The "Control of nature" is a phrase conceived in arrogance, born of the Neanderthal age of biology and philosophy, when it was supposed
that nature exists for the
convenience of man.
Rachel Carson - Silent Spring
Buildings account for nearly half of Britain's energy use. Thus improvements in this sector can have a large impact on overall energy consumption.
There are approximately 25 million dwellings in Britain. Their condition varies, but most existing buildings were constructed with little regard for energy conservation. At present, approximately 20,000 dwellings are demolished and replaced per annum, with a further 180,000 being built (2007 figure).
The continuing property slump and impact of the credit crash means that the likelihood of a major new build programme is extremely remote. Central governments projection of new build targets will be abandoned.
Whilst this is good for the environment, the need for affordable homes and homes that offer high levels of energy efficiency and quality of life means that we need to think about our existing housing stock in imaginative ways. How we maintain, develop and inhabit the existing housing stock is crucial to combating climate change.
"What is a city, but the people?"
Shakespeare - Corialanus
1. Get involved with your community and demand an end to fuel-poverty. Take care of the elderly and people on low incomes
5.1 million pensioners have incomes, which put them in the lowest 40% income bracket. Age Concern estimates that, because of the prevalence of low incomes, 22% of those over seventy suffer from fuel poverty (where more than 10% of people's income is spent on fuel before housing costs), compared with an average of just over 6% among the population as a whole. These figures are escalating as fuel prices continue to rise faster than pensions.
Help the Aged say that 20,000 elderly people die each winter from cold, damp and poor housing. This is the highest rate of winter deaths in Europe. Conversely, rising summer temperatures threaten those who have respiratory problems and cannot keep cool.
Many older people live in large family houses, (often poorly insulated Victorian properties). Government and local support is needed to help move the elderly to more energy efficient properties, and fund new strategies for increasing the number of people living independent lives within communal properties.
2. Rent out rooms and help tackle fuel poverty
Renting out an empty room can earn you income, and with the right person, you can find a friend and help make the house more secure and alive. Your local authority-housing department can advise on how to arrange the letting of a room.
Fuel poverty, which is very strongly associated with low incomes and limited resources, has been rising across most types of household. A recent research report, commissioned by the Energy Efficiency Partnership for Homes, found that the number of households facing fuel poverty increased from 2.3 million to nearly 4 million over the past two years, and rising fuel costs could easily double this figure.
3. Campaign against second homes and tax relief on these properties
What greater source of injustice could there be, that whilst some people have no home, others have two or more? In England and Wales there are 250,000-second homes. In England there are 221,000 people classed as single homeless or living in hostels and temporary accommodation (about 24% of these are in need of social housing).
The environmental impact of holiday homes, when the pressure on UK land to meet our housing need is severe. Second homes abroad cause even more damage. The Campaign for better transport suggests that on average six return flights a year are part of the environmental cost of these homes. Yet, the majority of second homes 155,000 of the 250,000 are in towns and cities that don't need to involve air travel.
The government has reduced the rebate on council tax for second homes (referred to by some as ghost homes) from 50% to 10%. Whether you are a first time buyer unable to buy locally, or simply opposed to the poor being denied shelter. Campaign for full (or increased rates) on second homes, and for the income to be used on new social housing.
If you are one of these second homeowners, think about renting the space, or find a local person who can make use of the garden for growing food. Endeavour to improve the lives of others, it will enrich your life.
As an alternative, why not join a home exchange scheme whereby you swap homes with a family in another place so that you both get a holiday, or buy a share in a co-operatively owned canal boat?
4. Oppose housing development plans on Green field sites and call for inner city green space and housing improvements.
The government's proposal to build three million new homes by 2020 is not based on a realistic assessment of the resources, energy and land needed for such destructive growth.
Little attention has been paid to the 700 000 empty homes in the UK. We urgently need to upgrade and make better use of existing housing stock and develop green spaces for food production and to improve the quality of life in our cities.
