Low and Zero Carbon Housing – Retrofitting and New Building Design
On the final day of the seminar participants remained fully engaged in the stimulating and thought-provoking processes of knowledge transfer, networking, and brainstorming, whilst generally coming to grips with the challenges and creative opportunities inherent in the low and zero carbon housing initiative.
Responding to the Retrofitting Challenge, Elizabeth Leighton
The morning’s presentations began with Responding to the Retrofitting Challenge with Elizabeth Leighton, Senior Policy Advisor, WWF Scotland. Elizabeth outlined the problem and the obvious questions, then presented a 6 point plan for making it happen. “There are good words out there,” Elizabeth noted, “but it’s the delivery that counts.” Although the focus of Elizabeth’s presentation is Scotland, the lessons are widespread. The reality in Scotland is:
* its homes produce one third of the UK’s carbon emissions; two thirds of total stock by 2050
* the energy demand in the UK housing sector grew by 17.5% between 1990 – 2003
* in 2005, 23.5% of householders were fuel poor.
WWF’s Living Planet Report shows the number and quality of species in decline, while our human ecological footprint is on the increase. In the 1980’s we exceeded what the planet can sustain. With regard to climate change, the scientific debate is over. Politicians know the score – now it’s a matter of having the political will to act. The ice cap is melting and the situation may be worse than our latest evidence shows. The most important fact to consider is that it’s the poor round the world who will be the hardest hit.
In the developed world we need to look at 100% cuts, not 60%, not 80%. The low hanging fruit is housing and retrofitting. This we can do something about. Many low-tech solutions exist – it’s just not being done. So why are we holding back? Capacity – stop-go programmes, grant dependent, gap in central heating and renewable energy engineers, gap in building control and planning officer expertise, skills shortage in low and zero carbon technologies.
Elizabeth suggests a difference in scale of change is needed. Can policies deliver? She thinks targets are important because they are driving policy – Kyoto, Scottish Climate Change Bill (80%), NEEAP (Scotland), renewable electricity target, fuel poverty target, Scottish Housing Quality Standard.
WWF’s 6 Point Plan of opt in – opt out steps:
1. Area-based low carbon zones – new models of delivery with something for everyone, community involvement, economies of scale. Example: Hadyard Hill Community Energy Project in Ayrshire.
2. Expand use of Energy Performance Certificates.
3. Balance Trading for new developments – offset emissions from new developments with savings from existing homes in the area; create income stream from low carbon areas.
4. CHP/community heating promotion – Scotland wide CHP Development Agency, offer services to public sector, help establish local ESCOs (Energy Savings Companies).
5. Energy Savings Trust – one-stop shop – one high profile gateway for information, advice, and financial support related to retrofit; energy efficiency; hand-holding.
6. Monitor progress – Home Energy Efficiency Database (HEED) – more triggers for EPCs to build database – remortgage, planning permission; use to prioritise investment.
Elizabeth believes that an 80% cut in emissions is possible with negligible effect on the economy. For more information see WWF’s How Low? report, (available for download here). They’ve modelled carbon savings through decarbonisation of the electric grid and behavioural changes. Elizabeth admits that we can really only get to 80% if we use everything including the kitchen sink. We need to look at all measures to achieve those gains.
Opportunity knocks – Climate Change Bill:
* low carbon Building Standards Strategy for Scotland (Sullivan Report)
* Fuel Poverty commitment
* Rising fuel bill making people think
* Kyoto, EU Directives are driving energy effective agenda with us.
* Link to fuel poverty, community involvement, improve overall house standards
* staged targets toward 80% reduction
* new business models for whole house retrofit.
An energy efficient house is a better house – a nicer house to live in. We can achieve 80% reductions by 2050 with negligible impact. The Stern review estimated the cost to the economy of mitigating the harmful impacts of climate change to be 10 times that of acting now.
Promoting Sustainable Housing in Scotland, Fiona Porteous
The next presenter was Fiona Porteous who is the Project Manager, Highland Housing Fair. The Highlands of Scotland is staging the first major housing fair of its kind in Scotland in August 2009. The purpose of the Fair is to raise the level of design within private and public sector building. The Fair will bring together architect/development teams and is designed to get the whole construction industry engaged in raising the bar.
* development of master plan including plot codes
* design competition for plots
* lots bought and houses built by competition winners (winning teams finance their own build)
* Fair event duration one month
* show homes sold or rented by developers post event
* 40% is affordable housing; 60% free market housing
This Fair will serve as a catalyst for change. It will get everybody talking to each other – developers will showcase to the public and get a response, and architects have the opportunity to invite the public to observe and comment on their designs.
