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Links for December 11th through December 17th

by Mel Starrs on December 18, 2009

in News

These are my links for December 11th through December 17th:

  • Is global warming unstoppable? – Another nutty theory or not?: "Garrett says his study's key finding "is that accumulated economic production over the course of history has been tied to the rate of energy consumption at a global level through a constant factor."
    That "constant" is 9.7 (plus or minus 0.3) milliwatts per inflation-adjusted 1990 dollar. So if you look at economic and energy production at any specific time in history, "each inflation-adjusted 1990 dollar would be supported by 9.7 milliwatts of primary energy consumption," Garrett says….
    "Economists think you need population and standard of living to estimate productivity," he says. "In my model, all you need to know is how fast energy consumption is rising. The reason why is because there is this link between the economy and rates of energy consumption, and it's just a constant factor.""
  • Kevin McCloud is a Big Hit at TGR/RIBA Conference – "The challenge of combining sustainability and conservation issues were thoroughly debated at the conference with input from conservation officers, architects and engineers. Some questioned the need to debate this issue when there are ‘only’ 380,000 historic buildings in the UK – perhaps we should be concentrating on the many thousands of non-historic buildings that are below current standards of sustainability.
    Others wanted to discuss what should be tackled first and what makes most carbon sense. The contrast between the photovoltaic panels at the nearby Heelis project costing £450,000 and only contributing 10-15% of the building’s electrical needs and Kevin McCloud’s modest but effective eco-refurb of a terraced house in Manchester reducing carbon emissions by over 30% but only costing just over £2,000 could not have been sharper."
  • ‘Sustainability’ is a dangerous mirage – Building Design – Owen's on top form: "It’s the very term “sustainability”, which has enabled even Dubai to present itself as if it is touching lightly upon the earth, that is at fault. What exactly is it that we want to “sustain”? Humanity? Nature? Capitalism? As a slogan it’s as awful as “save the planet”. The planet is safe, it’s we who are in danger.
    The problem with the rhetoric of sustainability is that, as a buzzword, it serves to fill the ethical void in the apocalyptic capitalism of the last 30 years. So, we get sustainable supermarkets, green-roofed car parks, carbon neutral desert cities, all of which are a kind of architectural offsetting as moronic as its economic equivalent. A hundred new industrial towns can have the mirage of Dongtan projected onto them. The recent demise of the British “eco-towns” is the pettier version of the same failure."
  • Controlling dew point – 2009-11-19 10:00:00 | Consulting-Specifying Engineer – Excellent article (ASHRAE/US bias) which explains the principles of designing to dew point rather than relative humidity: "Not so long ago, HVAC designers did not have to be especially concerned with humidity. With plenty of cheap energy, the industry could afford to wallop the air with heavy-duty cooling to dry it, then fry it with reheat to keep it from freezing the occupants."
  • Building4Change : European research gives blueprint for social sustainability – "Tools, instruments and metrics to foster sustainable communities are biased towards environmental sustainability, a European research project has found. The research, carried out by Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development, provides a blueprint for policymakers on incorporating social sustainability into European urban redevelopment initiatives.
    The report recommends greater integration of socially responsible investment and local authority indicators, alongside increased investment in data gathering to improve understanding of social sustainability. It highlights valuable monitoring systems such as the FootprintR sustainable investment policy, created by developer Igloo"
  • Abu Dhabi to set school building eco standard – Building – "A new sustainable building standard is being developed for Abu Dhabi's schools.
    The system is being drawn up by Estidama, the organisation behind the emirate's local sustainability code for the the Abu Dhabi Education Council."
  • Futerra Sustainability Communications – leading thinking – Another great guide to communicating sustainable futures from Futerra: "In this guide we argue that climate change is no longer a scientist's problem, it's now a salesman's problem. We call upon government spokespeople, climate campaigners and business advertisers to stop selling visions of hell. Instead we must all create and sell a new vision of a' low carbon heaven'.
    This guide is a new approach for us. Most of our previous thought leadership has been very practical – this is stronger, more opinioned and more controversial. There's still a lot of guidance and original research. But we're not pulling our punches."
