Thursday, 4 December 2008

Conflict over green-roofed houses

By Colin van Hoek

Residents living in Broughton are furious. Five green-roofed park houses will be built next to a very busy and dangerous road. “Especially at the intersection, where the houses will be near to, the road can’t handle more traffic.” Despite several objections Preston gave Ushida Findlay Architects (UFA) permission to build five green-roofed houses on Garstang Road.

According to the objectors the houses, which will use natural light, solar power and locally-sourced materials, would be ruining the view and cause a decline in road safety. Janet Filbin, officer of this project at the Preston government, claims these objections aren’t valid.

“With five to ten cars entering and exiting the property, it would cause dangerous situations on this busy road”, says Garrido, who’s living close to the site.

According to Filbin this claim is obsolete: “The planning permission for five dwellings was given out more than five years ago, the only new thing is the design of the dwellings. The road safety has been taken in to consideration a long time ago."

A bypass, that will be built on Garstang road after 2010, is the result of that consideration. Also the government decided that a small slice of a cottage, near the entrance of the property where the park houses are planned, has to be cut off. “It’s about 60 centimetres, and it will cause a better view for the people exiting the property”, Filbin explains.

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But also the design, which was new in this planning application, received a few objections. It would have a bad impact on the view. Bernard Jones, also living close to the building site, thinks that the buildings are “too high and too different.”

”It’s like looking up to a office with all of that glass. Next to that it will be ten metres high! I could almost see it from here, and I don’t even live next to the houses. I can only imagine how the neighbours will suffer.”

Derek Webster does lives next to the property, he doesn’t see why anyone should complain or object: “It’s a wonderful project”, he claims, “it’s very eco-friendly and the architecture is of very high quality.”

”It’s always a shame when an old house have to be demolished, but sometimes there’s just nothing you can do about it. Their will always be traditionalists, but it doesn’t bother me.”

The construction on the green-roofed houses will start within three years.

Have a look at this slideshow if you want to now more (visually) about what impact these houses will have on the local area. Derek Webster, living next to the property gives his view in the audio.

UK minor player in green roof construction

By Colin van Hoek

The United Kingdom (UK) isn’t a big player when it comes to green roof development. That’s stated by Jeff Sorrill, manager at the Green Roof Centre in Sheffield.

With stunning numbers, Germany and the United States (US), each year increase their surface of green roofs. In 2001 alone, Germany build 13,5 million m² of green roofs. “It’s the lack of tax benefits and legislation which are keeping the UK down”, says Sorrill.

“Germany and the US both have a long history of green roof construction. Many German cities have legislation which requires them to install green roofs on all developments”, Sorrill continues.

He thinks legislation could also be the solution for the UK. Although he warns that it has to be thought through, to avoid poor and cheap solutions.

Sorrill doesn’t think it has anything to do with geographical differences: “Green roofs have more benefits than some people know. It works on rain water holding, it can reduce energy, improve air quality and isolate.”

Daniel Goedbloed, green roofs project manager in Rotterdam (the Netherlands), agrees with Sorrill. He says that even though a place is hot, or if it rains a lot green roofs can always be installed. “There are no restrictions at all. In Australia there are a lot of green roofs, because it keeps the houses cool. In Scandinavia it helps to keep the dwellings warm”, says Goedbloed.

But both Goedbloed and Sorrill agree that the UK can without a doubt benefit from having more green roofs. According to both men the roofs can be very useful in preventing floods like the ones in the winter of 2000/2001.

The only place in the UK where there are a significant number of green roofs is London. At this moment almost 100,000 m² is realised.

Goedbloed understands why London is the place where green roofs seem to be most popular: “Although you can have green roofs as well in the countryside as in a city, people living in cities are turning green roofs more to account.”

His explanation is that in the countryside people have more nature around them. “Let’s not forget a lot of people also use green roofs as a gardens, which will happen more in a crowded city like London.”

But what should the UK aim for? Private use on dwellings or companies with a lot of surface? “Green roofs are equally available to individuals as companies, my personal view though is that there will be more meters of domestic green roofs in 10 years than commercial.”

He bases his view on the fact that there is “a great deal of interest from the general public.” According to Sorrill the UK is a “country of gardeners”, therefore "every new opportunity to put plants somewhere will be embraced."

The last couple of years solar panels have been the eco-friendly construction in a lot of countries. The manager from the green roof centre doesn’t think green roofs will make solar panels less popular: “There are significant differences between solar panels and green roofs, you can’t compare them.”

Green roofs even make solar panels more efficient when designed to do so, they complement each other rather than fight for space on a roof.”

Thursday, 6 November 2008

How green is UCLan according to students?

