a greenfutures Special Edition
Retro and Fit
Taking energy efficiency in buildings to scale
Green Futures January 2012
“We must make the most of what we have already taken” stresses the importance of an integrated approach to design, so that steps taken at one stage do not need to be undone or reworked later on, causing us to lose precious time and money. We are blessed in the UK with significant natural resources of construction material aggregate. The products Lafarge delivers, such as concrete, form the foundations of our infrastructure and almost every built development. They are in our floors, columns, walls, staircases, towers, bridges, roads, pipes, and so on. However, environmental pressures on land increasingly restrict its availability for quarrying. When we do quarry, we need to do so responsibly, efficiently and sustainably. But we also need to ensure that we use these materials in a way that will benefit us for many years to come. Times are changing. We are very aware that this is a world under pressure. Its resources are finite, and yet our appetite for them seems limitless. The importance of making the most of what we have already taken from the earth cannot be underestimated. Jeremy Greenwood is Managing Director – Concrete Lafarge Aggregates & Concrete UK.
Green Futures January 2012
If you look around a city, the majority of buildings are not used for their original purpose. Take Bedford Square [pictured above], built circa 1780 to house London’s upper middle class: now home to university facilities and the odd printing press, among other things. Almost on a daily basis we change the buildings around us. We should think of them as dynamic, living entities. Consider the sensual experience of being inside. You’re often not aware of the building’s structure: that’s the timeless factor. You may barely be aware of the services it provides, from temperature regulation to lighting. Then you have the scenery: the colour of the paint, the style of furniture. These things are immediate to us, and we change them all the time. Retrofit isn’t just about cutting carbon and saving energy. It can also be about the wellbeing of the people who use that building. I fundamentally believe that people need to be more aware of the spaces in which they live and work, and the profound impact these have on our lives. We all need to talk about it more. We talk about music, cookery, the theatre, but not about the walls around us. The broadsheets have a few column inches on architecture, but media attention is light. Where there is coverage, new build tends to dominate, instilling the feeling that working on retrofit is second rate – that it doesn’t require the same intellect or passion or creativity. But it does. Retrofit can be art: if it couldn’t, I wouldn’t be so interested. Of course, there will be retrofit projects where things are so constrained that all you can do is replace the boilers and plumbing… But then you probably won’t need an architect.
Photos: Penoyre & Prasad; iStockphoto / thinkstock
Front and back cover: Penoyre & Prasad; Photos: Lafarge A&C; View Pictures Ltd / SuperStock
Just enough and no more: the Farnsworth House, built by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1951
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is widely regarded as one of the pioneering masters of modern architecture. He sought to develop a new style defined by efficiency and simplicity. He valued space, and kept unnecessary ornamentation to a minimum. His principles have much to offer as we work towards a more sustainable construction industry. Today, homes and buildings represent nearly 40% of our global energy demand. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution to making them sustainable. The characteristics of an energy-efficient home vary according to the climate, the building’s size, its function and its spatial organisation. But there are ways to design more efficient buildings, and even ones which produce as much energy as they consume. With every stage of a building’s life in mind, Lafarge has developed 20 simple rules for sustainable construction. These will be showcased at Ecobuild 2012, alongside a model based on the work of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. By following these principles, we aim to make the most of freely available resources, such as sunlight, natural ventilation and the integration of renewable energies, and to minimise waste. The final rule
“Retrofit can be art. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be so interested”
To my mind, architecture has become too narrowly defined. It’s about space and image, but also about resources and the environment. What do we need for our wellbeing? We need to survive, but fulfilment of human life and potential begins when basic needs are met. And so there’s no tradeoff between art and architecture. Genius lies in combining art and resources to produce a result that is both long-lasting and fulfilling. We are changing our view of the resources at our disposal. We are moving towards more responsive buildings: ones that sense our movement, or respond to daily or seasonal changes in light and temperature. The idea of intelligent buildings is starting to make everyday sense. You walk into a space and the light comes on; you walk towards an escalator that starts moving… We live in a world where visions and communication are really important: we need to inspire people about retrofit. As architects we rely on advocacy and persuasion. Clients may have all the good intentions in their mission plans, but getting them to understand the implications of their own commitments is another thing. Just think of the construction challenge of working with people in situ. There’s nothing boring about such project management! Imagine being in a building while it changes around you. It’s a dramatic thing to be the conductor of: there’s glamour in it. We have to transform the world around us, while we live in it. Sunand Prasad is a Founding Partner at architects Penoyre & Prasad.
Green Futures January 2012
Winning offers Serious Energy is pioneering a retrofit funding model in the US, spurred on by its success in selling solar arrays. The start-up has already snapped up some big business, including the refurbishment of all 6,514 windows in the Empire State Building, and another contract at the New York Stock Exchange. It works by assessing the current energy bill of the client, and identifying improvements to cut those costs. It then offers to pay for these improvements and to pay the energy bill, all at a reduced cost to the building owner. So, take a building with an annual energy spend of $1 million. The owner wants to cut the operating cost, but is put off by the upfront investment and the risk that the changes won’t achieve performance targets. Serious Energy identifies energy improvements that will require a $1 million investment and that will result in 25% savings. It offers the customer a 10-year contract with a 5% Energy Bill Reduction Guarantee, so that instead of paying $1 million a year in bills, the building owner pays Serious Energy $950,000 a year. Serious Energy uses this money to implement the energy retrofit projects and manages energy performance for the duration of the contract, paying the $750,000 annual bill and using the remaining £200,000 to cover maintenance, bank and financing fees. Californian start-up Renewable Funding was launched in 2009, to administer Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loans. These loans are available for home and commercial retrofit projects, and are paid back through fixed payments as part of the property tax bill. If the owner sells the property, these payments are passed on to the buyer. Renewable Funding provides a comprehensive service to make the whole process easy, such as processing applications and providing quality assurance. “Over time, it’ll probably be a very big market, and it’ll be more than just us,” says the
Green Futures January 2012
Photo: Davis McCardle / Digital Vision / thinkstock
With such a huge prize, an enormous prize, how do we make this work?
In the UK, the halo has slipped from the self-proclaimed “greenest government ever”. First, Chancellor George Osborne performed if not a U-turn then a sharp right, when he blamed a decade of environmental laws and regulations for “piling costs on the energy bills of households and companies”, at the Conservative party conference. Now, a nascent solar industry reels in the face of the slashing of the Government’s Feed-in Tariff (FIT) scheme – one that has done so much to create jobs at a time of stagnant economic growth. One thing remains certain. The UK Government has to meet its legally binding commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% come 2050, from a 1990 baseline. Buildings account for almost half of all carbon emissions, so tough legislation (such as the Building Regulations and the Carbon Reduction Commitment) comes as no surprise. It’s combined with carrots to bring about changes in new building design and encourage the retrofitting of existing stock, such as the Renewable Heat Incentive and the forthcoming Green Deal. Due to launch in October, this aims to help consumers afford energy efficiency improvements by removing the need for them to pay upfront. Instead, the costs will be recouped over time via a charge on their energy
bills [see ‘Domestic goddess?’, GF81, p30]. This much awaited scheme could lead to the upgrade of 500,000 homes a year, and Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has high hopes that it will create 100,000 jobs in home refurbishment alone by 2015. “The potential for low-carbon growth is enormous”, says Business Minister Mark Prisk, co-chair of the Government’s recently established Green Construction Board. “There are approximately 25 million existing homes to be retrofitted by the end of 2050. This is a huge business opportunity that small construction firms should grasp.” Some larger construction firms are at the ready. Willmott Dixon Re-Thinking is embarking on a range of projects to explore the most efficient ways to greet the opportunity at scale, working with partners and the supply chain. As David Adams, the Director in charge of retrofit at Willmott Dixon, puts it, “The rewards are actually quite astonishing. [The Green Deal] could create jobs now, which will be paid for in the future, without going into debt!” But, he asks, “With such a huge prize, an enormous prize, how do we make this work?” Like many potential Green Deal providers, Adams and his team are keen for more detail to emerge on the nitty gritty of the scheme. “We need to see what incentive mechanisms are going to be put in place, to give us a steer as to how big this market will actually be”, he says [see ‘We won’t get another chance’, p10]. A consortium of industry leaders, including energy services provider Carillion, the DIY giant Kingfisher, EDF Energy and PricewaterhouseCoopers [PwC], is working on the business plan for a non-profit organisation, to be called the Green Deal Finance Company. The aim is to create a single national body that can provide finance to all accredited Green Deal providers on an equal and open basis. Paul Davies, the lead partner at PwC, believes it will create “a highly competitive market which will compete on cost, reliability, lifespan and technology”. In the meantime, other funding models are already attracting business, such as that offered by the Carbon Trust, with financial backing from
As the UK Government grapples with high targets, businesses are finding cash in the attic, and creating jobs in the process, says Andrew Brister.