- Age Concern - Astral House, 1268 London Road, London, SW16 4ER
Free Helpline Tel: 0800 00 99 66 www.ageconcern.org.uk
- Help the Aged - 207-221 Pentonville Road, London, N1 9UZ
Tel: 020 72781114 - www.helptheaged.org.uk
- Energy Efficiency Partnership for Homes - C/o Energy Savings Trust, 21 Dartmouth Street, London, SW1H 9BP. Tel: 020 7222 01 01 www.eeph.org.uk
5. Find out about renewable energy technology sources and switch to ‘green' electricity
In 2001 Klaus Toepfer, Director United Nations Environment Programme, said, "The potential for rapid technological innovation leading to clean energy is clearly extraordinary. Governments need to unleash this potential". He is right, but the UK government is not committed to a decentralised energy system provided by renewable technology.
Currently a shocking 60% of the power generated from large power stations (supplying the national grid) is lost in the heat from cooling towers and in transmission over long distance cables.
There are suppliers of 'green' electricity. By buying your power from these firms you will be actively encouraging the development of sustainable energy supplies.
- Good Energy - Monkton Reach, Monkton Hill, Chippenham, Wiltshire SN15 1EE. Tel: 01249 766090. www.good-energy.co.uk
Ecotricity - www.ecotricity.co.uk
6. Invest in the development of renewable generating capacity
Following in the footsteps of the successful Baywind Energy Co-operative in Cumbria, a network of community owned co-operatives are being set up to develop wind farms across Britain through an initiative called Energy 4 All, Similar developments of small scale Hydro-electric schemes are also now being promoted by H2OPE. Think about becoming a member and investing in one of these projects, or in one of the accounts that Triodos Bank offer to support new renewables developments. Renewable technologies add a premium to the property value.
- Friends of the Earth - 26 -28 Underwood Street, London, N1 7JQ.
Tel: 020 7490 15555 www.foe.co.uk
- Campaign Against Arms Trade - 11 Goodwin Street, Finsbury Park, London, N4 3HO. Tel: 020 72810297. www.caat.org.uk
- Amnesty International UK - 17-25 New Inn Yard, London, EC2A 3EA. Tel: 020 7033 1500. www.amnesty.org.uk
- Renewable Energy Association - 17 Waterloo Place, London, SW1Y 4AR. www.r-e-a.net
- Energy Savings Trust - Application Helpline - Tel: 0800 2983978
- Solar Century - 91-94 Lower Marsh, Waterloo, London, SE1 7AB.
Tel: 020 7803 0100. www.solarcentury.co.uk
- Solar Aid - Bunhill Fields Meeting House, Quaker Court, Banner Street, London EC1Y 8QQ. Tel: 0845 094 3728. www.solar-aid.org
- Wind and Sun Ltd. - Humber Marsh, Stoke Prior, Leominster,
Herefordshire, HR6 0NE. Tel: 01568 760671. www.windandsun.co.uk
- Solar Twin Ltd. - Freepost, NWW7 888A, Chester, CH1 2ZU.
Tel: 0845 1300 137. www.solartwin.com
- British Wind Energy Association - 1 Aztec Row, Berners Road, London, N1 OPW. Tel: 0207 6891960 www.bwea.com
- National Energy Foundation - Renewables - Davy Avenue, Knowlhill,
Milton Keynes, MK5 8NG. Tel: 01908 665555. www.greenenergy.org.uk
- Centre for Alternative Technology - Machnynlleth, Powys, SY20 9AZ. Tel: 01654 702339. www.cat.org.uk
- Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs - Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London, SW1P 3TR. Tel: 020 7238 6609. www.defra.gov.uk
- Energy 21, www.energy21.org.uk
- Sustainable Energy News, INFORSE-Europe, Gl. Kirkevej 82, DK-8530, Hjortshoj, Denmark. www.inforse.org
- Triodos Bank - Brunel House, 11 The Promenade, Bristol, BS8 3NN
Tel: 0117 973 9339 - www.triodos.co.uk
- Energy 4 All/Baywind Energy - Unit 33, Trinity Enterprise Centre,
Furness Business Park, Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, LA14 2PN
Tel: 01229 821028 - www.energy4all.co.uk
- H2OPE -Lower Mount Farm, Grassington, Todmordon, West Yorkshire, OL14 8SD Tel: 07964 106037 - www.h2ope.org.uk
7. Support more sustainable forms of property ownership
One of the reasons that the environmental performance of housing has tended to be poor in Britain is the way we manage the ownership of property. Builders are incent-ivised to keep construction costs to a minimum, and home-owners are reluctant to carry out environmental improvements that have a pay-back time of more than the five years before they move again.
