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Cost of living causing consumers to think again about retrofitting

 

RICS and YouGov survey shows homes therefore less likely to be able to cope with climate impacts or to mitigate rising energy costs

The cost of living crisis, has cast new doubt on the progress towards the United Kingdom’s Net-Zero ambition. Previous research from RICS* had found that homeowners were citing cost of retrofitting as a barrier, but despite new policy measures, new research from RICS and YouGov shows that consumers are now concerned about paying for the cost of living above upgrading their homes.

Retrofitting has obvious benefits, such as being able to maintain a constant temperature in the home, as well as increasing the desirability of your property – the December 2019 Residential Market Survey*, prior to the energy crisis, cited almost two thirds of the survey’s respondents believed that the willingness to pay for energy efficient homes would rise in the next three years.

However, the latest consumer research from RICS and YouGov shows that homeowners are unsurprisingly looking to concentrate spending on escalating household costs.

The new research backs up previous calls made by the institution in 2020 for more policy measures to incentivise industry and consumers to retrofit the UK housing stock. The research found that while 34% of homeowners said they would invest in green technology to lower bills in the future, 45% would be focusing on using any savings to pay for their existing living expenses, meaning more incentives and cheaper options must be made available if the country is to stay on track to meet target and green 15million properties*.

This latest research follows the RICS January 2020 Residential Market Survey* where members operating in the residential sales and lettings market stated that without strong market driven incentives, regulation was the policy lever with the greatest potential to improve energy efficiency outcomes. Alternatively, a tax policy could achieve a similar effect through a mix of stamp duty and a reduction of VAT on home improvements.

Currently, the Government’s ambition to hit Net-Zero carbon emissions requires significant numbers of private homeowners to retrofit their properties to make them greener.

51% who confirmed they hadn’t already installed new energy saving measures in their homes but would know how to, said it was because of the costs involved. And of the same group, even those who would consider it to make their home more attractive to prospective buyers, 40% said they’d only consider spending around £1000 to £5000 on energy improvements, which could pay for some solar panels** but wouldn’t cover the heat-pump.

As the cost of living continues to consume more household finances, measures are needed to avoid many properties failing to meet targets and becoming un-mortgageable. To review the potential impact that failure to support consumers would have on the housing market, most homeowners (55%) would consider installing energy saving schemes if they knew it would make their property more attractive when it came to selling up. With figures from Rightmove showing that greener homes can attract a higher premium, properties need more than an EPC assessment to help inform decisions**.

As EPCs aren’t the best measure for all properties, as some listed buildings can’t have triple glazing for example, RICS is recommending and working with lenders and government to look into ‘Retrofit Surveys’ which would enlist the expertise of a professional – such as a building surveyor- to provide detailed advice on what technologies homeowners could install to help inform their decisions. This is supported with 77% of homeowners saying they’d find this advice helpful when thinking of buying a new home.

Sam Rees, Senior Public Affairs Officer at RICS, said:

“The retrofitting of millions of UK homes will be essential to helping to meet our net zero ambitions, however homeowners’ immediate concerns are understandably with the rising cost of living, especially their energy bills. It is important to recognise that retrofitting and the cost of living are not mutually exclusive issues.

“A suitably retrofitted, low-carbon home can help with the long-term challenges of the cost of living and reducing high levels of energy consumption. Achieving this however is not cheap. With the UK Government giving financial support to homeowners to support them with rising energy prices, RICS is calling on the government to extend this support and provide additional financial incentives to homeowners to encourage retrofitting and ultimately helping to tackle the cause of high energy usage.

“Before any significant investment is made on retrofit measures, RICS urges homeowners and the government to ensure a retrofit assessment is undertaken on the property first – ensuring that no unintended consequences occur such as overheating or increased energy demand. This is critical to protecting consumers and RICS is undertaking significant research to support such assessments.”