Siemens Financial Services UK. Worth up to £550 million over three years, this is designed to help businesses invest in both energy efficiency and other low-carbon technologies such as biomass heating. “We are pushing our members towards the Carbon Trust scheme Implementation Services and Siemens Finance, rather than the Green Deal”, says David Frise, Head of Sustainability at the HVCA, the UK’s trade association for building engineering services. Why? Firstly, he explains, “because the scheme is up and running a year ahead of the Green Deal. And also because the Carbon Trust is an organisation clients are aware of and trust [due to its] track record and an understanding of energy saving projects. The Green Deal is an unknown quantity, and the credibility of the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is not high following the FiT review.” But whether the funding comes from the Green Deal or elsewhere, Carillion is preparing itself for a busy time ahead, as more people become aware of the opportunities. “We’ve been a specialist in the low energy retrofit arena for many years, but the Green Deal brings this to the forefront”, says Carillion business partner Keith Richardson. “We will work with both the private and public sector to recommend measures to improve energy performance, from the installation of cavity wall and
start-up’s founder and president, Cisco DeVries. “And that’s as it should be.” The city of Melbourne [below], Australia, has created a new Environmental Upgrade Charge programme, to finance energy retrofits in commercial buildings, using a variation of the PACE model. Here’s how it works. The council enters into an agreement with both commercial property owners seeking up-front financing for projects that improve energy, water and environmental efficiency, and with the financial institutions willing to fund these retrofits. A private lending body advances funds to the building owner to undertake the project. The owner or occupier pays an ongoing environmental upgrade charge, levied by the council, which matches the principal and interest. Payments are then passed on to the lender. The aim is to reduce the risk associated with lending for the financial institution, and offer finance to property owners at a lower rate than commercial loans.
loft insulation, and new heating systems, to solar thermal and solar PV.” Carillion has seen some 400 people come through its Bedford Training Academy in the last two years, acquiring skills in all areas of low-energy retrofit. “We are providing opportunities for our electricians to develop skills in solar PV, or our gas engineers to work with biomass, for example”, says Richardson. These skills are already being put to use in the north of England, thanks to a partnership between Carillion Energy Services and Sheffield City Council. Their Free Insulation Scheme is designed to make it as easy as possible for homeowners and private tenants to benefit from loft and cavity wall insulation. The scheme draws on major energy suppliers’ obligations to help their household customers make savings in CO2 emissions under the Carbon Emission Reduction Target (CERT). Funds from the energy suppliers are matched by the council, with the aim of improving the efficiency of homes at no cost to the occupant. Over 30,000 households have benefited, typically enjoying savings of up to £118 a year on energy bills. Sheffield City Council believes the scheme has so far been worth more than £5.4 million to the city through green jobs, reduced energy costs and indirect benefits to the wider economy.
Green Futures January 2012
They say: ‘We haven’t got any money.’ We reply: ‘You don’t need any.’
“With recent Government figures showing nearly half of Britain’s homes lack adequate insulation, the example set by Sheffield could be a blueprint for other local authorities across the country”, says Keeley Sharp of Carillion Energy Services. But it’s not just homes that are set for a makeover. Firms will no doubt be encouraged by consultants Ernst and Young’s report into the potential of the Non-Domestic Green Deal, which covers commercial and other buildings. It estimates that a 10% take-up would result in a market for energy efficiency measures in small and medium business that, by 2020, would be worth £800 million a year. Ernst and Young urges the Government to adopt a more business-centric mindset in its forthcoming consultation, to make sure the benefits of participation are clear and compelling enough to persuade businesses to get involved. In London, the Mayor’s RE:FIT programme is set to help hundreds of public sector organisations retrofit their premises. It works by appointing a pre-qualified energy service company (ESCo) to undertake a range of efficiency measures. The ESCo guarantees that these will achieve a set level of energy savings over a defined payback period, helping the organisation to justify its investment. Loans to help finance the costs are available through the London Green Fund, set up by the Mayor’s Office. The 42 buildings that piloted RE:FIT, with a £7 million investment, saw savings of up to 40% in energy, collectively saving the city £1 million a year in fuel bills, with a payback period of seven years. “There is a massive economic prize coming from retrofitting activity, not least in terms of the solid investment opportunity it represents for private businesses”, said Mayor Boris Johnson. “It is [also] a massive potential generator of employment. In the same way that tens of thousands were employed by our hunger for fossil fuels, so in the 21st century, we need the private sector to invest in green growth.” Some quick thinkers are already investing in new energy efficiency ventures. One promising start-up is Anesco. It offers energy efficiency and microgeneration services, including solar power, renewable heating, insulation and building energy management systems, as well as energy efficiency consultation, to domestic and commercial customers in the UK. Around half of Anesco’s
Survival of the retro-fittest
At your leisure Working in partnership with Gateshead Council, Willmott Dixon Construction refurbished a 1920s swimming pool that might otherwise have been demolished and rebuilt from scratch. The project saved the council substantial sums of money, and opened five months earlier than a new-build equivalent. The scheme was delivered under a partnering contract, so the design team was employed by the contractor. First, the design was agreed and approved, and then contractor Willmott Dixon fixed a maximum price to implement the project, under guarantee. From the outset, the project was set a target of “very good” under the BREEAM energy assessment method. Willmott Dixon Re-thinking ensured sustainability was integral to the scheme, which included a combined heat-and-power plant, along with measures to increase daylight by 20%.
Green refurbishments save money and reduce CO2 emissions. The challenge is getting people to do them, says Carl Frankel. A more comfortable home, a slimmer energy bill, more jobs for your community, less oil to import from the volatile Middle East... But in spite of these attractions, people aren’t swarming to green their living space. Paul King, Chief Executive of the UK Green Building Council, reels off the reasons: “There’s an upfront capital cost barrier for many people, for a start. And the economic environment is getting more challenging, which means people are even less inclined to spend money. Then there’s the fact that people don’t know who to trust and where to go for reliable advice. It doesn’t help that it’s not a sexy topic, not something people feel excited about. They might be excited about putting a panel on their roof, but solid wall insulation is a bit of a turn-off for lots of people.” And that’s before they get into the practicalities of actually making the change... This brings us to the intimidation factor. Green retrofits are a challenging process, involving a host of complex and often interrelated decisions [see ‘Master planning’, p14]. The person in charge has to decide which technologies to use, how to optimise system synergies, what the best financing mechanism is, and who to hire to get the job done right. That’s asking a lot of a person with no expertise, especially when they’re inundated with information and uncertain where to turn for reliable advice. The
projects are ones where the customer does not provide the capital for any technology investment upfront. Anesco makes the investment on the customer’s behalf, and pays itself out of the savings. “We go into businesses and say this is how you could improve on energy efficiency”, says CEO Adrian Pike. “The first thing they say is: ‘Look: we haven’t got any money.’ We reply: ‘You don’t need to put any money in: the capital investment will be paid for by the energy savings.’ From a sales point of view, that is not a difficult sell…” The new venture, formed at the end of 2010, has already attracted £6 million of equity investment from clean technology investors Zouk and SSE, and is on track for a £26 million turnover in its first year. It just goes to show that there’s a big prize waiting for those who can make low-carbon buildings a no-brainer. Andrew Brister is a freelance journalist who specialises in sustainability and the built environment.
Can the dream home of TV presenter Oliver Heath inspire the public?
Green Futures January 2012
monitors and installing solar panels at a free energy awareness session. Club members are also being offered free water saving kits that could save up to 95 litres of water a day. It’s all part of Durham CCC’s commitment to become one of the most carbon-efficient international test venues. Plans include a solar PV array on the Club’s media centre, and a project to offset the carbon footprint of fans’ travel by funding a wind farm in India.
Photo: iStockphoto / thinkstock
Spend a day at the cricket and come home with some of that crisp white padding… For your loft, that is. Durham County Cricket Club has teamed up with Carillion Energy Services and Northumbrian Water Ltd to help its members and supporters save energy and water in their homes. At a recent test match against Somerset, supporters were offered advice on insulation, efficient heating systems, energy
Photo: Oliver Heath
result is predictable: people switch off and go back to watching the telly. It’s a problem, even if you leave stretching carbon targets out of the equation. Energy costs are claiming an ever larger chunk of people’s budgets. “Fuel prices in the UK increased by 15-18% in the past year alone, and people’s incomes aren’t keeping pace”, warns Rik Kendall of construction and support services company Carillion PLC. “We also have an aging housing stock in the UK that’s much less energy efficient than the housing stock in much of Europe.” About half of UK homes do not have even basic insulation installed, according to the Department of Energy and Climate Change [DECC]. In Kendall’s words, the ‘three-legged stool’ of low incomes, rising energy costs and leaky buildings has led to sharp increases in the national fuel poverty level, defined as households that spend 10% or more of their income on home heating. According to data from DECC and the Centre for Sustainable Energy, close to 20% of households now live in fuel poverty. The US faces similar problems. Energy costs are also rising sharply, along with levels of fuel poverty. While the housing stock tends to be newer than in the UK, this positive is offset by the fact that many Americans live in hot climates and treat air conditioning as a bit of a ‘right’ – alongside life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness… The challenge of inspiring individuals to take action is arguably even greater in the US, where energy wastefulness is the norm and the return on investment numbers unfavourable. One way around this dilemma is by engaging people at the community rather than individual level. This approach has much to recommend it, including lower prices through collective buying power and a level of scale that attracts subsidies and the combined talents of powerful players. The UK’s Community Energy Savings Programme (CESP) is an example of a multi-partner approach that engages people at the broader community level. The Government requires major energy suppliers and power generators to drive reductions in CO2 emissions. CESP makes this possible through what is essentially a matching fund programme. The big energy companies put up half the money for house-by-house, street-by-street energy efficiency improvements in low-income communities through
Green Futures January 2012
Green Futures January 2012
Carl Frankel is a US-based writer, specialising in business and sustainability.
Social media offers a window on pilot retrofits, writes Laura Dixon.
