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Natural solutions being ignored

Developers and designers are failing to take advantage of natural heating and cooling solutions – according to the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE).

The urban design ‘watchdog’ also argues not enough projects are linking to or developing district energy schemes.

A review of more than 700 large construction projects undertaken by CABE over the last two years claimed that fewer than 10 had integrated sustainability properly and many used gadgets or micro renewables to boost a scheme’s green credentials.

Matt Bell, director of campaign and education at CABE, told the Guardian at the weekend: 'We need a radical redesign of our built environment to tackle climate change.

'The big issue is a lack of willingness by both the public and private sectors to take risks, at a time when risk-taking and a bold vision is exactly what's required. The result is that change is not happening on a big enough scale to make a difference.'

CABE is not inclined to 'name and shame' projects, but has highlighted examples which have strong sustainable credentials. These include One Gallions in Newham, East London; Middlehaven in Middlesbrough; BedZED in Sutton, South London; New Islington in East Manchester; Waterlooville, Hampshire; Southall Gasworks in Ealing, West London, and Eastern Good Yards in Kings Cross, London.

In the wake of the CABE report Dr David Strong, chief executive of sustainability consultancy Inbuilt, said designers and builders needed more support in selecting appropriate sustainable solutions.

He called for greater transparency of information, sharing of data in the development community and the publication of better guidance.

He said: “We want to see more sharing of real data and evidence about the performance of our buildings, not less.”

Dr Strong, one of the founders of the UK Green Building Council, said developers faced real challenges in connecting with the sustainable agenda: “I’m not surprised that some developers are reaching for green gadgetry rather than pursuing longer-term strategies to deliver genuine sustainability.

“Our own research has revealed the same issue, not just among commercial property developers but also among house builders who are unsure about what route to take to meet the regulations in 2010 and 2013, let alone the big target of zero carbon by 2016.

“Designers and developers have been thrown a green gauntlet by Government and many are struggling to balance all the complex and inter-related factors that are involved in sustainability.

“At the moment the temptation for developers to jump on the first technical bandwagon is enormous. Any supplier that claims to deliver a solution that meets the regulations and looks anything like affordable is doing rather well.”

Dr Strong added: “CABE and others should also encourage sustainability skills training, greater integration between mainstream architecture and buildings consultancies, and the promotion of ‘whole system thinking’ which is so vital to success in this area.

“Delivering genuine sustainability is much more than simply achieving a low or zero-carbon building, it’s also about addressing quality of life and wellbeing issues including; improved learning outcomes in schools, healing in hospitals, productivity in offices and safe and healthy homes.”