The Zero Carbon Harrogate column with Peter Allen
I never cease to be amazed when I am reminded that, on average, we spend 90% of our lives in one building or another. That means that I spend less than two hours a day in the open air.
What am I doing for 22 hours? Well, sleeping, washing, cleaning, cooking, working, studying, visiting and being entertained. Soon adds up doesn’t it.
As we spend so much time indoors our buildings across the Harrogate District need to be healthy places to be in, being warm and having energy on tap at the flick of a switch.
But of the nation’s energy production, half is used in buildings and that half is responsible for 17% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. That is an enormous carbon footprint that somehow needs reducing. So what do we need to do?
Sadly, we have moved backwards in new build standards in recent years by dropping the Code for Sustainable Homes.
While we are witnessing a revolution in the design of cars to reduce emissions, we continue to make a century long investment in new homes that have relatively low insulation standards and continue to be expensive to heat.
It is possible to design buildings with much better insulation, capturing natural heat and light, with alternatives to gas fired heating, and focusing on renewable energy sources. The Citu development in the Climate Innovation District in Leeds is doing just that.
“Passivhaus” standards would give 10 times more energy efficiency than current building standards and provide up to 80% savings on the cost of energy for heating.
Why not build zero carbon new homes, offices, factories and community buildings now rather than leaving owners to struggle with expensive retrofitting in the future?
But what about those older buildings across the District where huge energy wastage occurs. The simple, cheap and tried and tested aids that are still required in many buildings are loft insulation, draught excluders and pipe and boiler lagging. More expensive but affordable are double glazing and insulated doors.
But the biggest problem to tackle is the insulation of solid walls in our stone built Yorkshire Victorian and Edwardian homes.
Hands up, this is not cheap, but the energy and carbon savings could be enormous and much fuel poverty and associated health problems could be considerably reduced. It’s a big problem to resolve as there are thousands of such houses in Ripon, Harrogate, Knaresborough and in villages in the district.
The solution needs kick starting and that should come from Government resolve, with funding for a training program to provide the skills.
Business will need to gear up to the task ahead and prepare for a huge work programme with considerable local job opportunities. Success in this would be a win-win for health, business, occupier cost saving and carbon reduction.
We all need to be better informed about how to get the best out of our homes and how we can make changes that cut our energy waste. The Energy Saving Trust provides excellent advice for homeowners.
We would ask readers to look at how you might help reduce energy usage in your building and bring this problem to the attention of colleagues, friends and neighbours. Remember, every little helps!
Zero Carbon Harrogate are seeking to encourage, advice, inform and facilitate change across the District, do join us.