Telling it like it is
Photos: Comstock Images / thinkstock; Hemera Technologies / Getty / thinkstock
It’s important that people come in and say “Wow!”
the UK. These funds, which will total £350 million over a three-year period, are matched at the community level, typically by the local authority. The result: big chunks of leaky housing get an energy efficiency upgrade. Working under the CESP umbrella, Carillion recently partnered with power company InterGen UK, pipeline provider Northern Gas Networks, local community interest group Community Energy Solutions (CES) and social housing provider Fabrick Housing Group. The purpose of this impressive alliance was to replace old, inefficient electric heaters with energy efficient A-rated gas central heating systems in over 200 social housing households in Teeside in the north of England. All the partners had an essential role to play. The Government drove the initiative. InterGen contributed CESP funding. Northern Gas and CES provided additional financing and access to mains gas. Carillion facilitated the financing arrangements and installed high-efficiency heaters. And, “because it’s [housing provider] Fabrick that’s going to their tenants, they’re far more inclined to say, ‘Let’s have it’”, Kendall explains. In the US, where a hotchpotch of renewable energy financing mechanisms create opportunity and befuddlement in roughly equal measure, a new social enterprise is trying to cut through the clutter. San Francisco-based 1 Block off the Grid provides one-stop shopping for prospective solar customers in 40 states around the country. It works with them to pinpoint their payback period, provides financing guidance, and then connects them with a skilled local installer. This installer offers a sizeable group discount, because 1 Block off the Grid is doing the difficult and time-consuming work of herding customers their way. The smart start-up is also making use of satellite photography to do much of the analysis remotely. Its business model works rather like Groupon, the popular web-based coupon company. Groupon finds service providers (in anything from facials to fitness classes) that are willing to give customers a big one-time discount, and then sends battalions of customers their way. 1 Block off the Grid proposes to do the same for solar. In fact, the company received its initial round of funding from New Enterprise Associates, which also funded Groupon. Since its launch in 2008, the company has closed on about
Ear to the wall
Photo: Oliver Heath
Have a peep chez Heath, part of the Old Home SuperHome Network
1,800 installations. While not a huge number, “sales are increasing exponentially each month”, says Shannon Coulter, Vice-President of marketing. “We expect to be at about 2,200 by year’s end.” 1 Block off the Grid will have to demonstrate that the Groupon model can persuade people to make over their homes as well as their personal appearance. And of course, it’s only one player. Thousands of others around the world will have to contribute, too. But innovative financing and delivery models are only part of the puzzle. Another big part of it is communication. Consumers need to be aware of the available opportunities, and inspired to pursue them. “We have to help people understand how important this is”, says David Adams, a Director in the wonderfully named Re-Thinking department of construction and support services company Willmott Dixon. Adams sees much potential in the Green Deal, currently wending its way through the UK Parliament [see ‘We won’t get another chance’, p10]. This scheme directly addresses the heavy upfront burden of green retrofits by adding the cost of the retrofit to the home’s energy bill over a 25-year period. “But the savings aren’t huge”, admits Adams: “They’re unlikely to inspire mass engagement.” So what will? Back to that telly… TV presenter Oliver Heath has brought more than a touch of class to retrofit with his popular programme, ‘Dream Homes’. In the first episode, Jon and Jane restore a medieval barn in East Sussex; in the second, a rundown Georgian house is revived using local builders and traditional skills… They may not be tales of your average low-income householder, but the point is they’re aspirational. “One of the big problems with sustainability”, Heath argues, “is that it appeals to a particular side of the mind – the pragmatic side: the efficiencies, the cuts. But this practical way of thinking doesn’t make people excited. Sustainability has a duty to become more appealing.” Heath cut emissions by 62% in his own home, a 1960s semi in Brighton, thanks to full insulation, a heat recovery system, solar water heating panels, double glazing and low-energy lighting. But what he’s most proud of is its looks. It’s now part of Britain’s Old Home SuperHome Network, which means he gets to show it off to visitors at least three times a year. “It’s important that people come in and say ‘Wow! I love it!’”, he asserts. “We have to integrate aesthetics: it’s not secondary to the sustainable design movement. Without good design that makes you think ‘I want that’, how are we going to sell it? If the windows are tiny, we won’t get the right levels of take-up.” But, King warns, “We mustn’t assume a onesize-fits-all message when it comes to engaging householders. Some think it’s smart and attractive to green their home; some are motivated by futureproofing themselves against energy price rises; others won’t find it very interesting at all. Trying to cater for all those people will take clever communications.” Still, where the magnitude of the stakes and the potential savings have failed to pull in the crowds, it’s possible that the old combination of good looks on TV will do the trick.
“Boiler fitted, loft insulation done, loft hatch fitted, heat exchange fan fitted. Scaffolding up for cavity wall to be done next week. Then I guess we’ll start snagging…” Michael Keeves’ Facebook post sounds like a brag about how eco-friendly he is. But it’s actually proof that a pioneering project which uses social media to engage a small community in a retrofit scheme is working. At Rampton Drift in South Cambridgeshire, 13 former Ministry of Defence houses built over 40 years ago are being fitted out with £320,000 of energy-saving and micro-generation technologies, from efficient boilers to photovoltaic panels. It’s a joint endeavour involving the district and county councils, Cambridge University, and contractors Willmott Dixon. The aim is to showcase the transition to low-carbon living, and assess which measures are most successful in cutting energy use, in preparation for the launch of the Green Deal [see ‘Opportunity knocks’, p4]. As part of the research, the householders have committed themselves to two years of monitoring. The spotlight will be on both their energy bills and their behaviour throughout the refurbishment, and digital communication is a key part of it. “The residents have a Facebook page where they can log in and comment on various aspects of the work, and we send regular email updates on the progress of work”, says Tracy Mann, Principal Lead for Community Infrastructure at South Cambridgeshire District Council. “We will also be creating a website that displays the real-time energy usage of their homes, anonymously, for everyone to see.” This means residents can compare their consumption with that of other households, and even compete with their neighbours, without revealing their identity. Crucially, the council updates information regularly on the Facebook page as well as by email, and there is no issue of editorial control: residents are free to speak their mind. The council’s hope, as stated on Facebook, is that others will “see the longer term benefits of a range of different energy efficient technologies”, and be able to access “a wealth of information as to ‘How was it for you?’”. To date, the Facebook page largely reveals the frustrations felt by homeowners over the project. “Waiting for money back for panels but still £3k out of pocket. Not happy, outraged. Your thoughts?” says Shaun Rivers. “Thought the scaffolding had gone up quite well until I discovered I couldn’t open my back door!” says Lizz Mayers. “Luckily they are due back tomorrow and will be able to adjust it.” Such a public commentary on progress could be intimidating to some developers. How might any
negative comments affect outsiders’ perception of the project? Could they dissuade other householders, or even prevent future projects from going ahead? But while there are risks, there are also significant benefits to be gained if developers can hear what the local residents are saying and respond. Moreover, whatever is said, this online chat builds a sense of community that is crucial to keep the residents engaged over the two-year period. “It’s certainly helpful to know what they are talking about and what their expectations are”, says Michael Willoughby, Communications Manager at Willmott Dixon, Rethinking. “In theory it could help increase participation and prevent disputes. A future where contractors use social media for customer engagement on a project-by-project basis certainly makes sense, and could well be on the cards.” “We’ve got so much to share in terms of community engagement for future projects”, says Mann. “We’ve seen that the more empowered the residents have been [through having editorial freedom on Facebook], the more they step up to their responsibilities” – whether it’s being at home to welcome the installers, or making sure the changes are properly monitored. This is particularly important because the project needs the participants to go on contributing to the research for the next two years: a year and a half after the refit has been completed. But digital communication is just part of the bigger picture. “We see that at the moment, door knocking works best, and that social media is better at the younger end of the scale”, continues Tracy. “We also know that people want to be informed all the time about everything, and any mechanism that helps keep them updated is essential.” At the end of the day, even the best technologies and most attractive subsidies will be unable to cut domestic emissions, unless householders are prepared to open their doors. Finding ways to engage with them and gain their trust will be key. Laura Dixon is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to Green Futures
Green Futures January 2012
“We won’t get another chance”
If the UK is going to cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, we will have to carry out a domestic energy retrofit every minute until that date. And that’s if you pretend we’ll be at it 24 hours a day. Thank heavens, then, for the Government’s Green Deal, currently going through Parliament. Under the scheme, third party providers will fit a variety of insulation and energy generation measures to homes at no upfront cost to the homeowner. They will then pay back the provider with interest over a period of 25 years through a charge on the home’s utility bills. These repayments will be less than the anticipated energy savings, so the homeowner will be better off overall. And because the charge is attached to the bills, it doesn’t matter if the person moves house: the benefit of the low-energy work and the charge are passed on to the next householder. Will all homeowners rush to carry out these works as soon as the Green Deal shop flips its sign to open? No, they won’t. How can we be so sure? Using research grant money we offered to carry out just such measures for free to owners of a group of 90 homes. Just 13 took up the offer. So why was there such a low response? Various explanations have been suggested, including a lack of trust about what was being offered or fear of disruption to home life. But, more likely, most people simply had other things to worry about. They just weren’t that bothered. That’s surprising, given the fact that energy bills have more or less doubled since 2005 and look set to do so again over the next decade. But like the anecdotal frog which meets its end in a pot of slowly
Green Futures January 2012
warming water on a gas ring, consumers appear to have taken on board gradual price increases without getting hopping mad. People aren’t even very excited by switching suppliers for a better rate. So, we shouldn’t get too optimistic about take-up for the Green Deal, given the relatively low savings that people will make after efficiency measures are carried out, likely to be just £100-150 per year. Of course, this pessimistic tone overlooks the fact that we have already been successful in carrying out a range of ‘easy’ energy measures, such as loft and cavity wall insulation, and condensing boilers in their millions. In fact, these successes have meant that emissions from homes have stayed flat, even as the underlying trend has risen. At a certain point, though, we will have to carry out the more disruptive and expensive retrofit measures, such as insulating floors and homes with solid walls. We’ve also got to work on reducing draughts: houses lose a surprising amount of heat through small holes in the wall. It’s fair to say that, although the Green Deal should be welcomed, even the cleverest marketers in the business are unlikely to drive take-up, except among enthusiastic early adopters. So how do we bring about a mass adoption of deep green retrofits? There are three options, as I see it. You can make people do it through legislation. You can offer people grants to do it. Or you can nudge people in the right direction in a way that government feels it can afford. This Government isn’t keen on legislating except as a last resort, so we can take this option off the table for owner-occupiers. It also has a target of cutting departmental spending by £37 billion by 2013-14, so we can forget about option two. That leaves the nudge. Nudges tend to work best when people are making a decision anyway. Let’s put it down to consumer inertia. So, while people will tolerate creeping price rises, they absolutely hate paying tax. It just feels like ‘one more thing’. This
be very low, as each stamp duty calculation is already unique, and energy performance is already centrally logged, on a scale of A-G, thanks to obligatory Energy Performance Certificates. All you need to do is combine the two. It’s also a flexible mechanism. It could be introduced at a level that would only affect homeowners by a few hundred pounds either way, but be set to increase as time goes on, so that people see the benefit of acting quickly. And poorer people needn’t be affected at all, as only homes that sell for more than £125,000 qualify. In changing the property sale tax, the Government will be able to say: ‘It is your duty as a citizen to consume less energy. Fixing your leaky home is a great way of doing this, and now you have upfront cost-free tools and incentives to encourage you to do so.’ The Green Deal has to work, because we won’t get another chance to attempt something of this scale. Let’s use the taxation and metrics we already have in place to make sure it does. David Adams is a Director at Willmott Dixon, where he is in charge of retrofit.
