02/12/2009 3:21 pm
Can anybody please enlighten me with what a 'zero carbon development' is? Or where I can find the information?
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02/12/2009 3:23 pm
In a public library, where you do not have to pay a penny to get as much as you wish about this subject and others.
02/12/2009 3:37 pm
There is no such thing as 'zero carbon'. It's utter nonsense.
02/12/2009 6:04 pm
A 'zero carbon' development is one where carbon emissions as a result of the home being occupied are zero. In many cases (which I think Alan is alluding to) this is achieved through some trickery around 'net emissions' and spurious claims that certain fuels (such as wood) do not lead to carbon emissions as trees absorb CO2 whilst growing.
In a housing context, your best starting point is probably to google the 'Code for Sustainable Homes', which is the benchmark that RSLs develop new homes against. Achieving level 6 of the code means that a home is considered carbon neutral.
Some background reading:
If you're near Watford, you can go and see what they look like:
03/12/2009 12:00 pm
In a nutshell, a zero-carbon home is one which generates as much power (or even more) as it uses over the course of a year, thus having net zero CO2 emissions. This includes CO2 emissions as a result of all energy used in the home, i.e. energy consumed in the operation of space heating/cooling and hot-water systems, ventilation, all internal lighting cooking and all electrical appliances. It does not take account of so-called ‘embodied’ carbon in any building materials used (i.e. the CO2 generated during the manufacturing process). All new homes are required to be zero-carbon from 2016 onwards. The transition to zero carbon will be managed by gradually strengthening the energy / carbon performance in the building regulations - by 25% in 2010 and 44% in 2013.
03/12/2009 4:21 pm
"In a nutshell, a zero-carbon home is one which generates as much power (or even more) as it uses over the course of a year, thus having net zero CO2 emissions."
No, that just cannot be right. The process of generating power can involve high CO2 emissions or low CO2 emissions. Just producing as much power as you use can't by itself result in zero carbon emission. In fact it could double it, or worse.
There must at least be a sentence missing from this definition; something exoplaining how the power is generated, or how it compensates for power used elsewhere.
03/12/2009 4:41 pm
John, if a home is able to meet all its power needs from solar panels or wind turbines and all of its hot water needs from solar hot water, its operation does not lead to any carbon emissions.
03/12/2009 4:48 pm
What about the emissions in transporting the wind turbine or solar panels to the house? What about the emissions in maintaining them?
03/12/2009 5:05 pm
Alan, indeed. Many low or zero carbon developments attempt to mitigate this by sourcing products locally, using recycled products etc to minimise the carbon emissions. This can then be offset either by planting on the site (if it was brownfield) or paying someone to plant some trees somewhere else.
You may have noticed that both Debbie and I have used phrases such as 'in operation', 'as a result of being occupied' and 'over the course of a year'. That is deliberate. Only an idiot would pretend that the construction of a new home is a zero-carbon activity but, yes, I am aware that there are plenty of idiots out there doing just that right now.
03/12/2009 7:17 pm
Sancho: thank you for helping explain this to me, but I'm still puzzled.
Firstly, Debbie said a zero carbon house is one that generates over a year as much energy as it uses or more.
I queried this, pointing out that generating energy can be done in different ways, with different amounts of carbon emission, and you clarified that what was meant was that the energy generation in question was achieved in low or non carbon emitting ways like solar heating, photovoltaic panels or wind turbines.
But surely then it is the energy generation that is carbon neutral and not the house. And it wouldn't make any difference if that energy was generated by, say, a wind turbine on the roof, or by a wind farm a few miles away that supplied whole streets.
I know I'm often sarcastic, but I'm not now making fun. I'd fully agree that the less emission the better, but I'm struggling to understand this concept of "net zero emission" as the property of a single house, and I'm starting to wonder whether it might not be a misleadingly individualised target.
03/12/2009 7:21 pm
Of course 'zeron carbon' is misleading. It's all smoke and mirrors. As I've already explained there is no such thing.
03/12/2009 7:26 pm
Let me correct myself and save you the bother of at least one element. Rereading the above, I see you talk about both homes and developments. So my characterisation as "individualised" was not fair. Still I'm puzzled, and still I think I'm right to say it is the energy generation and only secondarily the homes "wired" up to it that is zero or low carbon.
04/12/2009 12:24 pm
John, I'm not sure where you're coming from in terms of outlook on this, but I am personally something of a green sceptic, whilst also spending a lot of time working towards making homes as sustainable as possible. I think a lot of the drive from my side isn't about trying to get a certificate for being carbon neutral (whatever that is) but about using renewable energy and water recycling to drive down utility bills for residents.
I think you're correct to say that it is the energy generation and not the home per se that is carbon neutral, but that is a bit like saying that it is not the home, but the people living in it, that emit carbon in the first place or, indeed, that it is the roof, not the house, that keeps the occupants dry.
