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April 2006

Climate Change Review Gets A Bad Reception
The government have finally announced the results of their review of climate change initiatives a year late amid a hail of criticism from environmentalists. They are not going to meet their targets, but instead of taking this opportunity to put in place measures that would really make a difference to reduce climate damaging emissions... more
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Survey Shows Green Homes Are Worth More
The Energy Saving Trust has teamed up with TV presenter and property expert Naomi Cleaver to put together some online tips on making your home more attractive to potential buyers, and what people should look for when buying a home, after new research revealed that 7 out of 10 Britons believe that homes boasting energy saving features are worth... more   back to top

Is Stress A Factor In 'Sick Building Syndrome' ?
According to researchers in London and Singapore,'sick building syndrome' may be a stress related disorder, rather than a fault of building design. UK researchers asked 4,000 civil servants from 44 buildings in London about their environment and job pressures and about symptoms such as coughs and tiredness. They found dry air and... more  back to top

Community Energy Programme Axed
The Combined Heat And Power Association (CHPA) has reacted with dismay to the news that the sole funding programme for the development of public sector community heating schemes - Defra's Community Energy Programme (CEP) - has been withdrawn. The announcement was made in the Governments recent revised Climate Change Programme report... more  back to top


RICS Say Construction Industry Could Be Greener

It is now six years since the Government published its strategy to promote sustainable construction - "Building a Better Quality of Life". The RICS (Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors) asked quantity surveyors to assess how well the industry has progressed in becoming more energy efficient and socially or environmentally responsible.

Isabel McAllister, associate director of sustainability at Cyril Sweett, summed up the findings of the survey. On the question of energy use, the construction industry seems to be performing poorly in minimising the use of energy during the building process as well as energy consumed in the transportation of materials.

She said, "A big change here is that materials are often coming from much further away. The rise of a global market has worked against reducing energy costs relating to the transportation of materials. Whereas slate may have been delivered to site from Wales or Cornwall, it might now come from Spain or China.

There is also a potential conflict between trying to achieve high thermal mass, and not increasing the embodied energy (i.e. the energy used to extract, produce and transport) of the construction materials. As operational energy consumption reduces (as a result of e.g improved Part L Building Regulations), embodied energy is becoming of greater significance".

However, the surveyors agreed that one aspect of sustainable construction where some progress has been made is in the minimisation of waste produced during building works and also the waste generated during the use of a building and the after-life.

McAllister commented, "Giant steps have been taken in the area of waste in construction. The growth of waste measurement has played a big role. Many of the large developer/contractor companies now have highly developed systems of measuring waste per unit, whether that be per house built or per 1000 square metres. Of course the main driver is cost efficiency but there are also useful PR/CSR reporting spin offs.

Enlightened firms are trying to design out waste by removing packaging before delivery, though this must often be done at the last moment to minimise on-site breakages.

The Waste and Recycling Action Programme (WRAP) recommends that 10% (by value) of any new building should be made of recycled materials. For example, if you are using a concrete frame to build an office, that frame should comprise at least 10% recycled material (e.g. recycled aggregate or cement replacement) - if not, this 10% can be gained elsewhere in the building.

This has brought about healthy competition amongst manufacturers to bring the most attractive 'green' building products to market."

However, there are obstacles which see the government's own agenda conflicting with local government practice. For example, to crush and screen waste on a site requires a waste management licence from the local authority.

These are not readily granted as concrete crushers create huge amounts of noise, dust and disturbance for the local community. In addition, should a contractor wish to import materials that are classified as waste (e.g. graded aggregate or cement replacements such as Pulverised Fuel Ash) the site also requires a waste management licence.

Encouragingly, according to the RICS survey, it seems that the area where the most progress has been made is that of designing buildings to minimise the use of energy and re-using/refurbishing existing buildings to meet the needs of clients rather than resorting to new build.

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Solar Industry 'On The Brink Of Crisis'
The solar power industry has warned that it is on the brink of crisis as a result of Government "incompetence" in the awarding of grants for householders wishing to install renewable energy systems. The previous grant sheme, 'Clear Skies' ended at the end of March without a working replacement... more  back to top

The Emerald Isle Is Getting Greener
An eco-home at Shankill, Co Dublin, recently sold for over €1.3m. The auctioneers did not expect the house to make that price, which is seen as a sign of a growing trend in the Republic of Ireland for people to invest in contemporary, sustainable building. The typical Irish household spends well over €1,000 a year on... more   back to top

New Water Efficiency Measures In The Pipeline
New proposals to drive up water efficiency in new and existing homes will be the focus of a consultation to be issued this Summer, say DEFRA. Regulations on water efficiency will apply to new homes, the extension and refurbishment of existing homes and to the refitting of bathrooms and kitchens... more   back to top

Brownfield Site For New Green Town
In a deal worth almost £100m, English Partnerships, the national regeneration agency, has completed the purchase of the disused Oakington Barracks in south Cambridgeshire. The purchase of the 288 ha site is set to unlock the development of the proposed new town of Northstowe, creating up to 10,000 new homes, largely... more  back to top 

WWF Help LA's To Protect Threatened Forests
More than 65 per cent of London Local Authorities do not check whether their timber and paper products are coming from the world's most threatened forests. A new WWF report Capital Offence: Is London failing the forests showed that nearly half of all the Local Authorities have no policies in place to prevent them from sourcing... more  back to top





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Forthcoming Events

Green Build 2006
29 April

Run in association with the National Trust at Sheringham Park, the emphasis of the two days is mainly on the domestic market-both new build and renovation... more  back to top

Building With Hemp
8 May 2006

This fascinating five day course run by hemp expert Steve Allin, author of the book 'Building with Hemp', intensive introduction to the materials, method and use of hemp/lime design and construction... more    
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Fuel Poverty and Climate Change
10 May 2006

The NRFC annual conference provides a high profile opportunity for Government and the energy industry to debate fuel poverty. This year’s conference will, for the first time, seek to place the problem of fuel poverty in the wider context of climate change... more     back to top

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Multifoil insulation

The topic of multifoils seems to come up quite regularly. The makers and suppliers seem to make great claims (perhaps matching the great prices) while others are sceptical and point to the lack of good evidence for their effectiveness. I thought I'd try a little experiment to get a handle on the issue
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System boiler versus combi

Any advice on how best to upgrade the system i.e. is it best to replace the system boiler and keep the cylinder or go for a combi? ... Go to this thread

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