An alluring lease Retrofits can be winners for landlords and tenants alike, says John Eischeid.
Photo: © IRTsurveys ltd www.irtsurveys.co.uk
David Adams calls for a strong nudge towards greener homes.
means that a relatively small change in tax has a disproportionate effect on choices: significant bang for the buck. An ideal candidate for an effective retrofit nudge would be stamp duty: the 1-5% tax paid on property purchases. The Government could offer a slight reduction on homes that are more energy efficient, and raise duty on inefficient ones. This would keep the Treasury happy, because the tax lost from betterperforming homes could be made up through higher contributions from the power-hungry dwellings. No one’s going to complain about paying less tax. But what about those who have to pay more? Well, that’s where the Green Deal comes in: by enabling householders to afford energy efficiency investments, it will help them to mitigate the additional stamp duty with lower energy bills. And for those that don’t want to? Well, if they are happy paying higher than necessary energy bills they must also be happy paying higher than necessary stamp duty. That’s how the argument can run. There are other benefits in using stamp duty to promote greener housing. The upfront costs would
Landlords of retrofitted buildings will find it easier to attract and keep tenants. So says Heath Blount of Brightworks, a US construction consultancy specialising in sustainability. Lower energy bills are one reason, but not the only one. There’s reputation, too: “[Commercial] tenants are becoming much more interested in their impact”, says Blount. Having a space that consumes less is a natural fit with a high-profile stance on sustainability, and if you’ve made public boasts about its benefits, you’re likely to hang around. Landlords who might once have balked at such renovations are now beginning to reconsider. The economic downturn prevented some major refurbishments from going ahead, as building owners grew reluctant to spend the necessary funds. But that’s changing, says Peter Belisle, President of the Energy and Sustainability Services Group at Jones Lang LeSalle, which carried out the retrofit for the Empire State Building. Why? “Because they [now] realise that the energy savings can be significant enough [to justify the cost].” Blount agrees, pointing out that while finance for new construction has declined in the last few years, investment on existing buildings has actually grown. And it’s a trend likely to be sustained, says David Adams, a Director at Willmott Dixon Re-Thinking. He argues that a combination of legislation and rising
energy costs will make retrofit increasingly appealing to both landlords and tenants. One tenant’s retrofit can even bring down energy costs for others in the building, a domino effect that landlords would clearly find attractive. Cosmetics company Av on pushed for energy-saving measures at its recently opened headquarters at 777 Third Avenue in Manhattan, installing individually controlled vents on its heating and cooling ducts. These vents have a knock-on effect for the whole building’s temperature regulation system, as Glenn Dibiase of building owner Sage Realty explains. “When [the vents] close, they put air pressure back into the system. That pressure causes the fans to slow down and use less electricity. Avon is not the only tenant on that system, so the efficiency of the vents and the fans working in tandem is passed on.” Louise Matthews, Vice President, Global Real Estate for Avon, described Sage as “extremely receptive” to such measures: it is even looking for ways to retrofit its other properties. Energy efficiency legislation, from California’s Title 24 to the UK’s 2011 Energy Act, is set to prompt more co-operation between landlords and tenants in the future. But there’s no need to wait for it, says Adams: “There is the opportunity for landlords and tenants to work together and both gain.”
One tenant’s retrofit can even bring down energy costs for others in the building
John Eischeid is a freelance writer based in New York.
Green Futures January 2012
Views from the rooftop How can we get people to embrace energy efficiency? Marketing is a huge challenge, because efficiency has to be communicated differently to different audiences. There’s an amazing diversity of players, from those actually managing the financial mechanisms and services, to high street retailers, housing associations, contractors, energy companies… Then there are householders: we mustn’t assume a one-size fits all message for them, either. Some are motivated by future-proofing themselves against energy price rises; some think it’s smart and attractive to green their home; others won’t find it very interesting at all. Then there’s the question of who to trust. It will help to have registered providers, like the Corgi gas installers, so that you know you’re dealing with someone competent. If we can break through the trust barrier, will it be easy? There are still practical difficulties. I recently installed
Transformers We’ve picked some pioneering examples to prove that retrofit can be big, bold and beautiful.
Are we facing a skill gap? “We’re facing a skills gap” has become a bit of a stock reaction! Talk about any sustainable development project, and people say we have a dearth of skills. But I never cease to be amazed at how quickly an industry can gear up and deliver when market demand is clear. What we mustn’t do is send mixed signals. If the signals are clear and strong, then a nascent industry will be bubbling away. Should we aim to do everything we can to a property as soon as possible? According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel
Photos: Patrick Wang / shutterstock; David Banks / Getty; The GPT Group
Paul King, Chief Executive, UK Green Building Council
solid wall insulation in my house, which was built in the 1780s. I organised a delivery of insulation to my home, but it arrived in a lorry so huge that it couldn’t get up my road! So there I was unloading it in the street... I thought, multiply this by 26 million homes and we could bring the country to a standstill! And you have to remember that, in the UK, we’ve got anything but a uniform housing stock. We’ll need lots of different solutions. But that’s not an excuse not to do anything. We simply have to try bringing all the different elements together. We need to know about all the things that can go wrong, and try to iron them out before the Green Deal is launched.
Photo: Ben Rahn/A-Frame
“The UK has anything but a uniform housing stock”
on Climate Change, buildings globally offer almost twice the carbon abatement potential of any other sector. That’s quite a lot of pressure to act! But there’s also a lock-in effect. If you only harvest 10% of that potential because the low-hanging fruit looks so good, and stop there, you might lock in 30-40% of emissions. That’s a real threat. Then again, it’s not realistic to assume people will go straight for an 80% emissions reduction. It might just be too costly, even if it’s technologically possible.
Green Futures January 2012
Paul Morrell, Chief Construction Advisor to the UK Government I’m afraid, though I know I shouldn’t say it, that I cannot get excited about energy efficiency measures – and I actually think that the search for excitement might be part of the problem. Energy efficiency is first of all a matter of the careful application of well-chosen
passive measures, and sometimes some very simple things like bringing maintenance up to date, resetting or replacing controls, and the like. This is not nearly as exciting as a wind turbine, or better still, a whole farm of them! Our jackdaw minds (and those of politicians and officials) are much more attracted to shiny things that whizz around and represent a visible response to the challenge of climate change, than they are to lowtech work in the fabric of a building. Energy that doesn’t need to be generated at all, because it isn’t being consumed, doesn’t get the same attention. It is, however, the most cost-effective way of reducing our emissions, so we need to get excited by that – by the fact that we are fixing the problem, and by the opportunities created at home and abroad in knowing how to do it. So that is what I get excited about: that we might set ourselves the ambition of being the first country in the world that knows how to decarbonise an entire economy, effectively and economically – knowing, if you accept the science (and I’m not clever enough not to), that the whole world will need to follow. How much of an opportunity would that represent?
into the local sewer. One of the most significant energy reductions comes from an efficient cooling system. The building earned a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating.
