How have people responded to the Greenest Government Ever’s proposal to cut the Feed in Tariff?

Jeremy Leggett, Solar Century

There is no question that a “consultation” with an end date of 23 December slashing tariffs from 12 December is wide open to legal challenge and we now expect a very serious industry challenge to be mounted.

Friends of the Earth

The Government has cast a dark shadow over our thriving solar industry making such deep and sudden cuts to incentives could put tens of thousands out of work.
Greg Barker says he wants to make subsidies fairer but the new rates mean that unless you have significant savings, you re unlikely to be able to afford solar panels.

Solar Trade Association told the Daily Mail

We will do everything we can to challenge this. It will bankrupt us, prevent schemes which give people on low-incomes access to solar panels and 25,000 jobs will be killed off

Energy Minister Greg Barker looking at a car crash

5 sustainable social housing projects you should know about


Last we we reported on ‘down to earth’ green building projects. A few of you contacted us to say they all looked very lovely but most people don’t have the time or money to build their own eco home. A very good point. So this week we are showing you affordable sustainable housing projects.


1. LILAC: low impact living affordable community

Building a neighbourhood which is affordable and accessible is a real priority for us. There is much talk of a crisis of affordability in terms of housing. LILAC responds to this situation. We aim to build 20 homes, which will be managed as part of a mutual home ownership scheme. LILAC



2. Radeon: eco retrofitting social housing

Many people are living in social housing that is draughty and expensive to heat. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Housing association Radian has become a leading authority on energy efficient retrofits and new builds.  Nearly 44,000 people are living in more energy efficient homes as a result, and reaping the benefits every day in lower fuel bills and a better quality of life. And by improving efficiency, Radian has achieved cuts of 34 per cent in CO2 emissions across its housing stock. Ashden Awards

3. Cotney Croft and Peartree Way

8 new low carbon family homes for social rent, enabling families to lead sustainable lifestyles and benefit from reduced bills, whilst providing a body of research on the design of sustainable, affordable housing. The project exceeds Level 5 of the Code for Sustainable Homes, with a Code Level 6 being achieved on one house at Cotney Croft. Baily Garner Architects

4. Bearwood Road, Birmingham

The apartments are constructed using load bearing masonry and the houses use super insulated timber frames.  The houses benefit from solar thermal heating with roof mounted panels pre-warming incoming  air, ventilating the dwelling and supplementing the hot water storage.  The scheme achieved an Eco-Homes Very Good rating BM3 Architects

5. Chester Balmore, Camden, London

A 53 home residential block that will meet the Passivhaus energy efficiency standard. Willmott Dixon has won the £10 million contract for the Chester Balmore development in Highgate, which it said will be the largest residential Passivhaus scheme built in the UK so far. The Chester Balmore development will be the first new council housing built for Camden in nearly 30 years, and is due for completion in 2013. Inside Housing

5 low tech eco building projects you should know about

Last week we told you about 5 hi-tech sustainable building projects. This week it’s the opposite. If you didn’t like last week’s steel and glass sky scrapers then these might be more your cup of tea.

1. Lammas Ecovillages
In their own words Lammas exists to…

…support the development of ecovillages in West Wales. It has been designed using a model that can be replicated across Wales. It combines the traditional smallholding model with the latest innovations in environmental design, green technology and permaculture.

2. Hockerton Housing project

The Hockerton Housing Project (HHP) is the UK’s first earth sheltered, self-sufficient ecological housing development. The residents of the five houses generate their own clean energy, harvest their own water and recycle waste materials causing no pollution or carbon dioxide emissions.

3. Simon Dale’s low impact woodland house

The house was built with maximum regard for the environment and by reciprocation gives us a unique opportunity to live close to nature. Being your own (have a go) architect is a lot of fun and allows you to create and enjoy something which is part of yourself and the land rather than, at worst, a mass produced box designed for maximum profit and convenience of the construction industry.

4. Tinkers Bubble

Tinker’s Bubble is an intentional community located at Little Norton near Yeovil in south Somerset, England. It was established in 1994 on 40 acres of land consisting of about 20 acres of woodland as well as orchards and pasture. Much of the pasture is maintained traditionally using scythes for hay making. Tinker’s Bubble earns a small income by selling organically grown produce at local farmers’ markets and selling sustainably produced timber which is felled by hand, logged by horse and sawn by a wood-fired steam-engine driven sawmill. (From Wikipedia)

5. Cae Mabon

Cae Mabon is a hidden in an oak forest clearing by a little white river (Afon Fachwen) that cascades down to the nearby lake (Llyn Padarn). At the heart of Cae Mabon is a thatched Roundhouse like those lived in by our ancestors for thousands of years. Circling the Roundhouse and blending into the landscape is a family of seven elegant natural dwellings – a strawbale Hogan, an oak and slate Longhouse, a cedar log Lodge, a cob Cottage, a redwood Chalet, a Hobbit Hut and a cedar Cabin.