It’s about creating an exemplar community which sets the standards for future development. The Fair is not bankrolling it themselves because they want people to see that it can be replicated.
Sustainable design is high on the list of criteria: using reclaimed materials, setting eco-criteria for plots. There are four zones: solar, wood fuel, recycling, and carbon, and the teams must excel in one. There are 20 organisations actively backing the project, for example, the Forestry Commission. By sourcing materials locally, they are stimulating the local economy.
The 8-acre Fair site is in Inverness and will contain 55 units. The master plan will include:
* shared surfaces
* narrow streets
* priority to pedestrians
* community spaces
* remote parking
* reclaimed materials
* focus on ethically-sourced materials.
The Fair is intended to raise public expectations (30,000 people will attend the fair) and encourage people to make demands on the next house they buy. When the fair ends, the houses will be available to buy and it will become a living community.
Turning the Concept of Low Carbon Healthy Buildings into Reality, Greig Munro
Participants walked over to the nearby Moray Art Centre for a presentation by local Findhorn architect, Greig Munro on Findhorn ecovillage site construction. Greig walked us through some of the building projects he’s been involved in over the last 10 years and showed us where he would do things differently now while balancing client demands with practicality. Some clients insist on new technologies that are not necessarily appropriate for their particular building. Greig’s philosophy is to keep it simple, recognising the tension between, for example, keeping buildings small and the client’s tendency to go bigger.
Greig’s experience has also taught him that in some cases, it’s more cost-effective to build new than to retrofit. Nowadays, Greig says, he’d rather build housing clusters with shared common facilities than individual homes. Many of the builders he’s worked with had never been involved in energy-efficient, low carbon building, but after their first build, they tend to choose to do it off their own bat rather than go back to building the way they used to. So Greig sees lots of enthusiasm and power in skills building in the local area.
Findhorn Ecovillage Tours – The Living Machine
In the afternoon, participants joined in a choice of tours of the Windpark, the Living Machine or the Ecovillage. This group is pictured inside the Living Machine, the community’s biological sewage treatment system.
Existing Homes and Climate Change: The Scottish Government’s Position and Strategies, David Fotheringham
David Fotheringham is Team Leader – Private Housing Policy, Housing and Regeneration Directorate, Scottish Government. David opened with the Scottish government’s purpose: “to focus government and public services on creating a more successful country with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish through increasing sustainable economic growth […a strategy that would be questioned by the next speaker].”
There are free programmes to get more retrofitting information and financial assistance to householders:
National Performance Framework – high level targets to reduce emissions over a period to 2011 and by 80% by 2050.
Carbon Impact Assessment – towards zero carbon new homes by 2016/17. Our homes produce a significant proportion of emissions – 31%. Other benefits are warm comfortable homes and tackling fuel poverty.
Where are we now?
* Public recognises climate change is an issue, but there’s a gap when it comes to personal action.
* Public is concerned about a shortage of affordable housing, credit crunch, fuel poverty.
* There is a growing awareness of the importance of housing emissions.
* Initial stakeholder focus on new build shifting to existing homes.
* Recognise need to be cost-effective.
David contends that houses are becoming more energy efficient, but we’ve a long way to go. There is a diverse housing stock with a wide range of challenges. The poorest is the rented private sector. Around 650,000 (28%) houses are ‘hard to treat’, e.g., stone walls, off the gas grid.
David sees both the challenges and opportunities for businesses.
* Fuel Poverty Forum
* Land Energy Saving
* Scottish Housing Quality Standard
* Building Standards
* obligation placed on energy suppliers to achieve carbon savings
* scope for significant increase in CERT investment in Scotland
* enhanced flexibility compared to former EEC
* could save 14 million tonnes of carbon (lifetime)
* Home report from 1 December 2008 include condition survey, property questionnaire and Energy Report
* better information at time of critical investment opportunity
* green mortgages
* EPCs in rented property from January 2009
Climate Change Fund
* ꌗ million to support community action on climate change
* other community/neighbourhood schemes, e.g., Scottish Sustainability Community Initiative; Scottish OM SCHRI
* The Climate Change Fund can support transition town initiatives. The fund is administered by Keep Scotland Beautiful. For more information, contact:
Adapting and Managing Climate Change Risk
* climate change is already happening and needs to be managed
* more sever weather events, flooding
* issues for design quality maintenance
* opportunity to integrate with response to climate change mitigation.
David concluded by recognising that tackling climate change is a long-term, cross parliament issue.