FURTHER INFORMATION

*RICS UK Residential Market Surveys UK Residential Market Survey (rics.org)

**Rightmove-Green-Homes-Report.pdf

The top energy saving measures homeowners who know how to make their home more environmentally friendly said they already had installed in their property were:

Double or triple glazed windows – 71%
Energy-efficient lighting – 69%
Loft/cavity wall insultation – 63%
Energy efficient appliances – 52%
Solar panels – 17%
Air source heat pumps 5%
Geothermal heating – 2%

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 4357 adults of which 2776 are homeowners. Fieldwork was undertaken between 31st May – 3rd June 2022. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

* 15 million homes need energy efficiency upgrades – Lloyds Banking Group plc

** Solar panels typically cost between £2,900 and £6,700 according to the Energy Saving’s Trust.

With government legislating for net-zero by 2050, what does this mean for UK energy markets and business models?

Getting to net-zero will require economy-wide changes that extend well beyond the energy system, leading to rapid and unprecedented change in all aspects of society.

Research published today by the UK Energy Research Centre shines a light on the level of disruption that could be required by some sectors to meet net-zero targets.

With many businesses making strong commitments to a net-zero carbon future, the report highlights the stark future facing specific sectors. Some will need to make fundamental change to their business models and operating practices, whilst others could be required to phase out core assets. Government may need to play a role in purposefully disrupting specific sectors to ensure the move away from high carbon business models, facilitating the transition a zero-carbon economy.

Sector specific impacts

The in-depth analysis presented in ‘Disrupting the UK energy systems: causes, impacts and policy implications’ focuses on four key areas of the economy, highlighting how they may need to change to remain competitive and meet future carbon targets.

Heat: All approaches for heat decarbonisation are potentially disruptive, with policymakers favouring those that are less disruptive to consumers. Since it is unlikely that rapid deployment of low carbon heating will be driven by consumers or the energy industry, significant policy and governance interventions will be needed to drive the sustainable heat transformation.

Transport: Following the ‘Road to Zero’ pathway for road transport is unlikely to be disruptive, but it is not enough to meet our climate change targets. The stricter targets for phasing out conventional vehicles that will be required will lead to some disruption. Vehicle manufacturers, the maintenance and repair sector and the Treasury may all feel the strain.

Electricity: Strategies of the Big 6 energy companies have changed considerably in recent years, with varying degrees of disruption to their traditional business model. It remains to be seen whether they will be able to continue to adapt to rapid change – or be overtaken by new entrants.

Construction: To deliver low-carbon building performance will require disruptive changes to the way the construction sector operates. With new-build accounting for less than 1% of the total stock, major reductions in energy demand will need to come through retrofit of existing buildings.

The report identifies how policy makers plan for disruptions to existing systems. With the right tools and with a flexible and adaptive approach to policy implementation, decision makers can better respond to unexpected consequences and ensure delivery of key policy objectives.

Prof Jim Watson, UKERC Director and Professor of Energy Policy, UCL said “The move to legislate for net-zero is welcome progress, but we need economy-wide action to make this a reality.
This includes policies that deliberately disrupt established markets and business models in some sectors – and address any negative impacts.”

Prof Jillian Anable, UKERC Co-Director and Professor of Transport and Energy, University of Leeds added “The UK transport sector is nearly 100% fuelled by fossil fuels, with only tiny niches of electrified and bio-fuelled vehicles.

Whilst politically challenging, the sector can only hope to reach ‘net-zero’ through whole-scale change that involves reducing hyper-mobility and fuel switching. This will lead to disruption to actors, global networks, governance and lifestyles.”

Labour is announcing that climate change will be a core part of the curriculum from primary school onwards. The announcement comes on the same day that the UK Climate Strike Network hosts more school strikes across the country.

Under plans set out by Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner, the next Labour government will ensure all young people are educated about the ecological and social impact of climate change.

A review of the curriculum will also make certain that it focuses on the knowledge and skills that young people need in a world that will be increasingly shaped by climate change, particularly in renewable energy and green technology jobs.

Climate change adaptation and mitigation will drastically increase future demand for the knowledge and skills required for the green jobs of the future, with these skills severely underrepresented in the current curriculum.

As part of the review, an expert panel will consider how climate change and its impact are taught from primary school onwards.

One of the key demands of the climate school strikes is that the national curriculum is reformed to address the ecological crisis as an educational priority. Currently, teaching climate change is restricted to Chemistry and Geography in Key Stages 3 and 4.

