Green Vision

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Month: March 2013

#GVis Demystifying Green Buildings: The Opportunities of Retrofit

A packed out room of Construction professionals gathered for yesterday’s Green Vision seminar at Squires Sanders.  Nigel Banks, Group Sustainability Director for Keepmoat   gave a compelling presentation on the Green Deal and the current Governments’ approach to tackling Fuel Poverty. George Munson Energy and Climate Change Manager at Leeds City Council highlighted the excellent retrofit programmes being delivered by the Leeds City Region and the tangible energy savings and health benefits achieved by household residents. Whilst Karen Stafeckis, Area Manager for Turner and Townsend  discussed the process and business case for adopting low carbon retrofit projects in the public and private sectors.  .

Nigel titled his presentation somewhat tongue in cheek as ‘Selling Fuel Poverty’ highlighting the importance of fuel poverty as a key priority for government. Yet despite it being high on the government agenda we are currently in our first government since 1970 which does not have a government programme in place to tackle the issue of the fuel poor.  The Green Deal with its 7% interest rate could prove off-putting for poorer households, and fuel-poor consumers could miss out altogether. Nigel argued that the Green Deal will not stop fuel poverty rocketing as fuel prices rise.

Nigel advocated the importance of understanding and working solutions appropriate to the house and occupiers when looking to improve social housing stocks on a whole estate basis . He also emphasised the importance of these upgrades being offered at Low or no cost helping residents move out of extreme fuel poverty in tough times when fuel bills have tripled. Keepmoat have done extensive work and research around solutions and technologies and how they work together , delivering savings of up to 80% on carbon in some properties and demonstrating considerable cost savings to residents . Nigel said the Green Deal has excited the construction industry but it may only bring benefit and be appropriate for a tranche of the market with its 7% interest rates and can’t be seen as a solution to tackle Fuel Poverty as the bottom 20% may not even be eligible for the Green Deal finance.

George Munson shared Leeds City Councils learning of delivering the green deal in the Leeds City Region on the Green Deal Demonstrator programme which started in October 2012. The programme emerged following on from DEEP and Wrap upLeeds.LeedsCityregion agreed to collaborate for the 2.6 million green deal demonstrator programme involving a small framework of suppliers. The programme was set up with the primary aims of testing the green deal with a longer term agreement to work on a 3-8 year green deal programme  . This project was a test bed to investigate the appetite for loans and test the market for new niche housing types  of solid wall properties and hard to treat cavities. George indicated the first project of external insulation to 1960s properties as a real success with great take up and low impact in terms of intrusion and high impact in terms of comfort improvements. Great way to transform an estate. The second part to the demonstrator is testing the appetite for loans which when offered at 0% enquiries have been flooding in. There is a third element to the programme in the pipeline which will look at Victorian terraces where internal  insulation would not have been possible had the  Government not just released its new planning guidance whereby external wall insulation is permitted unless in listed buildings or conservation areas.  George brought his presentation to a close by drawing out key learning to date indicating an appetite for loans, an appetite from the market yet the need for an alternative to the Green Deal finance. Leeds City Region will be looking ahead to their long term Green Deal offer to deliver improvements on 450,000 properties over the next 3-8 years.

Karen Stafeckis shifted the focus of the evening from housing to an in-depth look at Retrofit of non domestic buildings , both Public and Private, highlighting the importance of optimising energy performance in existing occupied buildings. Karen saw social and economic pressure driving businesses towards the low carbon retrofit agenda change alongside increased movements around CSR and increased consumer demand for optimised buildings.  She delivered a clear message around the process of measurement, benchmarking, setting realistic energy targets and bundling of buildings to optimise paybacks.  Karen shared her experience of the Mayor of London’s public Sector initiative RE:FITwhich was first launched in 2008 and guarantees energy savings achieved through low carbon retrofit. 5 years into the scheme and it is achieving guaranteed savings typically up to 28% pa and payback periods typically less than seven years.   .

Karen concluded with discussion of the recently launched World Green Business Council’s ‘Business Case’for Green Buildings, and a strong message that optimising energy efficiency can deliver economic as well as environmental benefits.

GVis members posed some excellent questions around occupier behavior and its impact on the Green Deal. Also good points raised on multi occupancy buildings and a shift towards community heating systems. Green Deal finance was a hot topic as ever raising the questions around interest rates, saleable value of homes under the Green Deal.

Greenvision and Fairsnape launch the Living Building Challenge UK Collaborative

Martin Brown, Fairsnape, and Claire Bowles, Greenvision at Leeds Sustainability Institute, have launched a UK Collaborative for the Living Building Challenge (LBC) with events planned throughout 2013 including awareness and training sessions led by Amanda Sturgeon VP of LBC., currently planned for 3rd April.

The purpose of a UK collaborative is to create a platform for like-thinking built environment sustainability professionals, who, as LBC ambassadors, can explore and increase awareness of LBC in the UK and, in time, provide support and assessment services for UK clients and buildings looking to LBC accrediatation. The creation of a UK LBC Collaborative is also in memory of Mel Starrs, a passionate sustainability professional who inspired many, and was very keen to see the LBC established in the UK.
Read the full article in Greenbuild news at the link below

Leeds Sustainability Institute at Ecobuild 2013

By Professor Chris Gorse, Director of the Leeds Sustainability Institute

Having been invited to speak and take part in the “Making sustainable construction happen, Green for growth reality check” session at EcoBuild 2013, I was asked to join a panel discussion in the Arena with Rt Hon Michael Fallon, Minister for Business and Enterprise.

The host was none other than Jonathon Dimbleby, who drew out a balanced debate on the challenges that are facing the industry and the measures necessary to build confidence and start to move the industry from the grips of recession.  Other panel members included  Mike Putnam, Chief Executive of Skanska UK and Co-Chair Green Construction Board  and Rhian Kelly, Director for business environment at the CBI.

While positive statements were made, clearly the challenge of delivering buildings takes much more than words, we need action from both the policy makers and industry. Yet, I do see some signs that the industry is starting to get to grips with the gap between theory and reality and what it needs to do in terms of research if it is to gain confidence in those that are investing in green construction.

I still argue for a fabric first approach, get it right and we can adequately service and build smart interfaces that are dynamic enough to respond to the environment and user needs.  The Green Deal Trial that we are undertaking in Leeds will also give us a greater understanding of what can be achieved with the existing building stock.  As far less than 1% of our current buildings meet nearly zero or passive standards, almost all of our existing buildings need an eco upgrade. If we can build confidence that is a lot of buildings for the industry to develop.

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