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Strong warning: 'Zero carbon' reality check

The danger of the 'zero carbon agenda' gripping the UK building industry is it ignores social and economic sustainability and could result in 'highly perverse outcomes' said Dr David Strong, speaking at the first day of London's Ecobuild exhibition.
Strong warning:
On the morning of February 26, an audience of architects, planners and building service professionals were warned by Strong, chief executive of Inbuilt Consulting, that an urgent reality check was required when it came to zero carbon efforts.

'There is much more to delivering exemplary built environments than zero carbon,' said Strong, who is one of the founders of the UK Green Building Council.

Referring to the recent prototype dwellings that meet the highest levels (levels 5 and 6) of the code for sustainable homes, Strong said 'The single-minded scramble to design and build level 6 homes gives out the message that this is the highest ambition and most worthy outcome we should aim for.

'However, if we end up with 'zero carbon' code level 6 homes that are uneconomic to maintain, are built on flood plains, overheat in summer, have poor acoustic performance, poor indoor air quality or other unintended consequences, then we have created a generation of homes that are unfit for people. We can't call this sustainability. The so-called 'best' are in real danger of becoming the enemy of the good.

'We need whole system thinking. This means collaborative, multi-disciplinary, integrated team working like we've rarely seen before. It also means working to find natural solutions to reduce our dependence on energy-intensive systems. There are so many opportunities offered by nature to ventilate, heat, cool and illuminate our buildings, and cost savings to be made by designing out unnecessary technical complexity.'

'A home can only be genuinely zero carbon if the occupants' lifestyles are prescribed and energy is rationed in order to balance onsite energy generation - which is entirely politically unacceptable,' he said.

Strong told Ecobuild's conference audience to address the challenge of reducing carbon emissions from existing building stock, and secure investment and planning permission for large scale renewable energy systems.

Ecobuild, Europe's biggest exhibition for sustainable design, construction and the build environment, is held at Earls Court from Tuesday, February 26 until Thursday, February 28. The three-day event has 500 exhibitors and speakers and is expected to attract 20,000 visitors.
26 February 2008

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