Under the Conservatives, the curriculum has narrowed, with Michael Gove scrapping the last Labour government’s plans to start teaching children about the environment and climate change when they are in primary school.

Angela Rayner MP, Shadow Education Secretary, said “Today, young people are taking to the streets to send a  clear message to the government that climate change will be a fundamental and defining feature of their adult lives, and we must take the action needed to tackle it.

“We need to equip people with the knowledge to understand the enormous changes we face, and skills to work with the new green technologies that we must develop to deal with them.

“That must be part of a broad education and that prepares pupils for adult life. Climate change should be a core part of the school curriculum, and under a Labour government it will be.

“As well as teaching young people about the impact of climate change, their education must prepare them for the jobs of the future. As part of Labour’s Green Industrial Revolution to create 400,000 skilled jobs across the country, young people will be taught the skills they need.”

As the built environment moves towards becoming eco-friendly, buildingspecifier Editor Joe Bradbury posits the question – are we not seeing the wood for the trees in the quest for a viable green alternative?

The construction industry accounts for almost 7% of the economy in the UK and we hold a 10% share of total employment. However, with great size comes great responsibility and unfortunately – a very big carbon footprint. 47% of greenhouse gas emissions are generated from buildings and 10% of CO2 emissions come from construction materials. Shockingly, 20% of the materials used on the average building site end up in a skip. According to a 2011 report, in 2010 up to 4.3 million tonnes of timber waste was generated.

However, it isn’t all doom and gloom and reckless capitalism, as the construction industry has come on leaps and bounds over the past 20 years or so in a bid to make the industry a cleaner, greener entity. One area where vast improvements have been made is in the recycling and usage of wood in buildings. In 1992, less than 2% of all waste wood was recycled; 10 years later approximately 60% (2.8 million tonnes) of all wood waste generated in the UK was recycled.

The energy industry is also beginning to see the potential of wood for cleaning up its act. Because trees absorb carbon dioxide whilst they grow, burning wood for energy is considered ‘carbon neutral.’ In 2010 around 0.55 million tonnes of wood was used in energy generation. Some coal-fired power stations have had some of their boilers converted to accept wood and they burn more than 100,000 tonnes of recycled woodchip a year.

Remarkably, the future of wood in construction of buildings has reached soaring new heights recently as innovations in engineered timber could spell the beginning of a new era of eco-friendly wooden skyscraper design.

Despite wood in its raw form not being able to compete with the steel-frame design used in skyscrapers globally, a new type of super-plywood has been created that just might give steel a run for its money.

By gluing layers of low-grade softwood together to create timber panels, today’s “engineered timber” resembles Ikea flat-packed furniture rather than traditional sawn lumber and removes the height limits usually imposed on buildings with timber frames. Free from these constraints, ambitious architects are exploring the possibility of a next generation of “plyscrapers.”

Architect Michael Green has drawn up plans for a 30-storey, naturally grown tower for downtown Vancouver, which if built would become the world’s highest wooden building – an accolade currently awarded to London’s Stadthaus at nine storeys and the 10-storey Forte Building in Melbourne.

With China next on the list of countries suspected to implement timber skyscrapers into their cityscapes, it is definitely possible that we could one day be working in a building that began life as a seed.

However, there is still deep mistrust of timber builds en masse, with many considering them a tinderbox responsible for causing ravaging city fires such as the great fire of London, San Francisco and Chicago, to name a few examples.  Whilst historically fires have razed great cities to the ground, today’s engineered timber develops a protective charring layer that maintains structural integrity and burns very predictably. This means that it would actually be more structurally sound than steel, which warps drastically under intense heat.

NASA satellite photos of our planet help biologists calculate the number of trees there are on Earth. Whilst impossible to settle on a specific number, many professors agree that there are roughly 61 trees per person worldwide. It requires 22 trees to produce the amount of oxygen consumed by one person, with an acre of trees producing enough oxygen for 18 people. The forest loss is 49,421 acres per day, equivalent to an area twice the size of Paris – an alarming statistic when you consider the expanding population.