Unilever House, London The goal here was to keep the aesthetics of Unilever’s neoclassical headquarters intact, breathing “new life into a stunning but under-performing [Grade 2] listed building”. Arup’s solution preserved 60% of the original building, behind its spectacular fluted-column façade. Original fittings, such as the parquet flooring, were retained or reused, and any unwanted furniture was donated to schools and charities. The refurbished building now features a landscaped roof garden and spray taps, innovations that reduce the peak flow of waste water
The Hespeler Library, Cambridge, Canada The Hespeler Library was originally built in 1922 at a cost of $14,500, funded by the Carnegie Foundation. Kongats Architects won a 2010 Zerofootprint Re-Skinning Award for its work, which aimed to showcase the old building while giving it a contemporary facelift. Mid 20th-century additions were demolished to reveal the original structure, and then an insulating glass ‘display case’ was built around the building. A double layer of ceramic frit
“Energy efficiency measures don’t do it for me”
glass reduces solar heat gain. A third internal layer filters sunlight through a hand-woven textile that depicts the town’s industrial past. The changes have improved the library’s energy efficiency by 67%.
Most attractive Least recognisable
How can you know what to do first? There’s a strong argument for a whole-house plan, which shows you the potential, the maximum you could do – and gives you a range of options, depending on how far you want to go. It should also show you the sequence in which you ought to tackle it. I had this done for my own home, and I’m glad I did. I know a lot about this, but I could have made some basic mistakes. So, your old sash window might feel like a priority because the wind is howling through it and it’s dripping with condensation… But actually, you have to think about increasing the depths of sills to install solid wall insulation; otherwise, you might have to rip out your nice new window later on.
100 Princedale Road, London This domestic retrofit smashed its targets, cutting carbon emissions by 83% and energy use by 94%, and scooping a Green Apple Award. It saves the tenants £910 a year in utility bills. It was designed to Passivhaus standards, with the first triple-glazed sash windows to be installed in the UK, alongside wall insulation. It has no boilers, radiators or heating system, featuring solar thermal panels for warm water and an innovative underground heat exchanger for warmth and ventilation.
No one-size-fits-all for UK housing
Largest scale 1200 Buildings Programme, Melbourne The City of Melbourne and the Victoria Government, Australia, have set a goal to refurbish 1,200 commercial buildings to reduce emissions, use less water and create healthier work environments. It’s being touted as the largest transformation in the city for 160 years, and hopes are high that it will generate AU$1.3 billion in economic activity. The project’s flagship is 530 Collins Street, owned by GPT Wholesale Office Fund. Its retrofit involved new boilers and cooling towers, a combined heat and power plant, and ultra-efficient lighting, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 4,700 tonnes a year. Left to right: The Hespeler Library, Unilever House, 530 Collins Street
Green Futures January 2012
A piecemeal approach to design could not have delivered such a result
Embarking on a retrofit can be a daunting prospect. Plan it right, and the scheme will cut energy use, reduce running costs, and improve the comfort and productivity of the people who use the building day to day. For a company, it could enhance the brand by showcasing its commitment to a low-carbon future. But get it wrong, warns the Carbon Trust, and a refurbishment can actually lead to an increase in energy consumption through changes in the way a building is used. Knowing where to start isn’t easy. Sunand Prasad of London-based architects Penoyre & Prasad counts five main things to consider. First, you have the occupants: how they use the space, and the changes they would like to see. Then there’s the fabric of the building as it stands, and the way in which it has been piped and wired. Zooming out, there’s also the local infrastructure it draws upon (utilities and plants), and the question of renewable energy generation on-site. No building is an island: changes in the wider economic and political landscape will also have an impact. How might policy and legislation affect its running costs in the future? What targets will have to be met? How might advances in technology affect the way it’s used? With so many questions to negotiate, it’s important to know who to ask. “The key to a successful refurbishment is getting the right people on board before you start ruling out options, and even before you set a final budget”, says Doug King, Principal of low-carbon consulting engineers King Shaw and a visiting professor of building physics at the University of Bath. “You need everybody round the table”, he argues. “The architects will be able to advise on occupancy and space planning; the structural engineers will be able to assess the degree of possible alteration or whether an existing structure can accommodate additional loads or the building can be extended. And the building services engineer can advise on how to achieve a comfortable internal environment.” You also need to consider the materials you’re going to be using, adds Emma Hines, Sustainable Construction and Development Manager at Lafarge A&C UK, as these have an impact on everything from the structure of a building to its aesthetics. “The sooner we’re involved, the more we can help with providing solutions for the client”, she says. “Once a client has seen the plans and said ‘Yeah, I like the look of that’, it becomes much more difficult to suggest changes. The last thing you want is to be going back to the designers and engineers after the plans have been submitted, because you’ve just come across a material with great properties that you didn’t know about before.”
Green Futures January 2012
Take the case of a ‘hard to heat, hard to treat’ 1950s house in Norfolk. Its CO2 emissions were reduced by 93% and its energy consumption by 81%, thanks to a retrofit pilot called ‘Greening the box’, delivered by Wherry Housing Association and Broadland District Council. Lafarge worked with architect Jeremy Harrell on the plans from the start. Key to the success was a super insulated in situ concrete ground floor, in which thermostatically controlled, low-grade electric underfloor heating was embedded. This works alongside solar water heating and photovoltaics installed on the roof. The refurbished house now functions as a whole system, each innovation feeding into the next. A piecemeal approach to its design could not have delivered such a result. But there’s another significant benefit in getting everyone together early on, says King: they are more likely to be open to solutions outside their comfort zone. “It helps to be part of a team with experience of doing things out of the ordinary and being imaginative, because they will recognise opportunities that conventional designers wouldn’t.” But, he adds, you have to factor in enough time to explore the options. For Matthew Kitson, Head of Sustainability at consulting engineers Hilson Moran, you have to start with the people who will actually use the building. As he sees it, “the biggest factor in any refurbishment is achieving occupant satisfaction”. This is particularly true of commercial retrofit, he explains, where a good result “can help attract the best employees, improve productivity and help retain staff”. How people go about their jobs day to day has implications for the best layout of the building, which in turn impacts on its structure, and on services like lighting and temperature regulation. Of course, any business planning a retrofit will also want clear benefits to present to the board. For Kitson, this means that the design team need a good grasp of the client’s business model and motivations. One of the most high profile retrofits, literally, has been New York’s Empire State Building. The project turned the 80-year-old skyscraper into one of the most sustainable office blocks in the US. It was driven by hard-nosed financial goals, so that the reduction in energy consumption and environmental impact would simultaneously enhance its profitability for the owners. The result was a cut of almost 40% in the building’s energy consumption – double that of a typical commercial building retrofit. And, with a payback of just three years, it is proof that refurbishment can make economic sense. However, turning the 80-year-old icon into a
Photo: © National Gallery, London
There’s no single path to a successful retrofit, but Andy Pearson finds out where to start.
flagship for sustainable refurbishment was not without its challenges. A team of specialists was assembled, led by owner Anthony Malkin, President of Malkin Holdings, and including environmental organisation Rocky Mountain Institute and project manager Jones Lang LaSalle. Also on board at the outset was the building’s energy supplier, and building controls manufacturer Johnson Controls, as the custodians of its energy consumption data. It took seven months of audits, brainstorming, energy modelling and financial analysis to determine what it was possible to achieve within strict financial parameters. One of the team’s key findings was that the most cost-effective way to meet energy efficiency goals would be to integrate the plans with the existing refurbishment programme. A prime example of this was the refurbishment of the building’s 6,500 windows. The owners had already decided to reseal all the windows under the capital upgrade programme, so it made sense to invest a little more money in improving their thermal performance to achieve significantly higher energy savings. And, because the window refit reduced solar gain, it was possible to upgrade the cooling plant with more efficient motors and drives, rather than having to replace it, which brought additional cost savings. Across the pond in London, a refit at the National Gallery was driven as much by artistic considerations as financial ones. Shedding the right light on a priceless collection is no easy task – and one that a team led by conservation scientist Joseph Padfield of the Gallery’s Scientific Department has been working on for three years. “I’ve been testing LEDs for a number of years to see how good they have become”, says Padfield. Now, he’s convinced that the technology has advanced to a point where its application will not only save the gallery energy but actually improve the quality of light on the pictures too. “We measure the levels of light on the paintings continuously”, he explains. “If there is insufficient daylight [from skylights] then we add artificial light.” The current system uses tungsten halogen lamps, which switch on and off in response to natural light levels. But, Padfield says, these changes can be abrupt and “distracting for visitors”. The new LED system, which will replace existing lighting on all the gallery’s pictures and throughout the adjoining Sainsbury Wing, has been designed to overcome this distraction. The move is expected to cut lighting energy consumption by 85%, which will reduce carbon emissions by up to 400 tonnes a year. And so alongside slimmer bills, it means the gallery will have less to pay in carbon tax under the UK’s mandatory Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency scheme. It’s one thing to plan a retrofit around the purpose of a building today; another to plan for how it might be used in the future. Over time, houses become offices, power stations are transformed into galleries, churches become concert halls… Lifestyles also evolve, changing what we want from our homes, offices and cultural spaces. Just think how recent advances in technology have already influenced the way we communicate or go about research. Kitson extrapolates from current trends: “We anticipate that most of the IT kit on office desks
will not be needed in two years, thanks to cloud computing,” he says. “All you’ll need will be a terminal with a connection to enable it to communicate with the cloud.” These changes affect more than mere clutter, he argues. “It means that there’s no point in spending money on putting in building services to deal with the heat from electronic equipment that will, very soon, no longer be needed.” David Adams, a Director at the capital works, regeneration and support services company Willmott Dixon, agrees: “In ten years’ time, the world will look very different. You have to ask, are you procuring your buildings today thinking about the next 20 years or the last 20?” However, predicting the impact of technological developments is notoriously difficult. Hilson Moran has a research and development team whose job it is to gaze into the future, but even they “can only look forward probably five years, perhaps eight years tops”, he says. Perhaps a good plan, then, is one that builds in room for the unknown. Instead of sealing off a fixed solution, it leaves a way in for further changes in the future. It may be a hard balance to strike, but it’s an important one – like the difference between good ventilation and a draught.