"Carbon-neutral" is, of course, a misnomer. Beyond the obvious 'embodied carbon' and 'carbon to construct' elements, there is the important point that the earth is a closed system and we can neither create nor destroy carbon. Effectively, everthing is carbon neutral in the end.
04/12/2009 4:10 pm
My understanding is that there have been times in history (when mankind never roamed the earth) where greenhouse gas levels were 200 times higher than what they are today. There can be no ‘saving the planet’, simply because nature itself destroys the earth’s atmosphere. Environmentalists also conveniently forget that the earth is an evolving process and will burn to a crisp frazzle in a few millions years time once the sun burns itself out. Make the most of it, that’s what I say.
06/12/2009 2:45 pm
"...Fri, 4 Dec 2009 16:10 GMT
My understanding is that there have been times in history (when mankind never roamed the earth) where greenhouse gas levels were 200 times higher than what they are today.... "
It does not mean that the living creatures roaming the earth at the time before mankind might not have contribute to climate change... If, for example the herbivores species before humankind, had reached the numbers of todays human population, every green land would have turned into a desert, affected climate change, and these creatures would have deprived themselves of food and so ending up extinct...
Of course they were herbivores and just thought about eating grass without another thought about tomorrow.
However the difference is human kind can and must think about the future and while those eleocene hervicores did not do anything about it and cancelled themselves out of the natural world we got to do something about it to avoid or at least delay the same fate for humankind.
06/12/2009 2:57 pm
Apart from carbon or no carbon, climate change issues have borught about a new level of consciousness and appreciation and passion about the world we live in, especially in the young. that in itself is an achievement unthinkable if attempted with any other means.
06/12/2009 3:30 pm
That wouldn't be 'the young' who in a nationwide survey thought that potato's grew on trees, would it lol
06/12/2009 5:15 pm
I am still confused.
"It does not take account of so-called ‘embodied’ carbon in any building materials used (i.e. the CO2 generated during the manufacturing process)."
But the Code states,
"Credits are awarded for responsible sourcing of materials through auditable third
party certification schemes.
This means that the consequences and impacts of using materials must be considered
from the point at which they are mined or harvested in their raw state, through
manufacture and processing, through use, reuse and recycling, until their final
disposal as waste with no further value."
The detail of the Code is still new to me, but is the point that Alan is making ?
06/12/2009 5:42 pm
I agree, and this just demonstrates how these environmentalists and policy makers come up with harebrained wording when they say: ‘that the consequences and impacts of using materials must be considered from the point at which they are mined or harvested in their raw state, through manufacture and processing, through use, reuse and recycling, until their final disposal as waste with no further value.'
During the degradable processes there is no such thing as a point of no further value. When microorganisms begin to work on breaking down substances underground they generate heat during the living and dying processes which enables to the process to continue on and on without interruption. There is no end.
Microorganisms create the ‘living fraction’ of soil particles, others being the mineral fraction (sand, silt and clay), gaseous fraction (oxygen and carbon dioxide) and liquid fraction (water). It is a continuous process.
06/12/2009 7:14 pm
"Sun, 6 Dec 2009 15:30 GMT
That wouldn't be 'the young' who in a nationwide survey thought that potato's grew on trees, would it lol "
No, I am talking about the young who campaign, study, and work on climate changes and related issues to make the planet a better place... You might be confusing potatoes with avocados, perhaps... unless it's lemons.
07/12/2009 4:01 am
Erich Fromm in The Fear of Freedom believed that the reason why many people turn to subjects like the environment and history is because it makes them feel more powerful. People like these actually believe they can save the whole planet. It gives them a great sense of omnipotence.
I’ve been there. I ran a high-profile environmental project and I know how all these international environmental policies can make you feel as if you doing something, but actually you aren’t. It’s all in the mind. Environmentalists thus get hooked on the subsequent publicity and have to continually come up with newer and more spurious claims in order to feed their addiction. This is why I believe that they come up with this daft carbon footprint and zero carbon thingamajig. It is new but it is also nonsense.
Of course the thing that environmentalists won’t admit either is that they are addicted to feeling powerful from the publicity surrounding environmental issues. Nor will they confess that what research has shown, that coming up with spurious claims only serves to put the wider public off getting involved in environmental issues.
As I have said time and time again, to me it is plain daftness that environmentalists should be focusing on issues like carbon neutral schemes at a time in history when young people are so naive about green issues they think potatoes grow on trees. Common sense would tell you that environmentalists should be starting at the bottom and helping young people understand the very basics of how nature works.
They won’t do that though. They won’t because environmentalists are not made to feel powerful enough by explaining to children the difference between a tree and a humble spud. What they need to give them their buzz if big eco conferences where they can shake hands and pat each other’s backs. They love that.