Obviously trees alone aren’t the answer to the construction industry’s environmental issues, however, through responsible usage and with the utmost respect it could help us edge further towards that cleaner, greener future we all need.

Building industry charity, the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) have unveiled an ambitious framework for the UK construction and property industry to help us transition new and existing buildings to become net zero carbon by 2050, in line with the ambitions of the Paris Climate Agreement.

The report follows six months of intense industry engagement, involving over 180 experts and stakeholders from across the built environment value chain, and is supported by 13 trade associations and industry bodies including BPF, RICS and RIBA. It provides an overarching framework of consistent principles and metrics that can be integrated into tools, policies and practices, and aims to build consensus in the industry on the approach to decarbonising buildings.

The new framework offers guidance for developers, owners and occupiers targeting net zero carbon buildings, setting out key principles to follow and outlining how such a claim should be measured and evidenced. Two approaches to net zero carbon are proposed by the framework which can be accurately measured:

  1. Net zero carbon – construction: the embodied emissions associated with products and construction should be measured, reduced and offset to achieve net zero carbon.
  2. Net zero carbon – operational energy: The energy used by the building in operation should be reduced and where possible any demand met through renewable energy. Any remaining emissions from operational energy use should be offset to achieve net zero carbon.

With the report presented as a starting point, the next ten years will see the scope and ambition of the framework increased to encourage greater action. In the short-term, additional requirements will be introduced to challenge the industry, including minimum energy efficiency targets and limits on the use of offsets. In the longer term, the two approaches for construction and operational energy will be integrated into a broader approach for net zero whole life carbon, covering all of the emissions associated with the construction, operation, maintenance and demolition of a building.

The work has been made possible thanks to the generous support of lead partner Redevco Foundation, and partners BAM, Berkeley Group, Grosvenor, JLL and Hoare Lea.

Richard Twinn, Senior Policy Advisor at UKGBC said “The urgency of tackling climate change means that businesses must work together to drive down emissions as fast as possible. But this requires a shared vision for what needs to be achieved and the action that needs to be taken. This framework is intended as a catalyst for the construction and property industry to build consensus on the transition to net zero carbon buildings and start to work towards consistent and ambitious outcomes. It is the first step on a journey towards ensuring all of our buildings are fit for the future.”

James Wimpenny, Chief Executive at BAM Construct UK added “Contractors, clients, supply chains need to work together – and quickly – to radically change the way we procure, design and deliver buildings. Smart use of renewable technologies and efficient use of low carbon materials are a priority. Reducing carbon makes financial sense over the lifecycle of buildings and that means we should not focus solely on capital costs when procuring a building.”

Rob Perrins, Chief Executive at Berkeley Group concluded “This framework is an important step towards defining net zero carbon buildings and helping the industry understand how they can be delivered. We want to help lead this work, which is so important to decarbonising the built environment and protecting our planet for future generations. Sustainability runs through everything we do at Berkeley Group. We have already become a carbon positive business and have committed to creating new homes that can operate at net zero carbon by 2030.”

Clean, green offshore wind is set to power more than 30% of British electricity by 2030, Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry has announced with the launch of the new joint government-industry Offshore Wind Sector Deal.

This deal will mean for the first time in UK history there will be more electricity from renewables than fossil fuels, with 70% of British electricity predicted to be from low carbon sources by 2030 and over £40 billion of infrastructure investment in the UK.

This is the tenth Sector Deal from the modern Industrial Strategy signed by Business Secretary Greg Clark. It is backed by UK renewables companies and marks a revolution in the offshore wind industry, which 20 years ago was only in its infancy. It could see the number of jobs triple to 27,000 by 2030.