5 hi-tech eco projects you should know about (but won’t necessarily like)

(Next week – 5 low tech, down-to-earth eco buildings)

1. Masdar
Masdar is an eco city rather than just a building. In spite of its building work being cut short by the economic down turn, Masdar is still probably the largest hi-tech sustainable building project ever. When the project started, TreeHugger magazine put together a panel to discuss whether Masdar represented a genuine step towards sustainability or simply hi-tech greenwash.

The first phase of the project opened this year but some of the green features were scaled back after they proved too expensive.

2. Floating islands

For the optimists among us there is the hope that a legally binding climate deal keeps global warming to below 2 degrees above pre-industrialization levels. For the pessimists there are floating island cities. Some island states threatened by climate change are apparently considering moving to these futuristic alternatives to real land.

3. City Centre Las Vegas

This is everything you’d expect from a Las Vegas building project, except that this development claims to be greener than the rest. Apparently it is a…

…blueprint for the future combining a healthy quality of life with a global commitment to sustainable design.

Decide for yourself.

4. The Eco-Egg sky scraper.

If you like your badly-sited wind turbines encased in a glass tower then you’ll love this.

5. Stackable public transport

Where the urban crush means there is no space to park normal cars perhaps the answer is to make them stackable.

Jenga, anyone?

Everything you wanted to know about green roofs but were to afraid to ask


by Vicky Bhogal student on CAT’s Advanced Environmental and Energy Studies course

In February Blanche Cameron ran her module at CAT. One of the visiting lecturers was Dusty Gedge, who taught us about the benefits of green roofs.

Dusty has big plans to green London’s roofs: reducing the urban heat effect through transevaporation, helping to absorb water to prevent floods and replacing a building’s original green footprints with a living roof. As well as creating cool oases in the hot city.

Our flat roof extension in Brighton was on its last legs. Water was seeping through the cracked asphalt and beginning to stain the ceiling and walls. So it was time to do something about it. I went on a weekend course in practical green roof construction, run by Dusty. I came home with a sample corner section and an instruction manual.

I assembled my team: husband, good friends and volunteers from Brighton Permaculture Trust and ordered the butyl (pond) liner and thick felts. The construction took two weeks due to heavy rain, and cost about half the price of a conventional flat roof.

Help and advice on green roofs is available from CAT’s free information service. You can speak to someone about whether a green roof is right for you, download our fact sheets and find out where to get more information

We chose to replace the existing roof with a green roof because it looks delightful and we wanted to replace the grass removed when the extension was built We also wanted to encourage insect life into the garden. We used a substrate of varying depths and types, including lots of chalk, to recreate areas of local chalk downland, next to more compost rich, fertile areas. I transplanted lots of seedlings from our garden planted wildflower seeds.

At first, friends joked that we’d made an aerial weed patch, but during the summer the roof changed into a waist high poppy and wild flower field filled with bees and other insects. We have even been visited by the rare blue fritillary butterfly. Because it’s a living roof, it’s full of surprises; constantly changing and evolving. As we move into autumn, the wild flowers are dying back and there is a new growth of clover and snap dragons. I’m looking forward to watching the changes and seeing which plants grow over the next year.

I loved my time at CAT and feel blessed to have studied there. It has been a life changing experience. My formal training was in Art but the open access policy of the MSc meant that I was able to discover my hidden social scientist. I have developed strong friendships with students and we have also learnt a lot from each other. A group of us are working on setting up a local training and education centre in renewables and natural building techniques; with the goal of empowering and enabling others through sharing what we’ve learnt at CAT.

tea chest turf roof at centre for alternative technology.JPG
A turf roof at CAT

World Green Building week. Tour of CAT’s WISE building

by Caroline Alsop

According to a report by the European JRC PV Status Report 2011, Solar PV is now the fastest growing industry in the world.

With Solar PV production more than doubling in 2010 there’s significant evidence that green building techniques and methodologies are being used more widely in today’s building sector. In the next revision of building regulations in 2013 planning and development laws are expected to take a further positive step towards increased environmental sustainability and energy efficiency. From here on in, the demand for awareness in green building methodologies is likely to expand at a fast pace. However there is still plenty more to achieve.

The UKGBC (UK Green Building Council) have identified that ‘The Built Environment has a huge impact on our daily lives, our society and our natural world. Globally it accounts for 40-50% of natural resource use, 20% of water use, 30-40% or energy use and around a third of CO2 emissions.’ To address these worrying statistics, since 2007 the UKGBC have been on a mission to increase awareness about sustainability in our built environment. To help achieve this, each year they host ‘Green Building Week’ an event encouraging their members to talk about sustainability in their built environment.

This year, they’re using the event to ask the question ‘What does sustainability mean in relation to the built environment?’ Us folk at CAT thought the best way to answer this question was to host a tour of our 2011 RIBA awarded WISE building (Wales Institute of Sustainable Education), showcasing our unique vision of sustainability and the built environment. On Tuesday architect Pat Borer took a group of local architects and CAT visitors around WISE.

