Housing – work in progress | Brussels Blog

Housing – work in progress

posted by on 14th Jun 2019


This is a summary of a series of posts on housing from my site dontlooknow.org . When I have the energy and time I will rework these posts.

Personal remaining carbon budget: 64 tonnes CO2e

There is an important consideration that should be a precursor to this series: A representative remaining carbon budget. My judgement is that if humans emit more than 64 tonnes of greenhouse gasses each – measured as carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), horrid things will happen.

This is a moral judgement informed by science as explained here. and estimated in #1 of Topics for Enhanced Town Planning.

This post is as an index to previous work and may be of more interest to me than others. The heading of each “Part” is a link to the original article.

Part 1: embodied carbon and climate

  • UK greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are not falling much.
    • Ignore BEIS
    • Believe DEFRA
  • The GHG emissions in building a new house are 80+ tonnes CO2e – a very large part of our personal remaining carbon budget.

Part 2: Food and the remaining carbon budget

  • Current diets and food production are a large part of our remaining carbon budget.
  • Livestock causes very large GHG emissions.

Part 3: Carbon budgets and transport

  • The UK government departments’ BEIS and DEFRA count GHG emissions differently.
  • BEIS does not count emissions from imports, sea and air travel.
  • Air travel causes very large emissions of GHGs.
  • Cars cause very large emissions of GHGs.
  • Manufacturing cars causes large GHG emissions.
  • Making electric cars causes more.
  • Air freight causes GHG emissions that are (by weight):
    • 6.8 times worse than road.
    • 57 times worse than sea.
    • 68 times worse than rail.

Part 4: We are not short of land

  • Very little land is built on:
    • More than half of the land area is farmland (fields, orchards etc).
    • Just over a third is natural (moors, heathland, natural grassland etc).
    • Under 6% is built on (roads, buildings, airports, quarries etc).
    • Green urban is 2.5% (parks, gardens, golf courses, sports pitches etc).
  • The London region is 10+ times denser than other UK regions.
  • There is plenty of room for housing but a shortage of planning permission.
  • NIMBYs and the countryside lobby restrict planning permissions.
  • Affluent homeowners benefit from planning restrictions but the poor pay higher rents.
  • Cheap housing could crash the banks.

Part 5: Construction and prefabrication

  • Construction is a fraction of the cost of a house.
  • Modern prefabs can be cheap with low carbon emissions
  • Old fashioned prefabs:
    • People liked prefabs.
    • Multistorey mass housing failed.
    • The planners didn’t notice.
    • They will get it wrong again.
  •  A target construction cost for starter homes could be £30,000

Housing – part 6: Pollution in the countryside

We pollute  the countryside:

  • Soil fertility is falling rapidly
  • Insects are disappearing
  • Nitrate pollution from
    • Farms
    • Golf courses
  • Housing can be less polluting than farming
  • Better forms of food production are possible

Part 7: Pollution in towns

  • In the old days coal pollution killed
  • Now traffic pollution kills
  • Buses could be better
  • Traffic pollution also kills the oceans

Part 8: Density and disease

  • Cities generate economic growth through networks of proximity
  • Population density is not a simple driver of disease
  • There are public health solutions
  • There is a antibiotics resistance crisis
  • A struggle to keep vaccines up-to-date
  • Watch out for bio-terrorism

Part 9: Greenbelts

  • City parks very, very good. Green belts OK
  • Green belts are cherished by the countryside lobby
  • Greenbelts increase house prices
  • It’s the view
  • Greenbelts policy is a ‘Green Noose’
  • Greening the greenbelt
  • We should use more labour in food production

Part 10: A reprise

  • A review of parts 1 to 9

Part 11: No cars in the city

  • Mass car ownership cannot be sustainable or fair
    • Exceeding a personal remaining carbon budgets is immoral
    • Personal carbon budget is 100 tonnes CO2e per person
    • Motorists exceed this budget with emissions from tmotoring
  • Cars have taken over large areas of towns and cities
  • The spatial dominence of cars
    • confines pedestrians
    • prevents informal social contacts
    • stops children playing
  • EC study says car free cities cost two to five times more

Part 12: Friends, neighbours & architectural determinism

  • Brutalist housing disasters
  • Architectural determinism
  • Oscar Newman and Defensible Space
  • A Pleasant Victorian Terraced Street
    • Newman said design something 5% better
  • Leon Festinger and friendship patterns
  • Edward T Hall and personal space
  • Who wants friends and neighbours?
    • Some depend on neighbours
    • Some aren’t bothered about neighbours
    • Eileen Gray’s house hid her from neighbours
    • Some want to avoid ‘Neighbours from hell’
  • Designing for neighbourliness and security

Part 13: No more high buildings

  • Embodied carbon in high buildings
  • So what about tall wooden buildings?
  • Height means complications
  • A house is a machine for living in
    • Bespoke and limited design effort
  • A plane is a machine for flying in
    • Repeatable with very large design effort
  • Demolish existing tower blocks?
  • Building densely needn’t mean building tall
  • High buildings: higher energy use

Part 14: Look, Learn And Improve

  • Computer algorithms to synthesise architectural form
  • Archigram expanded minds
  • Too theoretical, too glossy

Part 15: Five planning policies

  • Defensible space
  • Mixed income housing
  • Tower blocks and roads
  • Christopher Alexander’s A city is not a tree
    • Alexander on Abercrombie
  • Traffic trend planning

Part 16: Cheap, neighbourly and doesn’t screw the world up

  • Issue 1. No high buildings
  • Issue 2. No cars in housing
  • Issue 3: Restrictive planning and greenbelts
  • Issue 4. Prefabrication and conventional housing
  • Issue 5: Food production and local employment
  • Estates of car-free, wooden prefabs with integrated market gardens
  • A new Ministry of Works … & starter homes for £20,000

Part 17: New economies for new estates

  • Car-free estates of prefabs 
  • Improve on old prefab design with modern crossply timber
  • Add market gardens.
  • Environmental Capacity Rent
  • Parameters for evaluating settlements
    • Number of residents
    • Density of settlement
    • Local cost of living
    • % of residents employed locally
    • % of food produced locally
    • % of goods bought from local retailers
    • % of goods made by local residents
    • Social class of the residents.
    • Weekly travel distances.
    • Energy and water use
    • Carbon footprints of residents
    • Protection of ecosystems
    • Happiness of residents
    • A measure of neighbourliness
  • Labour costs, degrowth and the Robot Revolution
  • Creating a market

Part 18: A NEW Ministry of Works

  • Changing complex systems: An example.
    • Don’tchange it all at once and screw it up
  • Why a New Ministry Ministry of Works?
  • MOW should take some the responsibilities of other departments
    • In restricted geographical locations
  • Department of Transport: Alternative personal transport
  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
    • Adaptation to global warming
    • Agriculture
    • Air quality
    • Biodiversity
    • Flooding
    • Food
    • Forestry
    • Noise
    • Rural development
    • Sustainable development
    • Waste management
    • Water management
  • Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
    • Building regulations
    • Community cohesion
    • Decentralisation
    • Fire services and community resilience
    • Housing
    • Planning
    • Race equality
  • Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
    • Business regulation and support
    • Climate change policy in the United Kingdom
      Company law
    • Competition
    • Corporate governance
    • Energy
    • Employment relations
    • Innovation
    • Intellectual property
    • Regional and local economic development
    • Trade
  • Local authorities
  • Transparency and publications
  • Postscript: Export opportunities

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