The deal will also:

  • increase the sector target for the amount of UK content in homegrown offshore wind projects to 60%, making sure that the £557 million pledged by the government in July 2018 for further clean power auctions over the next ten years will directly benefit local communities from Wick to the Isle of Wight
  • spearhead a new £250 million Offshore Wind Growth Partnership to make sure UK companies in areas like the North East, East Anglia, Humber and the Solent and continue to be competitive and are leaders internationally in the next generation of offshore wind innovations in areas such as robotics, advanced manufacturing, new materials, floating wind and larger turbines
  • boost global exports to areas like Europe, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States fivefold to £2.6 billion per year by 2030 through partnership between the Department of Trade and industry to support smaller supply chain companies to export for the first time
  • reduce the cost of projects in the 2020s and overall system costs, so projects commissioning in 2030 will cost consumers less as we move towards a subsidy free world
  • see Crown Estate & Crown Estate Scotland release new seabed land from 2019 for new offshore wind developments
  • UK government alongside the deal will provide over £4 million pounds for British business to share expertise globally and open new markets for UK industry through a technical assistance programme to help countries like Indonesia, Vietnam, Pakistan and the Philippines skip dirty coal power and develop their own offshore wind projects

Claire Perry, Energy & Clean Growth Minister said “This new Sector Deal will drive a surge in the clean, green offshore wind revolution that is powering homes and businesses across the UK, bringing investment into coastal communities and ensuring we maintain our position as global leaders in this growing sector.

“By 2030 a third of our electricity will come from offshore wind, generating thousands of high-quality jobs across the UK, a strong UK supply chain and a fivefold increase in exports. This is our modern Industrial Strategy in action.”

The Co-Chair of the Offshore Wind Industry Council and Ørsted UK Country Manager for Offshore, Benj Sykes, said “Now that we’ve sealed this transformative deal with our partners in government, as a key part of the UK’s Industrial Strategy, offshore wind is set to take its place at the heart of our low-carbon, affordable and reliable electricity system of the future.

“This relentlessly innovative sector is revitalising parts of the country which have never seen opportunities like this for years, especially coastal communities from Wick in the northern Scotland to the Isle of Wight, and from Barrow-in-Furness to the Humber. Companies are burgeoning in clusters, creating new centres of excellence in this clean growth boom. The Sector Deal will ensure that even more of these companies win work not only on here, but around the world in a global offshore wind market set to be worth £30 billion a year by 2030.”

Keith Anderson, ScottishPower Chief Executive, concluded “ScottishPower is proof that offshore wind works, we’ve worked tirelessly to bring down costs and, having transitioned to 100% renewable energy, will be building more windfarms to help the UK shift to a clearer electric economy. Two of our offshore windfarms in the East Anglia will replace all of the old thermal generation we’ve sold and we are ready to invest more by actively pursuing future offshore projects both north and south of the border.

“We have a fantastic supply chain already in place in the UK, from businesses in and around East Anglia to across England, across Scotland as well as Northern Ireland. The Sector Deal will attract even more businesses in the UK to join the offshore wind supply chain and we are excited to see the transformative impact this will have on our projects.”

In addition, the deal will:

  • challenge the sector to more than double the number of women entering the industry to at least 33% by 2030, with the ambition of reaching 40% – up from 16% today
  • create an Offshore Energy Passport, recognised outside of the UK, will be developed for offshore wind workers to transfer their skills and expertise to other offshore renewable and oil and gas industries – allowing employees to work seamlessly across different offshore sectors
  • see further work with further education institutions to develop a sector-wide curriculum to deliver a skilled and diverse workforce across the country and facilitate skills transfer within the industry
  • prompt new targets for increasing the number of apprentices in the sector later this year

The cost of new offshore wind contracts has already outstripped projections and fallen by over 50% over the last two years, and today’s further investment will boost this trajectory, with offshore wind projects expected to be cheaper to build than fossil fuel plants by 2020. The Deal will see UK continuing as the largest European market for offshore wind, with 30GW of clean wind power being built by 2030 – the UK making up a fifth of global wind capacity.

The UK is already home to the world’s largest offshore wind farm, Walney Extension off the Cumbrian Coast, and construction is well underway on projects nearly double the size. Around 7,200 jobs have been created in this growing industry over the last 20 years, with a welcome surge in opportunities in everything from sea bedrock testing to expert blade production.

The Deal will look to seize on the opportunities presented by the UK’s 7,000 miles of coastline, as the industry continues to be a coastal catalyst for many of the UK’s former fishing villages and ports. Increased exports and strengthened supply chain networks will secure economic security for towns and cities across the UK.