After the tour, CAT visitor, Simon Shelley commented ‘that was inspiring and fascinating. I have been told about building methods and materials I didn’t even know existed!’

For those who were unable to attend, here’s what sustainable design and construction means to our built environment.

Nestled in the scenic hills of Snowdonia WISE is the true embodiment of sustainable design and renewable technology. Sensitively constructed out of low embodied energy materials such as hemp and lime, rammed earth and sustainably sourced timber. It’s been thoughtfully designed for low energy consumption use. Contributions come from on-site renewable electricity sources such as solar PV, hydro and wind turbines, and an impressive array of solar thermal collectors contribute to the domestic hot water needs.

Green Building Week has been an excellent opportunity for us at CAT to raise awareness about our sustainable design and construction practices. Moving forward, with Green Building Week in mind, CAT will continue to provide the confidence, training and capabilities which will inspire individuals to construct their physical surroundings using local and natural resources in a thoughtful and realistic capacity.

WISE - Tim Soar photographs

Podcast: People, buildings, energy and sustainability. Nick Baker, Martin Centre, University of Cambridge

You can stream this podcast here or

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This lecture is part on the MSc Architecture: Advanced Environmental and Energy Studies course.

Nick Baker from The Martin Centre in Cambridge has spent most of his professional life working in building physics as a teacher, researcher, and consultant. He is also co-author of ‘Daylight Design of Buildings: A handbook for Architects and Engineers’

More podcasts

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Experience: Timber Frame Self-Build, an empowering journey in sustainable building skills

Last year I spent six-months volunteering in the CAT media department. Volunteers are invited to take part in two courses of their choice free of charge. Determined to build my own house one day, and to learn the skills I need to renovate my existing home, I chose Timber Frame Self-Build.

Attending the course were people from all walks of life, including self-builders and design & technology teachers wanting to improve their practical skills to pass on to their students. There was a nice mix of men and women, both younger and older, and plenty of people who hadn’t used a saw or drill before as well as those who had.

We started by discussing why we were all on the course. The tutors also introduced themselves and outlined self-build projects they had been involved in. It was great to learn that Pat Borer had designed WISE, the building we had our seminars and bedrooms in, and more that it was timber framed and built using locally sourced timber – local being only 500m down the road – and skills similar to those we were about to learn.

[divider /]
Book on either Timber Frame Self-Build or Eco Building from New during Green Building Week and enter the chance to win a £50 voucher or free day course.
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From then on in it got more intense as the practicals began, making for a fast but fun learning experience. Tutors Duncan Roberts, Pat Borer and Geoff Stowe were great at making sure each team worked together effectively and gave everyone a chance to ‘have a go’. The diverse range of skills in the group meant that there was a lot of peer teaching too, great for overall team spirit and getting things done.

I was totally amazed at the outcome of the course. We constructed two timber frame structures – one using a post and beam method and the other using stud walls. It was amazing how much we could achieve in just five days.

During the evening seminars we also looked at self-build design principles, taking in the work of architect Walter Segal by looking at examples of his designs on the CAT site.

The course was exactly what I was looking for. I was so keen and motivated after the course that the following weekend I built a new wood shed for my garden, putting into practice the skills I had learnt on the course. Both teams worked so well together we stayed in touch after the course – we’re waiting for the first of us to embark on their own self-build project so we can all go and lend a hand.

Course participants lifting timber frame

7 green building blogs you should be reading


Green Home Building and Sustainable Architecture
Lengthy, in depth, well written posts reviewing recent books and reports. Kelly Hart is also a consultant on various sustainable building projects and draws on his own experience on the blog. The blog is focused on US projects, books and reports.
Slick, colourful and constantly updated. This is a blog for keeping pace with new and innovative design projects, rather than a place to read about technical aspects of sustainable building.

Green Building Elements
Green Building Elements covers news from the world of green building, art and architecture. Very hi-tech, with a focus on how sustainable building relates to global issues such as peak oil and climate change.

Sustainable Construction Blog
Technical and construction focused. If you’re interested in sustainability (or lack thereof) in large scale construction this is an interesting place to start.

Sustainable Cities
Run by Danish Architecture Centre, the blog covers case studies and stories from all over the world. A good place to look if you want a global perspective on sustainable building. The case studies section is very good, covering projects in much more depth than many other blogs.

Architects’ Journal Footprint blog
The AJ’s contribution to green architecture blogging is impressive. Hattie Hartman writes a mixture of quick updates and well researched reviews. The blog obviously focuses on green architecture and design, but often ventures into wider global issues and broader commentary on construction and energy.

The Guardian: greenbuilding blog
This is where all the Guardian’s content on green building is drawn together. It’s a mix of articles and features written mainly by the Guardian’s environment team, but also including pieces by their science and society commentators. This is also a good place to keep up to speed with policy issues around planning.

WISE 5 Feb 2010