Climate Change and Active Buildings

The context for my work to develop design guidance for low energy, climate resilient, Active Buildings has never been more relevant.  While I continue to develop my guidance document and support partners in the design of Active Buildings, it’s been another busy week for climate change news. Here are my highlights:

In a Wales Online article on 11th October, the top 20 solutions to climate change, identified by an organisation called Project Drawdown, were listed. Maybe surprisingly, refrigerant management was the top solution, while onshore wind-turbines featured as the second and solar rooftops as number ten in the list.  Number four was to eat a plant-rich diet.  An interesting statistic was quoted from Earthday.org as “skipping a steak dinner once a week with your family would be the equivalent of taking your car off the road for nearly three months.”, suggesting that even a small change to our lifestyles can make a difference. Me and my husband have cut down on the amount of meat we eat with very little effort and enjoy trying out different tasty vegetable-based recipes!

On Monday 14th October, I watched a BBC Panorama programme entitled “Climate Change: What can we do?”, which again focused on changes we can all make to our everyday lives to help mitigate climate change.  Suggestions included swapping beefburgers for insect burgers (a little too far for me!), as well as cutting down on travel, switching to electric vehicles, using public transport or walking wherever possible.

The programme featured a retrofit scheme of council houses in Nottingham, being undertaken by Melius Homes, with a jaw dropping statistic that 29 million homes need to become carbon free to meet the Net Zero targets set by the UK Government.  To do this, the need for more financial incentives was highlighted – the Nottingham scheme cost £80,000 per house to retrofit.

Despite reporting that currently 47% of the UK’s energy supply is still fossil fuel based, on the same day, the Guardian reported that renewable electricity overtook fossil fuels in the UK for the first time over the last quarter.  This quarter was reported as being the first time since 1882 that electricity from British windfarms, solar panels and biomass plants has surpassed fossil fuels.  This fact means we are on track to meet the National Grid’s prediction “that 2019 will be the first year since the Industrial Revolution that zero-carbon electricity overtakes gas and coal-fired power”.

Meanwhile climate strikes continued to dominate news headlines across the globe, as people ask their governments to do more.  But, on a trip to London this week, I couldn’t help thinking about the irony of the unintended consequences of these climate strikes.  While large groups of protesters adorned Trafalgar Square, others lay down in the streets, climbed atop tube trains, and even stuck themselves to a Docklands Light Railway (DLR) train, two helicopters circled constantly and swarms of police vans sat with their engines idling, only contributing to the poor air quality that the workers and inhabitants of London endure daily and to the very emissions at the heart of the protests!  As a result of road closures and disruptions to the Jubilee Line and the DLR, which were both partially shut down, traffic build-up increased on surrounding roads, as people sought alternative routes or even alternative modes of transport, such as taxis – again only adding to air pollution in the city.  While we all agree we’re in the throws of a climate emergency, we might question whether this level of disruption simply adds to the problem, rather than having any positive affect.

So, we will continue our mission to decarbonise the built environment, safe in the knowledge that this work will have a real impact in mitigating against climate change.

Also, check out the Future Homes Standard Consultation released earlier this month, which will require all new build homes to be future-proofed with low carbon heating and world-leading levels of energy efficiency, due to be introduced by 2025.

Published by jorclarke

I am an Architect, currently working at SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre, Swansea University, and studying for a Doctorate in Sustainable Built Environment (D.SBE), which is focused on developing an Active Building Design Guide.

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