 

Britain’s best innovators and researchers are being invited to pitch their ideas to help tackle the effects of climate change on towns, cities and the countryside as part of modern Industrial Strategy.

Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark recently announced 4 new research programmes to boost the UK’s resilience to climate change, develop digital environments, promote clean air and investigate how to use our land to boost health outcomes.

The £60 million funding pot was announced during the first ever Green GB Week – a government-led week of campaigning to encourage businesses, communities, funders and academics to renew their efforts to confront the global challenge of climate change.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said “Companies are capitalising on the UK’s world leading position in the greener economy as we transition to a greener, cleaner economy and is one of the greatest industrial opportunities of our time.

“The UK is a world leader in tackling climate change, cutting our emissions more than 40% since 1990 while growing our economy. When you combine Britain’s leadership, innovation and determination it is an unbeatable combination – exactly what our Industrial Strategy and Green GB Week are supporting and encouraging.”

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, said “The recent IPCC report is a timely reminder of the challenges we face in tackling climate change. Storm Callum has highlighted the impact that extreme weather events can have on our communities.

“It is vital that the evidence generated by research is used effectively to navigate and mitigate the effects of climate change, and new technologies are developed to support a move to a low carbon economy.

“The Strategic Priorities Fund is important in supporting UKRI’s mission, allowing us to bring collective expertise from a wide range of disciplines and sectors to bear on addressing important matters affecting all of society.”

The programmes, administered by UKRI, will bring together a broad range of research disciplines, ranging from mathematics and biology to climate science and technology development to:

  • produce better data on climate risks to the UK
  • build a digital picture of our natural environment for greater monitoring and analysis of the impact of climate change
  • cut air pollution and protect vulnerable groups from its effects
  • use our land better, for the benefit of the environment and communities
  • develop ways for the UK to adapt to climate change

Chief Scientist of the Met Office, Professor Stephen Belcher, said “These programmes will allow the Met Office and our partners to make real progress in two areas of significant environmental impact: air pollution and climate change.

“Working together with other world-leading scientists from the UK’s academic community, we will be able to deliver tools and services which will benefit the lives and livelihoods of people across the UK.”

Competitions for the programmes will open in the coming weeks. Researchers and innovators can visit the UKRI website for updates.

The funding comes as part of the Strategic Priorities Fund, delivered by UKRI to drive an increase in high quality multi- and interdisciplinary research and innovation. It will ensure that UKRI’s investment links up effectively with government research priorities and opportunities. Further programmes will be announced in the coming months.

A report commissioned by WWF finds that UK businesses must invest in sustainable forest management if they are to guarantee access to timber that their businesses rely on in the near future. Leading countries that supply timber to the UK are either at the point of expiry or running at a deficit as forest resources are used without adequate provision for sustainable timber supply.

However, the report highlights key benefits that will make the case for businesses to switch more rapidly to sustainable sourcing. These include:

  • advantages in regulatory positioning
  • easier raising of finance
  • added brand value
  • a more engaged workforce

It also gives manufacturers maximum scope for product development and provides retailers with a full range of tradable goods. These benefits can increase performance of the timber industry as a whole and ultimately aid the bottom line of all companies involved.

As the international market for timber will change in its dynamics in the next decades, without urgent action UK businesses who have failed to adequately plan for continuity of their timber resource could be left exposed with fewer commercial options.

Depleting sustainable resources

The implications are far reaching with WWF’s Living Forests report series concluding that global demand for timber is expected to triple by 2050 due to an increase in demand of wood and paper products from growing economies and populations. At the same time this report’s analysis indicates that:

  • Brazil has only 16 years of timber forests remaining, South Africa 7 years, Colombia 12 years, Mexico 9 years, Nigeria 11 years, Thailand 9 years and Pakistan 10 years.
  • Primary forest is being depleted at an alarming rate in many forested countries, the most extreme examples being Nigeria, losing 99% of primary forest, and Vietnam 80% since 1990 – a loss of almost 2 million hectares in these two countries alone. This has a huge impact on the biodiversity and other important forest ecosystem functions.
  • In the UK by 2050 less than 22% of the timber will originate from Britain.
  • All the UK foresters interviewed for the report expressed grave concerns over the future of domestic softwood supply.