One solution to this problem is a new model of ‘Mutual Home Ownership' being piloted by CDS Co-operatives in Stroud. In this scheme, the land the houses stand on is owned, in perpetuity, by a Community Land Trust.
Residents then own an equity share in a society, which owns all these houses, including the one they live in. While they are resident they are in effect property owners. When they leave, their share of the development is sold at the current market price. However, because the society will own the properties collectively throughout their life, it can borrow enough money to fund higher levels of insulation, renewable energy hardware and other improvements which will pay for themselves over the whole life of the houses.
- Land for People - 31 High Street, Welshpool, Powys SY21 7YD
Tel: 01938 556819 - www.landforpeople.co.uk
- Community Land Trusts - Community Financ Solutions, Room 214, Crescent House, Univeristy of Salford, M5 4WT. Tel: 0161 295 4454 - www.communitylandtrust.org.uk
- CDS Co-operatives (Mutual Home Ownership) - 3 Marshalsea Road,
London SE1 1EP Tel: 020 7397 5700 - www.cds.coop
- Communal living in Britain - Diggers & Dreamers, c/o Edge of Time, BCM, London, VC1N 3XX. www.diggersanddreamers.org.uk
- Hockerton Housing Project - The Watershed, Gables Dance,
Hockerton, Southwell, Notts, NG24 0QU. Tel: 01636 816902. www.hockerton.demon.co.uk
- The Sustainable Urban Neighbourhood Initiative - 10 Little Lever Street,
Manchester, M1 1HR. Tel: 0161 200 5500. www.urbed.coop
- Low Impact Living Initiative - Redfield Community, Winslow, Bucks, MK18 3LZ.
Tel: 01296 714184. www.lowimpact.org
8. Insulate windows, doors, floors and the attic and think about extra glazing
Draughts through windows and doors can account for as much as 15% of the total heat loss in an average home. Fill the gaps between floorboards on the ground floor and draught proof the access to the attic. The heat loss through one door is currently estimated to cost in the region of £30-40 per year in increased fuel bills.
Single-glazed windows alone are respon-sible for up to a quarter of the heat lost from buildings. Double-glazing can halve this loss and double-glazing with low-emissivity glass can halve it again! There are other benefits, too - double-glazing reduces both condensation and external noise.
Another option is to put double-glazing behind or in front of any existing single-glazed unit to further increase the level of insulation. But remember to avoid uPVC frames, and make sure that you still have good ventilation. (The manufacture and disposal of uPVC has very negative impacts on the environment, and, when in situ, in the case of a fire, will give off deadly smoke if it burns.
If extra glazing isn't possible, you could install shutters or other insulated screens that save energy, add security and improve the design, appearance and value of your home.
9. Keeping heating to a minimum
Thermostats can be fitted to each radiator. These allow you to control the heating carefully and to turn off radiators in rooms that aren't in use. Check all your thermostats for maximum sensitivity, and replace them if necessary. You can also fit a thermostat to your hot water cylinder. Keep it at 120oF or 50oC maximum. Make sure that all hot water pipe work is insulated. Most DIY stores sell rolls of reflective insulation for taping behind radiators to reflect away heat from outside walls. Radiators on internal walls are fine as they are.
10. If you have central heating, use a time switch, reduce lighting and switch off what you're not using.
A lot of energy can be saved by making sure heating is off when the house is empty. If you work away from home, make sure that your heating comes on only in the mornings and the evenings. Remember, too, that your heating system will work best when regularly serviced.
Turn off lights when you are not using a room. Replace every incandescent or halogen lamp with a low energy or LED lamp. Just think, if everyone replaced one lamp with a low-energy equivalent we would save the equivalent energy production of one UK power station.
The Energy Savings Trust observes that appliances left on standby contributed to 50 million tonnes of unnecessary CO2. Putting an average £200 a year on energy bills. It makes both economic and environmental sense to make sure appliances such as computers and televisions are not left on, or on stand-by.
Energy Savings Trust - England Office, 21 Dartmouth Street, London, SW1H 9BP. Tel: 0845 727 7200. www.est.org.uk
"This city is what it is because our citizens are what they are."
Briefing funded by the Norfolk Independent Waste Trust and Cobb Charity
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