A good plan builds in room for the unknown
Andy Pearson is a former editor of Building Sustainable Design magazine and Building Services Journal. He works as a freelance writer and editor. For a guide to low-carbon retrofit in non-domestic buildings, see Low Carbon Refurbishment of Buildings – A Management Guide, published by The Carbon Trust: www.carbontrust.co.uk. For domestic buildings, check out the Energy Saving Trust’s guide, Sustainable Refurbishment: www.energysavingtrust.org.uk.
Art under a new light: the National Gallery, London
Green Futures January 2012
The future of the past
Green Futures January 2012
Photo: Andy Marshall
As a self-confessed enthusiast of all things heritage, I love the stately homes, ancient churches, and many of the other beautiful historic buildings that Britain has been building for centuries. But I’m even more excited when I discover that these buildings are not what they seem: when they reveal adaptations and additions that are surprising, creative and even challenging. And this is happening more and more. Once considered static, sacred and untouchable, the rhetoric around our heritage buildings has moved towards one of managed change and conservation, rather than simple preservation. This can only be good for their long-term sustainability. Buildings – all buildings, regardless of heritage status – must adapt to survive, just as they have always done. Historic houses are often displayed and interpreted as if frozen in time – but the truth is that the buildings we see now are the products of centuries’ worth of retrofit. Take lighting. It’s progressed from candles to electricity, involving the embedding of wires and cables in precious historic fabric. Heating, meanwhile, has developed from wood and coal to oil or gas. Buildings have to adapt to survive. And with 3% of Grade I and Grade II listed buildings in England at risk, sensitive retrofitting might be their only chance to do so. The Churches Conservation Trust is doing exactly that with All Souls [pictured], a redundant Grade II-listed church in one of the poorest parts of Bolton, Lancashire, which is to be reborn as a community centre. Its pews and floor are being removed to make way for separate pods to create a ‘building within a building’. The design leaves the historic fabric untouched, while enabling huge savings by heating individual pods as needed, rather than the whole interior. Such radical transformations can be controversial, and there is a balance to be struck in maintaining what makes an historic building special and what can be done to ensure its longterm sustainability. The best starting point to reach such a decision, believes architect Simon Erridge, Director at Bennetts Associates, is to carry out a robust historical analysis of the building, and
Photo: Churches Conservation Trust
Conserving our built heritage is not about halting change, argues Fiona King. It’s about embracing it in the right way.
identify the especially significant elements. The firm led the refurbishment of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Grade II*-listed theatre building – which saw Bennetts nominated for the 2011 RIBA Stirling prize. “[We] performed major surgery inside”, Erridge explains, while retaining the original façade and foyer. “There are always opportunities to intervene [while retaining] the building’s character”, he adds. There are also opportunities for less visible retrofitting of heritage buildings that can nonetheless contribute towards their sensitive adaptation. Lafarge worked hard to create a concrete product based on locally-sourced recycled rail ballast, that would blend in aesthetically as part of Nottingham Trent University’s regeneration of some of its Grade II* listed buildings. “The key here was that the product was both local and green but also achieved the architect’s vision”, says Felicity Jelly from Lafarge A&C UK. “Hopefully legislation will push clients and contractors in the direction of developing more products like this for heritage work.” And who knows? Perhaps our contemporary additions will be the heritage of the future that our descendants fight to enhance and conserve.
Village voices Sometimes the most effective way to make a building more sustainable is not to tackle the fabric of the building itself but to engage with the people who live or work inside it. That’s exactly what the National Trust and npower have been doing in their Low Carbon Villages project. Launched three years ago, the project aimed to cut the carbon footprint (and the energy bills) of two historic National Trust villages – Wallington in Northumberland, and Coleshill in Oxfordshire. Technology and kit is important – and the project has got draught-proofing, loft insulation and energy monitors among other things in many of the homes. But it’s community engagement that the team have focused on. Because while free insulation might sound like a no-brainer, there can be many surprisingly practical barriers to take-up, such as ‘I don’t want builders coming in and making a mess of my carpets’. The project came to a close at the end of 2011, and Forum for the Future has been involved in evaluating it and providing recommendations for the future. For us, any community project is fundamentally about people – what makes them tick, encourages them to get involved, and inspires them to make a change. So, we’ve produced a report and a film to help other communities to take their village low carbon. You can find them here: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/LCV.
Fiona King is a heritage consultant at Barker Langham.
Green Futures January 2012
Lessons drawn from laundry aired in public
Green Futures January 2012
Photo: Penoyre & Prasad
the family, asking fairly searching questions about how they live, their concerns and habits, and their aspirations for a comfortable home. The architects looked for ways to achieve high energy efficiency, but also to improve the family’s experience of living in the house. “It’s no use imposing an ideal way of living”, says David Cole, a senior architect at Penoyre & Prasad. “For example, many herald tightly sealed houses and mechanical ventilation as the most effective efficiency approach, and it’s central to the German Passivhaus concept. But I’d argue it’s inappropriate in social housing. It’s hi-tech and not much good if the inhabitants smoke and open windows – as the Hillyards do.” The firm found that by far the most significant draw on electricity for this particular household was the laundry. The trusty tumble dryer made up a fifth of their bill. Add the iron and the washing machine, and simply getting the family dressed accounted for nearly half of the total electricity used. So Penoyre & Prasad found a way to combine bringing more natural light and ventilation into the house with the creation of a new space to dry clothes naturally. Where once a gloomy central staircase was overshadowed by a loft, now a ‘lightwell’ opens the landing up to the sky. The window at the top of the shaft opens easily, letting fresh air waft around the neatly hung clothes – and it can even operate automatically, to stop things getting a bit stuffy as the kids come and go. Another hit was the installation of vertical ventilation panels beside the windows [see picture], which allow air to flow through slots without the security risk of a clear opening on the ground floor. And if the house doesn’t already sound like a breeze, it now even has a roof that ‘breathes’. Insulated with natural materials such as wood fibre slab and hemp fibre quilt, it dissipates moisture and avoids condensation. Today, 61 Warwall isn’t just a show home: it’s a living piece of research. “The house is bristling with sensors,” says Cole, “which send data back to the Technology Strategy Board to evaluate which low-carbon technologies work in practice.” So far, the project has been a success: energy use is down by an estimated 69%, and carbon emissions by 79%. Tracey is delighted: “To be one of the select few to have these improvements is like winning the lottery. I feel proud to have a home in which all the members of my family can feel warm and cosy.” In 2011, the project won the ‘Best small housing project’ category at the 3R Awards – a scheme celebrating the most innovative and effective retrofits launched by The Architects’ Journal, Construction News and New Civil Engineer. – Charlotte Sankey
Photo: Penoyre & Prasad
It’s not just a showhome: it’s a living piece of research
Having her washing on show in Green Futures may not have been quite what Tracey Hillyard envisaged when she agreed to be a guinea pig in a low-carbon technology pilot. But the family’s laundry proved a key player in the story of single mother Tracey, her three teenagers, and their threebed East London home: 61 Warwall. This terraced house was one of three selected by social landlord East Thames Group for a £150,000 makeover, under the Technology Strategy Board’s Retrofit for the Future programme. Out of this budget, £72,500 was spent on construction, and the remainder went on design fees, VAT and nearly £10,000 worth of energy monitoring equipment. It may seem a high price to retrofit a modern terraced house. For not very much more, you could buy a similar sized property, with its own damp patches and draughts. But the value of the project was to try out and test innovations which can turn problematic homes into ultra-efficient ones, developing prototypes upon which future retrofits can draw. It’s important research: social housing makes up a quarter of the UK’s housing stock, which in total accounts for 26% of the country’s carbon emissions. So retrofitting this stock could make quite a cut in the UK’s carbon footprint. Moreover, it may well prove easier to persuade social landlords to retrofit their stock (taking some weight off the bills for tenants, and so helping them to pay their rent) than to persuade private homeowners to go through the rigmarole alone. Targets for the projects were therefore set high. Penoyre & Prasad, the London architects chosen to work on 61 Warwall, were asked to reduce the house’s carbon emissions by 80%. So, how did they do it? Back to Tracey and her laundry. Many an architect pays lip service to the fact that any technology or design is in a constant dance with the human beings who use it. But Penoyre & Prasad took this to heart, spending time tuning into
Planning a healthy future for the world’s tallest hospital
The Shard may be attracting admiring glances from far-flung corners of London, but another tower in its shadow has a more interesting story to tell. At 143 metres, Guy’s Tower is the tallest hospital building in the world, and a notable feature of the Thames skyline since the 1970s. It gives the hospital a sixth of its floor space, and offers charity abseilers a good bit of wall to jump down. But in recent years, it’s been falling apart: small pieces of concrete have, rather alarmingly, started to fall off the of the towers. At a cost of tens of thousands of pounds a year, the Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust has been sending professional abseilers up the tower “to hack off loose bits to save anyone below being hit” – as Alastair Gourlay, the man in charge of developing the Trust’s estate, puts it. It’s high time for some TLC on the building’s façade. The trigger point may be public safety, but it’s an opportunity to change much more about the building and how it functions as a hospital. “Good retrofit is all about being able to understand the way a building currently works”, says Neil Allfrey of architects Penoyre & Prasad, who, with Arup, were selected to design and implement the makeover. “I wouldn’t say Guy’s Tower is particularly attractive but you work with what’s there”, he adds. “Knocking it down was considered, but rejected [as financially unviable].” So let’s take a closer look at the problems the team faced. Guy’s isn’t actually one tower, but two, joined by a bridge at each floor. The larger User Tower houses all sorts of specialist departments, from the King’s College London Dental Institute, to assisted conception, to chemotherapy. The taller Communications Tower is