The report also sets out how sourcing timber from sustainably managed forests, will help protect the natural environment as forests not only provide timber but also supply a range of ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration, water provision, flood prevention, erosion control and biodiversity. Securing long-term supply of timber from sustainably managed forests, will help protect wildlife and ecosystem functions residing in these forests, as well assisting in securing wider social benefits, and is also a contributor to the bottom line of businesses utilising timber as a resource, which currently is as yet widely unaccounted for as a benefit, only as a cost.

Julia Young, Global Forest and Trade Network Manager for WWF-UK commented “Committing to sustainable timber sourcing isn’t just an added bonus, but is something that any timber dependent business must be investing in if they want a healthy and resilient business that will survive. This report sets out important areas in business functions where benefits are likely to accrue, but are not accounted for when making decisions about the overall cost benefit of sustainable sourcing. We can no longer rely on our usual sources of timber as unsustainable practices are having devastating consequences on forests, and we face a real danger of not having enough timber to satisfy our growing population needs.

“Businesses need to review how their timber is sourced if they want to secure supply for the future, and in keep timber prices stable. This will have tangible business benefits of sustainable practices including advantages in regulatory positioning, easier raising of finance, brand value and an engaged workforce. It also gives manufacturers maximum scope for product development and provides retailers with a full range of tradable goods. These business benefits can increase performance and ultimately aid the bottom line.

“The UK Government must lead by example and address sustainable forest use in the urgently upcoming 25 year plan for nature.”

A city covered in one million plants and 40,000 trees will soon be built in China to help tackle the long-standing air pollution problem that plagues the country at present.

Designed by Italian architect Stefano Boeri (who was also behind the ‘Vertical Forest’ tower in Milan) the entirely fabricated metropolis will contain over 40,000 trees and one million plants.
At its heart, the scheme is intended to subvert the notion that urban areas are more prone to poor air quality, by introducing natural measures to absorb tons of CO2 and pollutants.

China has long been swamped with poor air quality. Studies show that over a million premature deaths are attributed to pollution in the country each year. Chinese power plants emit as much nitrogen oxides (NOx) as all the cars in the world combined.

In 2016, China declared red alert for air quality in the capital city of Beijing, closing schools and factories and removing 50% of cars from the road for a temporary period. This seems to have served as a wakeup call for the government, who have since introduced a series of measures aimed at curbing their alarming emissions. As well as championing renewables as a form of energy, the authorities are now looking at more innovative solutions. Could the ‘forest city’ be part of the solution to a worsening crisis?

The ‘forest city’ is planned to be built in Liuzhou, Southern China by 2020.

Here’s what it will look like:

Built environment experts Arup have released a report entitled ‘The Urban Bio-Loop’ which highlights the need for more diverse material usage within construction. For an industry that specialises in boxes, is it time to think outside of it in terms of how we tackle very real issues such as climate change and overpopulation?

The publication aims to demonstrate that a different paradigm for materials in construction is in fact possible.

Organic waste from our cities and the countryside, traditionally managed through landfill, incineration and composting could be diverted – at least in part – to become a resource for the creation of construction engineering and architecture products before being fed back in the biological cycle at the end of their service life.

The use of organic waste in construction would possibly allow the exploitation of its untapped value with a positive impact not only from an environmental perspective but also from a technical, social and economic standpoint. In this project a number of organic waste streams have been identified, together with their applications in building construction as products. Some of them are already certified products used in some markets at global level. Some others need further research and investment before being ready to market.

In the short term these examples are a guideline for designers and practitioners for replacing some of the traditional architectural products with equivalents made with organic waste as a resource.

The report also explores to which extent both our cities and urban districts could become self-sustaining – at least partially – from a feedstock point of view. This would be through the active implementation of organic waste streams into the supply chain of building construction products. This vision entails on the one side cities and urban districts that could implement more effective recovery systems and processes to turn organic waste into a source of value, while on the other side they can be planned for growing natural construction materials.

The principles of Circular Economy would provide the rationale for a shift form a linear – disposal model – towards a circular value chain where organic waste is the main resource.