    From the report: "Dates, percentages and figures come in action plans, not visions. A 20% cut by 2020 isn’t a vision, it’s a target. Put all the targets together and imagine what the world would be like if we met and exceeded them: that’s a vision."
  • Land Securities chief executive accuses Government of lacking courage on sustainability – Modern Building Services – "On the need to dramatically improve the poor energy efficiency of the UK’s existing building stock, he said, ‘Unlike in the USA, the UK always seems to have a reluctance to use carrots and sticks in the tax system to drive behaviour and redirect capital investment. There is good evidence that tax allowances change investment decisions — and these allowances can be temporary.
    ‘I would certainly advocate a much higher level of Enhanced Capital Allowances for investment in energy-saving plant and building adaptations. However, I think the simplest route may be to use the property rates system to reward those who occupy energy-efficient buildings .’"
  • Leeds given more power over regeneration – Building – "Rosie Winterton, minister for local government, has signed a programme to give Leeds and its regions more power over housing, planning and regeneration.
    The Leeds City Partnership pilot programme brings together 11 councils, regional partners and central government to create a devolved housing and regeneration board."
  • Building4Change : New plant produces energy by mixing fresh water and sea water – "World's first osmotic plant opens, but commercial version will not be available for several years.
    European renewable energy producer Statkraft this month opened the world's first power plant generating energy by mixing fresh water and sea water in Norway.
    The energy is based on the natural phenomenon of osmosis, the transport of water through a semi-permeable membrane. When fresh water meets salt water, substantial amounts of energy are released, which can be used to generate power.
    At the osmotic power plant, fresh water and salt water are guided into separate chambers, divided by an artificial membrane. The salt molecules in the sea water pull the fresh water through the membrane, increasing the pressure on the sea water side. The pressure equals a 120 metre water column, or a significant waterfall, and can be used in a power generating turbine."
  • Design Activism: Coming across chemicals: in plastics and in schools – "the main problem with the chemicals is that not enough of them have been properly tested for health effects, and the result is that we only regulate chemicals that we know about. A classic example is BPA, a chemical additive found in bottled water containers, baby bottles and the like. Last year mounting evidence about adverse health effects from BPA caused it to be withdrawn from the market.
    The long term solution to this problem is hatching in the Green Chemistry movement, which is aiming to put the burden of proof of safe chemicals on the manufacturers. Currently a chemical is innocent until proven guilty, however, there are simply too many chemicals and, based on the evidence we do have, no reason to assume their innocence. Proposed green chemistry policies also recognize that health problems might arise for interactive, multiple exposures."
  • Ben Casnocha: The Blog: 10 Easily Implementable Life Problem-Solving Strategies – Some great thoughts on procrastination from Ben: ""Can I fail at this?" It's like Raymond Chandler said: there is no success without the possibility of failure. Therefore, something I can't fail at is also something I can't succeed at. I can fail at conducting an interview, writing an essay or making a video. I can't fail at meandering around the internet in search of "neat stuff to read." In a recent tweet, I defined procrastination "the temporary displacement of tasks at which it is possible to fail with tasks at which it is not possible to fail." I suspect I'm less far off the mark than ever, especially regarding why procrastination is not a productive tendency."
  • ippr – Institute for Public Policy Research – Left foot forward – "Increased birth rates and an ageing population, coupled with a fall in net immigration into the UK means that natural change, births and deaths – is now responsible for a greater component of the UK’s population increase, rather than immigration.
    But what should a progressive UK population policy look like? It will have to deal with issues such as family size, retirement age, population distribution across the UK, as well as immigration control.
    Attempts to restrict immigration to a zero net immigration level… will have major economic consequences. At present younger immigrants make a greater fiscal contribution than do the older UK-born population. Big restrictions on labour immigration would result in higher taxes, among other outcomes. Fiscal deficits could be alleviated if everyone worked longer… Family impacts on population size, but how would British adults react to being told to stop at two children? What incentives could be offered to families who stop at two?"