Low and Zero Carbon Housing from the Local Planner’s Perspective, Donald Lunan
Donald Lunan, Planning and Development Manager, Moray Council, was introduced as ‘the holistic thinker’ in the Moray Council. Donald began with three themes:
1. Wastelessness – we need to learn to waste less. Are we wasting less?
2. Fit and forget – applies to builders who are giving energy-saving solutions that clients can’t operate or optimise.
3. Eco-unfriendly building – clients wanting to build an eco-house often know more about ecological building than the developers and builders who often tout the recurring theme: ‘you will not get a return on your investment’ and so resist eco-measures.
According to Donald, there is a lot of cynicism about what we’re trying to achieve – there’s a gulf. The marketplace is very powerful so he thinks it will be a tough negotiation to bring developers along. In his 40 years experience, he believes everything is predicated on growth and fed by development. The gradual crescendo which is becoming increasingly shrill is that we have to do something, or stop doing certain things. The term sustainability has now been in common use for 10 years, but before it was in vogue Donald remembers a French EU conference speaker quoting ‘things that are on an unsustainable trend’, including:
* growth in car usage
* growth in urbanisation
* growth in aging population
* growth in economic mitigation
* growth in waste
* growth in population
* growth in our dependency on oil and gas.
The speaker said back then that if we didn’t act it would be catastrophic. Today, can we say we have reversed the trend in any of these areas?……
To tackle the problems of ‘unsustainability’ we have to have less growth. Moray has a population of 87,000 and we’ve built 10,000 houses that today house 2.2 people compared with 3.5 people 30 years ago. A staggering 30% of homes are occupied by one person and we’re planning 2,000 more homes in the next planning cycle.
Why are we doing this? It’s an enormous use of resources. How sustainable is that? We can’t go back to the way it was 30 years ago as that would be seen as regressing. Is the answer to plan for slow down? That is unthinkable in politics.
Our population needs to decline – there are 6.8 billion people on the planet with China being the only country that has thought of population control. Should Scotland do something about population growth? The government thinks growth is okay as long as it’s sustainable, but what is sustainable? It’s a vast issue and it’s difficult not to despair.
Communal heating systems are rare. Now in 2008 the government is bringing in a policy for houses to demonstrate how energy efficient they are. It’s a start, but it’s not enough. We’re cautious and compromising so does it really work? It’s opposed by developers and builders. How do you calculate it and trust that developers and builders are complying?
If there’s a national, global urgency, why is it not mandatory to construct with low or zero carbon?
The climate change debate tends to panic people or make them fatalistic. How do you feel at the end of this seminar? Do you have the positivity to respond to the crisis? Which camp are you in?
Summary of Guidelines and Outcomes, Galen Fulford
Session facilitator, Galen Fulford, wrapped up the seminar with a summary of the ‘guidelines to action’ and outcomes of the three days:
Action: Prioritise genuine sustainability, address emissions reduction as an aspect of a holistic design.
Keep prioritising retrofitting.
Use planning consent to leverage developers to retrofit existing stock.
Write a clear specific brief with sustainability outcomes and corresponding contracts.
Action: Seek financial structures which allow buildings to use collective heating or renewable generation systems while increasing rather than decreasing the value of each property.
Action: Remember health, air quality, toxicity, noise, electromagnetic radiation, dust.
Action: Look to nature and vernacular wisdom for sensible design inspiration.
Action: Apply low tech solutions before high tech ‘eco-bling.’
Consider mechanical ventilation where minimal to no heating system is to be used.
Consider unintentional outcomes, e.g., over-glazing.
Consider large scale renewables where they will be most effective.
Consider passive ventilation in locations with available back up heating.
Aim for CSH code level four, and seek collective solutions to renewables beyond this.
Zero Carbon: no carbon emitting fuels are burnt on site and no electricity is imported from the grid.
Net Zero Carbon: carbon emitting fuels are burnt onsite, but locally generated renewable energy is exported to the grid to balance this.
Collective community solutions are ultimately more effective than individual ones.
Action: Add covenants for common land in developments which facilitate community use and engagement.
Action: Apply Cohousing as a model of a future low carbon society empowering people to address social, environmental and economic needs co-operatively.
Sharing = reducing cost and consumption.
Beautiful buildings last longer.
Keep thinking holistically.
In conclusion, Galen shared, “In tying some of these things together, I question in myself why I am ‘not there yet’ and will it be too late? It’s not helpful for me to go too far down that road. So what can I do? Can I make my house the absolute best that I can, yes, I can. Reversing growth doesn’t mean contraction; it means expansion.”
Thank you for joining in the seminar online. We leave you with this apt thought which was quoted by John Prewer in his talk on our first day together:
”How can we make the world work for 100 percent of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological damage or disadvantage to anyone?” Buckminster Fuller
For information on future CIFAL programmes, visit: CIFAL Scotland
– Mattie Porte –
June 18, 2008
Photographers: May East and Eian Smith