This was a response to the Building a Greener Future consultation
from the Department of Communities and Local Government
To the Building a Greener Future consultation
There are three particular aspects concerned with “Building a Greener Future” on which I wish to comment:
1. Construction vs. Operational CO2
2. Brownfield development and urban density
3. Planning wealth and lifestyles of inhabitants
I append evidence I made to the Treasury Select Committee which discusses some related issues.
I have recently discussed Climate Change Targets with many political and environmental sources in the UK and Europe. The consensus seems to be that the situation is rather worse than currently accepted by the IPCC but their caution is appreciated because they cannot afford to be discredited. I believe that targets for CO2e should be more stringent than 2 tonnes CO2e per person per year by 2050.
Construction vs. Operational CO2
The targets set out in “Building a Greener Future” do not adequately cover embodied energy(CO2e). This can be very large indeed. I understand, for example, that the embodied energy in The flagship BEDZED development is 675kg of CO2e per square meter, making 67.5 tonnes of CO2e per 100 sq meter dwelling. Unacceptable in current circumstances.
It should be possible to make buildings that actually sequester carbon in the form of sustainable wood and hemp bound with lime cement. Building should have little Portland cement, conventional bricks or iron and steel. This probably implies single story building with lower density.
Brownfield development and urban density
Brownfield sites are more expensive to develop both in money and environmental terms. They would better be converted into urban parks such as Otterspool Promenade in Liverpool or St Nicholas Fields in York. The Barker review reported that urban parks were valued much more by the public than urban fringe green belt.
Conventional wisdom abounds, such as the belief that the only way to decrease traffic and its damaging effects is to make cities more dense. I have found little work that justifies this view which does not also make assumptions about our way of life which are themselves unsustainable.
Planning, wealth and lifestyles of inhabitants
The wealth that the planning system creates, including house price rises is enormous. (See my evidence to the Treasury Select Committee). If the climate change crisis is actually worse than currently thought (one authoritative source says “we are waiting for the tipping points”) then it will be seen as quite reasonable for planning authorities to demand guarantees that the inhabitants of new developments have sustainable lifestyles.
A framework of service charges, cross subsidies and covenants will be necessary. To get within, say, a 2 tonnes of CO2e per year limit, for each inhabitant, neighbourhoods will have features such as limited car use, local employment, local shops, local food production and locally would grown biomass for construction and heating and power. They inhabitants would covenant to limit their international travel. For the precursor of these ideas see the Newsletter of the Rents, Service Payments and Covenants Association.
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