New trees, new grass, the biggest solar panel in the UK and the 5th position in the annual green league for Universities this year (compared to the 50th position last year). The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) is trying to be greener, as well for the eye as for the environment. in the annual green league for Universities to the 5th position.

It all sounds great, but do students know about UCLan being 'so' green, did they notice the new trees (apart from me) and do they know about the biggest solar panel in the UK, being build on their favorite nightclub? And what do THEY think about the 'greenness' of the campus and the University as a whole? If you want to find out, just click 'play' and learn.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Preston kids made in to nature lovers

Who says you can’t learn during the holidays? This half-term holiday The Environment Education Centre in Penwortham is trying to make Preston kids “nature lovers”, as Su Buck of the Education Centre states.

There are multiple activities and theme related days. The ‘eco-days’ this year are all about Vikings. Children will learn about ancient woods and taught how real Vikings lived. Seems like a good way of spending the holiday, but how does this help the kids being more green?

”The idea of the eco-days is to provide outdoor learning and fun to as many children as possible. Our aim is to enable, facilitate and hopefully inspire children to look after the natural world”, says Buck.

That’s still only being outside and playing. But don’t they have to learn about environmental stuff like recycling, the importance of nature and sustainability? Buck thinks not.

We don’t preach or even try to teach something like ‘this is the name of’, but rather allow the children to become nature lovers by having a great time outdoors and learning to respect the nature threw play.”

From feedback the centre got from parents and schools they understand that very little children have the opportunity to play and learn outdoors. A question that pops to mind after this statement could be: isn’t it quite useless to give these children a nature holiday once, instead of trying to change their ‘not going outside’ habit over a long period of time?

Buck explains: “This isn’t a one time thing, we always try the do this kind of stuff. But for us it’s hard to intervene in the life of the children. Schools for example have a job to do their, of which I know they are conscious and working on.”

Tell me what do you think. Are these activities of any use? Do schools need to do more and what? And what would YOU like to ask to the one you think should to more about kids turning green?

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

A few days ago I wrote something about the credit crunch being good for the environment. You can find a lot of people on the internet who will agree with me. On twitter Pam McAllister contacted me and she didn’t agree. She wrote her own blog from a whole different angle.

After reading her blog, I realised maybe my opinion wasn’t the whole truth. She made a very good point.

“The idea that a recession is good for the environment reinforces the idea that there are two conflicting goals. Economic activity and the well-being and prosperity of people, and a healthy planet.”
And than it hit me. She’s probably right. We shouldn’t see both things as separate goals that don’t go together. We should be able to achieve both at the same time, or at least try to. Or as McAllister says:

“Take the life-affirming stance that human prosperity and a healthy planet are linked together. Value both, rather than setting them in opposition. That’s attractive.”
I say: Amen.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Informing airplain passengers about environment, a job for the industry or the government?

The travel industry should do more to inform consumers about the environmental consequences of tourism. That’s what Prince Charles was urging earlier this month. Why? Because they are to blame for all the carbon emission? What about other organisations that benefit from those passengers? Like goverments, counties or even the UK as a whole.

Airports are a big injection in the local and regional economy. For example we take Manchester Airport, there are about 19,000 people working there. The Manchester Airports Group in total gives a 3.2 billion boost to the UK. And an airport like Heathrow even offers jobs to 100.000 of people all over the UK.

And let’s also not forget about the millions of passengers each year that flow into the airport city’s. Buying food, drinks, souvenirs and catching a train or a bus to a further destination. All this makes a city very popular for business and transport, which will eventually produce a certain amount of profit for the government.

So Charles, think before you point. And if anyone would like to pursued me into another opinion? be my guest :)

Monday, 13 October 2008

The environment: benefitter of the credit crunch

Some people on twitter think the financial crisis is good for the environment. People stop getting on planes to often and stop buying expensive stuff - like cars - that are bad for the environment. But is so much true? That's what I wondered.

Well not entirely. Ryanair frontman Michael O'Leary even said the credit crunch was good for business. Also Easyjet appear to have no problems with the recession. But maybe that's just because those are cheap airlines? Over all the UK seems to deal with less people using the airports.

Ok, so the passenger numbers are falling, is there not anything else? Like people not willing to spend more money on 'green' stuff? Well actually not. People tend to not buy ready meals anymore, they are all going for real cooking at the moment. And that means less carbon emission.

Also Michael Sturges, operations director at Edge, a packaging consultancy, thinks the credit crunch eventually can give a positive swing to sustainability and peoples consciousness about the environment. "People are going to be more discerning about consumerism and waste", he says.

So can the environment benefit from the credit crunch? Possibly. The question is: what do YOU think? You are the person acting and possibly being more, or less, environmental conscious.