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EDITOR’S ARTICLE: 2023 – an environmental wake up call?

  • 26 Jan 2023

MaxMax Banner, Buildingtalk Editor, writes the following article about the year ahead for the environment, from a construction viewpoint…

New Year’s Eve becomes New Year’s Day. 2022 bids farewell, 2023 is here. And with this, fireworks. Lots of them, banging away on my television screen. Visually impressive, of course, but it did have me thinking, and without wanting to sound like a killjoy, were they necessary? Firstly, you could argue they are somewhat excessive in the midst of this ‘Cost of Living’ crisis, but there is also the environmental aspect to consider. They fill the air with a whole gamut of pollutants and their chemicals create greenhouse gases, which we all know are the enemy of all things green.

Now, I’m not saying that they should be banned altogether and, I hasten to add, this is not a piece solely about fireworks. But it did get me thinking about the environment, especially with last year’s rising temperatures and particularly sweltering hot, forty-degree smacking summer days. What is being done? What can be done? Do we need to do more? If so, how much more? This article takes a look at some environmental matters that are linked to the world of building and construction, with some things to keep an eye on in 2023…

Housing

The updated building regulations on conservation of fuel and power (Part L) have finally come into force after a lot of talk. Part L is the relatively new building regulation in England, that is setting standards for the energy performance of new and existing buildings.

Our sister publication, ABC&D Magazine, recently published an insightful article on Passivhaus, looking at that whilst certain aspects of the Part L regulations are now closer to the Passivhaus standard, should legislation be going further and faster?

ABC&D

Passivhaus’ ethos is to deliver net-zero-ready new and existing buildings optimised for a decarbonised grid, with occupant health and wellbeing to the fore. Benefits are said to include superior indoor air quality, better thermal comfort, constant temperature environment, controlled and maintained CO2 levels, lower energy costs, and lower carbon emissions. 

Whether key decision makers across the country are open to using it on as many buildings as possible remains to be seen.

Building Regulations will continue to improve the standards for buildings – we mustn’t forget the goal that has been set of introducing a zero carbon ‘Future Home Standard’ and ‘Future Building Standard’ in two years time.

SuDS

The recommendation to make sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) mandatory to new developments in England is the result of a governmental review that was published earlier this month. This will reduce the risk of surface water flooding, pollution and help alleviate the pressures on traditional drainage and sewerage systems.

The new approach to drainage will ensure sustainable drainage systems are designed to lessen the impact of rainfall on new developments by using features such as soakaways, grassed areas, permeable surfaces and wetlands.  Certain features such as tanks and water butts also allow for water reuse and reduce pressures on water resources.

Leading plumbing and drainage solutions provider Wavin recently introduced the AquaCell NG attenuation tank to the market. AquaCell NG is also available through Wavin’s comprehensive StormForce service – developed to streamline the stormwater management supply chain, StormForce takes care of the various facets of surface water infrastructure, including the design, supply and installation of its sustainable drainage systems.

Net Zero

Net Zero has been something of an environmental buzzword(s) for some time now. The UK’s current target is to have this achieved by 2050, although the goalposts do move depending on which political party is doing the talking and it was, obviously, a topic of much discussion at last year’s COP27 conference at Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt (COP28 takes place this year in Dubai). 

Of course, in this Cost of Living crisis, there will be questions simply as to whether this country can afford Net Zero, and ultimately people must still heat their homes and eat sufficiently, which must take precedence over everything else. But, I still think it is something that can still be strived towards.

This story about the county of Somerset getting its first ever net-zero school via a Passivhaus design is an interesting one, whilst a nice piece on the Buildingtalk website about Time for Timber’s Tree Giveaway at Manchester Piccadilly train is well worth a read. 

Time for Timber’s overarching cause is to educate and promote the use of timber as a construction material as it presents itself as a truly vital solution to the ongoing climate crises. It believes that, if the UK is to build more homes, schools and offices in a way that supports the UK’s commitment to net zero by 2050, timber must be utilised in an even greater capacity.

Time for Timber

Futurebuild

I wanted to give a mention to Futurebuild, one of many exhibitions taking place this year that are endeavouring to shine a light on the all important environmental topics.

Futurebuild sets out to provide the stage for inspiring ideas, innovative solutions and knowledge sharing to drive sustainable construction and help us reach the Net Zero goal.

I am particularly a fan of their ‘Take a Stand‘ campaign – as part of the show’s pursuit of a better built environment, they are urging companies and professionals throughout the construction supply chain to make a similar commitment by ‘taking a stand’ on an issue they passionately believe will help propel the industry towards a more sustainable future. Just a handful of examples include ‘sustainable infrastructure’, ‘clean energy’ and ‘smart buildings’ – take a look by hitting the link in this paragraph.

Of course, it will no doubt take more than this exhibition alone to achieve the almighty Net Zero, but it is certainly a positive step and one that is encouraging to see.

The climate crisis will no doubt rage on now and into the summer, but what is done in 2023 remains to be seen. Expect another seismic year ahead for the environment – that seems certain…

Sources

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/conservation-of-fuel-and-power-approved-document-l

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p0dxpprw/can-the-uk-afford-net-zero#xtor=CS8-1000-%5BEditorialPromo_Box%5D-%5BNewsEditorial_Promo%5D-%5BNewsEditorial_Promo%5D-%5BPS_IPLAYER~N~p0dxpprw~P_NetZero%5D

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-somerset-64364725

https://www.futurebuild.co.uk/our-mission/take-a-stand/?actioncode=mp39

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