to buy out global supplies together rather than in competition is a far more real threat to oil security.
My old colleague, Dr Paul McNamara, Dir of Property Research at the Prudential last year warned fellow institutional property owners that if they did not look to make their property portfolios more environmentally (and economically) sustainable, they would be owners of unlettable and therefore – valueless – properties! This same argument applies to all of us in our private homes.
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has acknowledged the need to change attitudes and practice, global Annual Building Awards – the Sustainable category. Last autumn this category was won by Jerry Harrall, architect of Long Sutton, Lincolnshire. From a shortlist of 14 – 2 from Australia, S Africa, Singapore, Welsh Assembly Building etc – he won with a group of 4 affordable homes in Honningham, Norfolk!
Jerry himself lives in a 7 year old 250 sq metre home, totally fossil fuel free, with total outgoings before council tax of less than £8 a week. His central heating has been on for less than 5 days in six years! The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has organised a half day conference on this whole topic at Writtle Agricultural College on 27 April and Jerry will be a key speaker there.
The technology is there for the taking and doesn’t have to cost any more per square metre than conventional construction. I am greatly encouraged that some people are changing. I am currently working on a 2500 square metre autonomous commercial building in East Anglia, 14 units of eco-housing in Somerset and a large new eco-house on a large farm in the east Midlands.
Most of us are probably not very interested in the currently available silicone photovoltaic panels for producing electricity. They are not really viable. However, the amazing breakthrough in PV technology at Johannesburg University by Prof Alberts and his team is likely to change all that. They have developed a new material – know as CIGS, of which 5 microns will deliver the same energy output as 350 microns of silicone. I understand that sq metre for sq metre, CIGS delivers ten times the output of silicone.
When this PV material is being industrially produced, we can then use it not only on new buildings, but hopefully existing homes as well, together with other techniques – always providing that our dear planning authorities allow us to bring our housing stock into the 21st century – especially when our house is a listed building! At present, owners of listed buildings have a real problem in this respect. We have to persuade our planners that the agenda for planning and design has changed and that our priorities must now be foremost to make our whole building stock has to be more environmentally friendly as well as being affordable to occupy. The CLA will also be covering this aspect in their April conference.
We also need to think hard on the impacts of buildings and management on our water resources – especially in the east! With climate change and the amount of predicted development – we have some major problems ahead if we don’t change. It is now entirely possible, even in the east, to build buidings that autonomous in their water requirements.
East Anglian Daily Times | 20.02.2007
February 20th, 2007