Based on practical experience and speaking to a limited number of the best informed people in the business, Pooran Desai proposes 10 principles as a basis for a KISS (Keep it simple and sustainable) Zero Carbon strategy
There a coherent KISS strategy could be based on the follow:
1. Always be informed by how to create a whole sustainable and ultimately zero carbon lifestyle.
2. Ensure all new buildings are designed to be energy efficient – not necessarily trying to save every last bit of energy, but setting very good standards as a minimum. We can always push further through experimental projects, but let us get the basic building fabric right in terms of decent insulation, air-tightness and in-door air quality. Code 4 and AECB Silver are good benchmarks to start with.
3. Introduce a requirement for all homes to have data collected for 3 years on energy consumption so that learning real-life data can inform delivery and future standards.
4. Accelerate the rate at which the grid becomes green through a coherent national renewable energy policy but create a level playing field between on and off-site renewable energy solutions; and introduce incentives for renewable heat, increasing on and off-site renewable heat solutions.
5. Manage electricity and heat demand through national energy pricing, regulation on appliances and promoting postive behaviour change.
To a great extent as industry we have ourselves to blame for not rising to the climate change agenda sufficiently well
6. Provide incentives such as zero VAT on renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies and products (making them budget neutral by increasing VAT on non-renewable technologies and products.
7. Where it is deemed important to encourage R&D into on-site/off-site renewables, use the tried and tested method of targeted grant programmes rather than trying using the wider industry or public as guinea pigs.
8. Fix a date by which time new homes will not be permitted constructed to receive fossil fuel supply directly (eg gas, coal) except for back-up (this date could be 2016). All these homes will then automatically become Zero Carbon homes as soon as the grid is green – they are therefore ‘Zero Carbon Ready’.
9. Create a positive culture of sustainability in the industry – for example by introducing simple, short but compulsory sustainability training for building professionals including all site workers to change the culture (much as it has been done for Health and Safety)
10. Ensure that the Code for Sustainable Homes, particularly 5 and 6, introduce points for zero carbon lifestyles such as sustainable transport points - walking and cycling distances to key facilities, access to public transport, access to car clubs (these used to be in EcoHomes) and sustainable food (eg allotments and farmers markets).
To a great extent as industry we have ourselves to blame for not rising to the climate change agenda sufficiently well. It has meant the developers and practitioners have lost control of the agenda to politicians, civil servants and NGOs who are genuinely well-meaning but lack sufficient practical knowledge or experience to create workable, cost-effective solutions. This will have to change – it must be our agenda for it to work -but it will require genuine commitment from our industry and it is from real-life experience and learning that we must take our lead. Let us move to Zero Carbon and Codes 5 and 6, but with clear, workable, environmentally beneficial solutions.
Pooran Desai, OBE, Sustainability Director, BioRegional Quintain Ltd and Director, BioRegional ‘One Planet Communities’ initiative. Building Magazine Sustainability Leadership Award 2008