taken up by lifts, stairs and shafts. Working with the NHS Trust, Penoyre & Prasad and Arup analysed the use of the building, its thermal habits and its performance in great detail. Replacing the services was not currently an option but the old façade designed in an era free of energy and climate worries was causing significant heat loss; and that had to be the first target. The team put forward a number of options covering issues such as how much of the façade to reclad, how to deal with cold bridging [where the insulation layer is penetrated by bits of structure], and how to work around the occupiers in-situ. Each option was thermally modelled and plotted on a graph of cost versus energy efficiency gain. Laid out in this way, it was easy to see where the greatest green gain could be achieved while keeping costs reasonable. “There’s a point on the curve when you can spend a lot more, yet gain very little energy efficiency”, said Allfrey. In the end, the team decided that the most cost-effective solution was to fit a new façade in front of the existing columns of the User Tower, and to fully clad the Communications Tower with an aluminium ‘rainscreen’. Glazing was selected to minimise heat loss and reduce solar gain. The project, which begins in early 2012, is seen as a first step to a low-carbon Guy’s Tower, and should cut annual carbon emissions by 15-20%. “It’s not a massive saving,” admits the Trust’s Alastair Gourlay, “but it will avoid 8,000 tonnes of CO2 being pumped into the atmosphere over 30 years. And the result will be a much better reflection of the high quality of our medical care. We want to be working in an environment that reflects the excellence of our clinical standards, and costs less to run. I feel very excited about it.” – Charlotte Sankey
The result will be a much better reflection of the high quality of our medical care
Green Futures January 2012
Extensia: a concrete that stays strong under stress
New ‘intelligent’ membranes adapt to the seasons
So we want to bring our old, energy-guzzling buildings into the eco-conscious 21st century? Simple! We’ll just stuff several feet of insulation into our walls and lofts, replace antique appliances with A-rated equivalents, fit the windows with triple glazing, and top it off with the latest monitoring mod cons. That’ll do the trick! Or will it…? “Imagine your tiny box room”, says Andrew Mellor of PRP Architects. “You want to fit some wall insulation, but you don’t want [that already small space] to become a cot. Even insulation on just one wall could take precious inches away.” The trick of successful retrofitting is to make the property more efficient, without losing the things that make it work for the occupier: its space and storage, accessibility and aesthetics. The process is important too. If the work can’t be carried out with minimal disruption, it may not go ahead at all. So which creative solutions will help us strike the right balance? Take insulation for a start. Thanks to a NASA spin-off we have aerogel, originally developed to keep astronauts warm in space, and now the most insulating material around. As the name hints, it’s mostly air – as much as 99.8% – trapped in a loose silicon-based structure. The original material is too fragile for most uses, but commercial developers Aspen Aerogels and Thermablok have found ways to integrate a strengthening fibre. The result is a strip just 9.5mm thick that can improve the insulation of a wall by up to 42%, according to research by the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and JM Laboratory. Moreover, Thermablok claims, it won’t
Green Futures January 2012
age or suffer from mould or mildew, and it can be recycled. Aerogel insulation is still more expensive than traditional thermal laminate board, but demand has brought it down from twice the price a couple of years ago to a 20% premium. Another promising area of research is set on sealing up leaky roofs, and protecting them against the elements. A study by the Fraunhofer Institute for Construction Physics in Stuttgart, Germany, suggests that it takes the same amount of energy to heat a house with 80m2 of floor space with gaps in its insulation, as it does to heat an airtight house five times the size. Airtight membranes and sealing tapes are common enough, but when you retrofit older properties you have to be careful about moisture, particularly if damp has already penetrated deep into the structure. New ‘intelligent’ membranes offer moisture control along with protection from wind and rain. German company pro clima [sic] has developed a vapourpermeable membrane, which is both air- and watertight, but also responds to humidity. In cold, wintry weather it is almost entirely impermeable, but in warm weather it allows moisture to escape. Of course, even airtight buildings need some ventilation, and engineers are developing clever ways to ensure that fresh air coming into heated buildings is as warm as possible. A new dynamic insulation system, developed by Energyflo, is currently being tested in the UK. It works like this: insulation panels are fitted to the external wall. These contain a cavity where air is effectively pre-heated both by the sun and by any warmth escaping through the walls. The warm air then rises up the
Which top technologies could give old buildings a new lease of life? Edwin Colyer finds out.
cavity and is channelled into the building through ventilation systems. It would be a shame were heat then to seep out again through the windows... “You get such a serious energy loss out of glazing”, says Eric Bloom of clean technology market analysts Pike Research. “You can insulate a wall, but if the glazing does not perform well, then what is the point?” These days, double glazing isn’t enough to meet high energy efficiency standards. While triple glazing has great thermal performance, its width means that it’s simply not an option for the slighter fittings of older properties, such as those with wooden sash windows. Vacuum glazing, which has only been on the market for a few years, is proving an excellent alternative. Instead of adding extra layers, it prevents the thermal conduction caused by the gas in the cavity between the panes. The units are extremely thin – so much so that from a distance they might be mistaken for single glazing – making them a perfect solution for listed buildings and conservation projects, as well as residential dwellings. Moreover, they are barely more expensive than standard double glazing panels. Bloom is excited by the advent of electrochromic glass, which could be suitable for large-scale corporate retrofit projects. It works a bit like Reactolite sunglasses, and can be darkened either automatically or manually by people within the building. This kind of system helps to prevent the buildings overheating in strong sunlight, but can let more rays in during winter to make the most of the natural light and heat. But you don’t need fancy electronics to make a difference. Even concrete is getting clever. Eco-builders tend to shun concrete, despite its impressive versatility. “On the face of it, concrete has always appeared to present a compromise to architects and engineers”, admits Jeremy Greenwood, Managing Director –Concrete at Lafarge A&C UK. “On the one hand it is the most versatile, durable and costeffective of all construction materials. Yet it is also one of the most maligned, both for its grey ugliness (a 40-year hangover from the 1960s) and for its sizeable carbon footprint, resulting [mostly] from the cement used to make it.” Recognising this, Lafarge decided to rewrite the rule book on what concrete can do. It has developed a range of sustainable concrete and screed (top layer) mixes for commercial retrofit projects, with the aim of using fewer raw materials to achieve the same overall performance. Extensia, for example, is an alternative to floors containing steel mesh and fibre reinforcement. The design removes the need to use steel, but retains an excellent load-carrying capacity. It overcomes the problem of steel fibres becoming exposed under ongoing stress, and is extremely durable, cutting maintenance costs in the long term. Its compressive and flexural strength also means thinner floors can be considered, contributing to a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions. In the future, concrete may last for ever, thanks to new research into self-healing properties [see ‘Material world’, GF82, p16]. Carolyn Dry, Emeritus Professor of Architecture at the University of Illinois, has developed an adhesive repair material which can be embedded in hollow fibres in the concrete. These crack when under strain, releasing the adhesive which penetrates the fissures and sets to form a new
bond. It’s an automatic infusion of structural integrity, cutting repair costs and increasing safety. Given the urgency of the retrofit challenge, it may not make sense to wait for a new generation of products to hit the mainstream. Fortunately, there are plenty of materials available today that can bring old properties up to spec. “If you are going to replace your windows or repaint or render a wall, then why not look for a product with thermal qualities?” Mellor asks. “The extra costs may be marginal, but it could really make a difference to a building’s performance.” Edwin Colyer is a science and technology writer and founder of the copywriting and editing agency Scientia Scripta.
Test tube terrace In Manchester, architects have built a house in a lab to give researchers a unique testing centre for energy-saving technologies. The replica of a traditional two-up, twodown pre-1920s terrace, dubbed the Energy House, has been constructed in a three-storey sealed testing chamber at Salford University. It was completed earlier this year, as part of the University’s Energy Hub research centre. It features original brickwork and tiles, and is fully furnished and functioning, with water, gas and electricity supplies. Moreover, the testing chamber reproduces weather conditions, such as rain, wind and sunshine. It gives researchers a unique way to assess out how energy consumption varies depending on a wide range of conditions. The Energy House, which cost £1 million to implement (of which £100,000 was in construction costs), has already attracted more than £3.5 million in sponsorship, and was named the top research and development initiative at the 2011 Green Gown Awards for environmental activity in UK universities. The UK has more than two million terraced homes in the style of this replica. Oliver Novakovic, Director of BRE Housing Futures, hopes that the project will generate “hard data to help deliver the step change needed if the UK is to achieve its carbon emission reduction targets”. The India Green Building Council is also sending a delegation to study the site.
