We need greener building materials and a green energy grid (so the energy we use to heat and light our buildings isn’t based on polluting fossil fuels). We also need improved energy efficiency in buildings (to reduce energy use and fuel poverty). Basically, the building industry and property management sector have their work cut out to reduce carbon emissions from buildings and to retrofit the UK’s notoriously leaky houses and workplaces, so we don’t go on spending an arm and a leg on heating.
Alongside the mainstream building industry, which has historically generated a lot of carbon emissions through its use of materials that go heavy on the fossil fuels – like cement and steel, there are builders exploring the use of wood as a construction material. This sequesters carbon, locking it up away from the atmosphere. (I came across this information on the excellent Blackbark blog.)
Sustainable building skills
Calderdale College is alive to the need for sustainable building skills and is building a Sustainable Environmental Technologies Centre, due to be completed in September 2013.
The Princes Trust is running an 8 month apprenticeship programme in sustainable building crafts for
- A United Kingdom NVQ/SVQ Level 3 or equivalent from a centre of vocational excellence
- An equivalent qualification in traditional building skills from a recognised authority”
The deadline for applications is 1st March 2013.
Unionlearn, the learning and skills organisation of the Trades Union Congress, is working on how to develop green economy skills in the workforce; with other members of the Greener Jobs Alliance it has produced a Green Skills Manifesto.
Green buildings in West Yorkshire
Some exciting green buildings already exist in West Yorkshire, such as Sandal Magna Primary School in Wakefield. Completed in 2010, the primary school’s built of very thermally efficient timber and locally-sourced brick, and is heated by a ground-source heat pump that’s powered by 100m2 photovoltaic panels.
The UK Green Building Council is urging Michael Gove not to scrap green building standards for new schools. A review of capital spending for the Department for Education has recommended dropping the requirement that new school buildings meet standards for energy management and use, pollution, transport, land use, materials and water. Scrapping the requirement for green building standards wouldn’t just mean that schools used more energy and emitted more greenhouse gases during construction and use of the school – it would send a signal to the building industry that green building methods and materials don’t really matter.
Another green building in West Yorkshire is the Denby Dale Passive House. Passive house design aims to eliminate the need for space heating and cooling and is based on the “tea cosy” principle of effective insulation and draught proofing. The Green Building Company website has more info about how passive houses work. And here’s a video.
Right on my doorstep, Pennine 2000 Housing Association has just completed 3 low carbon homes in Hebden Bridge.