Green Shorts

This article first appeared in Broad Sheep magazine, April 2014 edition

This news roundup was going to appear under the title Flash Briefs, but it sounded a bit flash, and pretty brief … so I toned it down to something green and short and consequently, here are the Green Shorts:

Land for People, Knucklas Castle.

Standing close to the border between England and Wales, with wonderful views in every direction, Knucklas Castle is a hill of much atmosphere and many legends. In 2009, after years of private ownership, the castle mound and surrounding land was bought by founder members of the Knucklas Castle Community Land Project. Since then, it has been opened up to the public, with an orchard and gardens on the lower slopes, a sculpture trail and a woodland walk to the site of the old castle and hill fort above. You can purchase shares to support this project and thus become a king or queen of the castle.

Passivhaus at Kingstone. The greenest energy is the energy you don’t use.

Early this year a housing initiative that I have been involved in called Home Presteigne invited the architect, Jonathan Hines to visit and talk about a new Passivhaus development that has been approved in Herefordshire.

The proposed site will be less densely packed with houses than usual, with less emphasis on car parking. That means there will be more green space, including space to grow food, thus complementing the existing rural community.  A key benefit of Passivhaus is the energy efficiency, with expected savings of 80% on heating bills, and this is down to u value standards, air tightness, elimination of thermal bridging and orientation of all houses within 15 degrees of south, to make the most of solar gain.

Community engagement has helped to shape the project, resulting in features such as a cycle path link, winding lanes, retained native hedgerows and car free space for children to play. The houses are designed simply for contemporary living, with good daylight, quality of construction and emphasis on comfort of living, including a ventilation system that keeps in 90% of heat whilst maintaining a high standard of fresh air circulation.

You may think these houses sound very expensive to build and therefore to buy or rent, but actually the whole idea is based on simple quality, using super-insulated panels that are locally made from local materials and no “bling.”  In this way it is possible to build fairly inexpensive homes that will, of course, be exceedingly cheap and also green to live in.

At a global level the Chief Executive at APPLE, Tim Cook, recently told climate sceptics amongst Apple share holders, who questioned the company’s environmental efforts, that Apple’s burgeoning green policy made full economic sense. He added: “We do a lot of things for reasons besides profit motive. We want to leave the world better than we found it.”  Cook finished by saying that if anyone disagreed with that approach, they should “get out of the stock”.

The economic angle is interesting when you consider that Insurance payouts relating to the recent floods here in the UK are expected to reach £1.1bn, according to new figures from the Association of British Insurers (ABI).  The cost of these latest flood-related claims has already hit £446m.

Richard Branson of Virgin has also weighed in on the subject of climate change, saying he “wholeheartedly” agreed with Tim Cook at Apple, and he’s actually doing some great carbon neutral stuff on his islands in the Caribbean and just as importantly speaking up about it.

I wrote a while back about Pelamis wave power and can now update this story because recently Pelamis have been awarded a £1.4m project from The Energy Technologies Institute to fund development work and to enhance the cost-effectiveness of wave energy converter arrays in UK waters. The funding will support the first phase of work this year ahead of a larger demonstration programme if the results prove encouraging.

Written by Rachel Francis


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