Green Futures January 2012
Green Futures January 2012
newly sealed loft to any bats hanging out in the ’hood. It’s a missed opportunity. When we do look at the big picture, we realise that many measures make sense for both the built environment and its natural surroundings. Take green roofs, for example. Not only do they insulate a building like a duvet but they control storm water runoff, help keep built-up urban areas cool, and support precious pollinators and other wildlife. Vegetation can also prolong the service life of a roof, by reducing strain on the materials typically caused by erosion and weathering. The downside is that green roofs are expensive to install, in some cases twice as much as a conventional roof. But the upfront cost can be paid back through energy savings. Some projects in the US have reduced air-conditioning costs by as much as one-third, according to Paul Mankiewicz, Executive Director of the Gaia Institute, a New Yorkbased environmental institution. Similarly, 6,000m2 of greenery installed in Canary Wharf, London, has resulted in massive savings on heating bills. According to the building manager of 10 South Colonnade, home to Barclays Capital, the new roof cut the need to heat or cool the top floor of the building completely, “saving us £4,000 to £5,000 a year”. And in Singapore, the Changi General Hospital has found that hydroponically grown vegetables on
Dragonflies flit over perennials, sprouting on a former desert of black tar
We all love a room with a view, but when it comes to planning for the future of a building we tend to forget about the world beyond its walls. We home in on the structure itself – its foundations and floors, cavities and cracks – isolating it from its natural surroundings. But the performance of a building depends very much on conditions outside. The smartest designs are an active part of local ecosystems: they harness heat from the sun, facilitate the flow of fresh air, or take advantage of trees and hillsides for shelter. And they give back, too: habitats for wildlife, drainage for stormwater, greenery to keep a dense city block cool. The value that local ecosystems offer urban areas is just beginning to be recognised. A recent study in New York City found its trees to be worth $122 million thanks to their part in reducing pollution, improving aesthetics, and keeping inner city temperatures comfortable [see ‘Putting money on trees’, GF80, p11]. But these ‘services’ are rarely factored in when planning teams get to grips with a retrofit project. Their rigorous assessments may cover a whole range of technologies, assessing their potential energy savings, costs and returns, but they may not take into account the benefits a green roof could offer. They try to minimise the cost to the planet through carbon emissions, but may not account for the cost of a
Photo: Cook & Fox
Buildings have an important role to play in urban ecosystems – and can profit from them, too – says Charlotte Sankey.
the rooftops not only provide food for patients but absorb heat from the roof and cool the wards facing it. Savings on utility bills are channelled towards patient care. Energy savings aren’t the only economic benefit of green roofs. They have also been linked to heightened productivity and reduced turnover among people working in urban offices – a phenomenon known as ‘biophilia’. Eight storeys above the din of New York’s Avenue of the Americas, a small wilderness of clover, grasses and flowers shows the passage of the seasons. This roof terrace is the home and handy work of architects Cook + Fox. Through its windows, employees watch dragonflies and monarch butterflies flit over pink and yellow perennials, sprouting on what was formerly a desert of black tar. This new carpet of colour grows out of black nylon bags called Green Paks. Filled with a mixture of rock and compost, these offer a lighter infrastructure than some green roofs, whose compost and filtration layers require structural reinforcement. Moreover, they come at half the cost: $10 per square foot, instead of $18-$20. The firm’s partners maintain that the installation, completed in 2006, is one of the best decisions they ever made. It may be that the tenants on the seventh floor get the most benefit from the roof’s cooling qualities, but Rick Cook claims his firm’s profits are fatter thanks to the view. The potential of a biodiverse built environment to boost profits has been spotted by others, too. British Land, the UK’s largest developer, has planned a “green necklace” around a shopping centre in Teeside – all part of its £26,000 refurbishment – to include an otter holt, ponds, hedges and bird boxes. “It’s about people feeling more connected to nature and enjoying the places they work in”, says Sarah Cary of British Land. But she admits that it’s difficult to factor this investment into the accounts. “Sadly, the [perceived] value is more social”, she says. Rafael Marks of architects Penoyre & Prasad agrees: “The way the commissioning and tendering process works means biodiversity is mostly a poor cousin. It all depends on the desires of the client.” Currently, Marks is working on the refurbishment of a dilapidated youth centre, housed in an old electrical substation in a north London park. Its new function will be a state-of-the-art educational ecology centre, so it’s a great opportunity to make the building a better fit for its surroundings. One solution is external lighting with a hooded ‘eyelid’ design, limiting light pollution which plays havoc with local bats. Bats come out to feed when the sun goes down, but increased levels of artificial light in urban areas mean they simply cannot judge when dusk has come. “The lights will be as low as possible without making it unsafe to walk in the park”, says Marks. The site will also feature green roofs, greywater recycling, and maximum use of daylight within the buildings. But back to those bats. Numbers have been badly hit as we convert our lofts and seal up our houses. The Bat Conservation Trust recommends leaving a 10cm gap at the edge of a loft: just enough to allow an entrance for bats, and an important means of ventilation. You can also avoid entombing bats in cavity walls by insulating from the bottom up, giving them a chance to rouse themselves and make an exit.
Another retrofit project had to plan around a parliament of owls living in an 18th century barn. “When we planned the conversion of a barn near Cambridge we built an owl house at each gable end of the roof”, says Katie Thornburrow of Granta Architects who specialise in sustainable design. Her client, Chris Bristow, feels “honoured [that] these beautiful creatures live in our house. The cost [of the owl house] was in the hundreds of pounds.” It sounds cheap enough, but such efforts could well remain a niche concern, without any financial incentives to prompt planners. “Let’s be honest”, prompts Stuart Wykes, Managing Director – Aggregates at Lafarge A&C UK. “Quarrying and construction activities are, by their very nature, intrusive in the landscape. But they also give an opportunity to create a landscape and habitat: to improve on what you started with. The way we see it, the day that you start stripping the material off is the day that you start your restoration scheme.” Who wouldn’t agree? The question is, will conservationists and natural capitalists spot the opportunity retrofits present to bring our built environment into harmony with valuable ecosystems? Or will our efforts to cut carbon be at the cost of local life?
The firm’s profits are fatter, thanks to the view
Charlotte Sankey runs Creative Warehouse, a media and publishing agency specialising in environmental issues. Additional material by John Eischeid and Anna Simpson.
Wealth creation Wildfowl and birds have a new haven on the site of a former sand and gravel quarry in North Yorkshire, thanks to a wetland restoration project by Lafarge. The wealth of biodiversity at Marfield Wetlands was commended in the inaugural Natural England Biodiversity Awards, part of the 2011 Mineral Product Association’s restoration and biodiversity event. The Marfield area has a long history of mineral extraction, dating back to the 16th century, according to parish records. The site was initially quarried on an ad hoc basis by the Swinton Estate, before it was sold in the 1950s. Extraction stopped in 1989, before Lafarge acquired the land in the late ’90s. The concrete and aggregates group recognised the potential for biodiversity, and revised the original restoration plans. “It boasts a diverse range of habitat including lakes, lowland fen and lowland mixed deciduous woodland”, says David Park, regional restoration manager for Lafarge Aggregates & Concrete UK. “But most importantly, it features wetland which was once very common in North Yorkshire, and has now declined by a staggering 80%.” Better news yet is that Marfield is not a one-off. Lafarge is planning the restoration of the remainder of its sand and gravel extraction sites. The RSPB estimates that the mineral products industry alone could deliver biodiversity targets for nine out of 11 priority habitats in the UK. More flora at Marfield
Green Futures January 2012
Retro and Fit is a Green Futures Special Edition, produced in association with Lafarge, Carillion, Willmott Dixon and Penoyre & Prasad.
Printed by Pureprint, using their environmental technology and vegetable-based inks, on 100% recycled and FSC certified Cocoon Silk paper, supplied by Arjowiggins Graphic. Published January 2012. © Green Futures Reg. charity no. 1040519 Company no. 2959712 VAT reg. no. 677 7475 70 Lafarge is one of the UK’s leading producers of construction materials, with over 200 sites across the country. Part of the Lafarge Group, a world leader in each of its divisions (aggregates & concrete, cement, and gypsum), the company benefits from a wealth of worldwide knowledge and expertise in product innovation and sustainability. www.lafarge.co.uk Carillion is a leading support services company with a substantial portfolio of Public Private Partnership projects and extensive construction capabilities. The group had an annual revenue in 2010 of £5.1 billion, employs around 50,000 people and operates across the UK, in the Middle East and Canada. www.carillionplc.com
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Green Futures January 2012
Willmott Dixon is the UK’s second largest privately-owned capital works, regeneration and support services company. Its Capital Works division is responsible for building some of the nation’s best buildings, retrofit and fitout projects. The Regeneration company develops complex mixed-tenure projects often in joint ventures. Support Services cares for and maintains many properties, including 150,000 British homes. www.willmottdixon.co.uk Penoyre & Prasad is one of the UK’s leading architectural practices, with over 20 years’ experience across many sectors. The partnership has developed a distinctive, consultative design approach that results in functional, sustainable and award-winning buildings. Their designs also act as a catalyst for change, helping clients achieve their organisational goals and adding significant value to their operations. www.penoyreprasad.com Green Futures is the leading international magazine on environmental solutions and sustainable futures. Founded by Jonathon Porritt, it is published by Forum for the Future, a non-profit organisation working globally with business and government to create a sustainable future. www.greenfutures.org.uk www.forumforthefuture.org
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