Hands up if this sounds like a silly argument to you: spend millions of pounds to cut x tonnes of carbon or spend a fraction of that to save the same x tonnes of carbon?
Thought so. The problem is that this is precisely the argument in which the property and construction industries find themselves embroiled.
The issue is this: should the government continue along the trail blazed by local authorities such as Merton and require a certain percentage (say 10%) of energy used in new buildings to be generated from renewables on-site; or should it take a broader view to include the impact of energy-efficiency measures on the amount of carbon pumped into the atmosphere each year? The present stance of Hazel Blears’ communities department (CLG), which is drafting the planning rules that will decide this issue, is the former. It’s a position that has been crucial over the past six months in concentrating minds on how to tackle climate change; however, the debate has moved on.
As engineer Bill Watts points out on page 32, it can often prove far more expensive to generate energy from renewable sources on site as opposed to simply using power from remote wind or solar farms. His argument is that the money saved by using off-site renewables can be used to make new buildings even more energy efficient and hence cut even more carbon. To be fair to Blears’ officials, they have been listening to this point. But that was before the national press went to town over the chance that the government might have lost enthusiasm for on-site renewables under pressure from housebuilders and developers. Fortunately, the various industry bodies that attended the “sounding board” meeting this week will have urged the CLG to stick to its guns (page 10). The public may be incredulous but most housebuilders and developers are committed to renewables (page 34).
There is no reason why the government shouldn’t look to a combination of tough energy-efficiency targets (how about a zero-carbon non-domestic target by 2016?) and 10% or 20% of energy used to be generated from renewable sources. If the end result is that we save the planet, what does it matter if the wind farms are in the North Sea as opposed to on top of schools?
Tony Wilson remembered
Factory 481. This was the issue number from his by then defunct record label, Factory Records, that Tony Wilson, the Mancunian impresario, gave to the issue of Building that he and his partner Yvette Livesey guest-edited last January. Since Wilson’s untimely death earlier this month, figures such as Urban Splash’s Tom Bloxham have credited Wilson as their inspiration. He is not the only one: last year we received a number of calls from Wilson fans keen to get their hands on Factory 481. In his leader, Wilson quoted a lyric by Morrissey: “Oh Manchester, so much to answer for”. Wilson provided so many of the answers.
Stuart Macdonald, deputy editor