The Environment

 
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1.0          INTRODUCTION

1.1          HOUSE BUILDING IN THE UK

1.1.1      THE PAST

In the past homes have been designed on basis of a variety of needs, standards and perhaps whims. In the UK we have seen the comparatively sustainable pre industrial development give way to Victorian terraces, post war suburban sprawl and the tower blocks of the 60s and 70s.

A small number of individuals have suspected for some time that things could be a little better and have strived to improve our understanding. There have been pioneers building using LUCTs for many years[1], and whatever their motives, their innovations have stood testament to their beliefs.

1.1.2      THE PRESENT

In recent years we have seen an ever growing consciousness of mans impact on the environment, in my relatively short life time we have moved from inefficient visually bland housing to a place where concepts such as aesthetics and sustainability are considered a vital part of the planning and design process.

We see the use of new materials that can provide super insulative properties, we see changes in construction techniques to include timber framing, which has reduced carbon intensity of building projects, and seen decreased construction time.

 

But we also see the same reliance on concrete, brick, slate, and a realm of other trusted but energy intensive building materials, which in the case of slate may well be imported from as far away as China.

 

If we compare the mass housing of the Victorian era, to that of today’s we see many differences, but also many similarities.

 

Figure 1 - Typical Victorian Terrace[2]

Figure 2 - New Housing Development[3]

As with the past, in 2010 we see the same innovation in very limited niches where as ever a few pioneers struggle against the tide, but all in all houses continue to be adapted with no major rethink of the materials used or the form of the building.

 

We know there are more sustainable ways to build, we know that are better materials to use, but they stay in the realm of pilot projects, and are the “cover girls” of government literature[4]. In short these few buildings are still an aspiration rather than the norm.

 

Perhaps the embodiment of what I am trying to describe is an “Earthship”, I for one don’t want to live in an earthships, but couldn’t we borrow from its concepts such decentralised power supply, its onsite waste water treatment and using earth as insulation?

 

There is a reason we don’t see unusual housing designs around the country, especially in the sector of mass housing. What is that reason? What can be done to help people who want their house to be a statement of intent, rather than a product of a capitalist system?

 

Figure 3 - Earthship Brighton[5]

1.1.3      THE FUTURE

Government guidance is clear in the direction it wants house builders to precede, with The Code for Sustainable Homes as its back bone, and support from BRE and the likes, there are well defined specification, targets, and accreditations. The 2016 “Zero Carbon” target refers to operational carbon of new homes, we can expect the embodied carbon of homes to become a more pressing factor as it significance rises proportionally to lower operational carbon of new homes.

“The energy embodied in new construction and renovation each year accounts for about 10% of UK emissions”[6]

With this in mind would it not be the case that low embodied energy building materials should be used in construction. If we look in the green building guide ratings[7] for external wall construction, there is no mention of straw or cob[8]. This is perhaps because of the fact that straw and cob are non uniform non manufactured materials. In the case of cob they are dug out of the ground, mixed to the user’s specification, and despite good literature[9] there is no formal guidance / regulation from the government.

So at present we can only expect to see residential development follow the same pattern it has since the advent of mass housing in the Victorian era. A method of house building that relies on quantified standardisation of building materials, and ever more high tech solutions to problems that could perhaps be dealt with in a simpler manner.

1.2          WHY THIS TOPIC?

I have chosen this topic for a number of reasons:

  1. Gap in the current research: With regards to guidance for national and regional government with regards to changes that need to be made to achieve realisation of the countries flagging efforts in building more sustainable housing. The current system has emerged from a period of easy borrowing, and a cash rich government. Will the policy itself be sustainable?
  2. Expertise: Although I am a little hesitant in calling myself an expert in any field, I believe that this area of research very much matches my back ground, I have several years experience in Environmental Consulting, and I have further deepened my knowledge owing to the MSc in Water & Environmental Management I have been studying at Bristol University.

Whilst growing up I have spent many a summer holiday building houses with my farther, and now due to a shortage of work I find myself working in the same field, viewing with a fresh set of eyes to the materials I see in front of me.

  1. Frustration: This has lead me to frustration. Why are we still building with concrete, when there are so many good alternatives available? Why do large development companies still build the same type of house? It is these questions I hope to answer and identify what needs to be done to increase the  uptake of LUCTs

1.3          WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THIS RESEARCH

The purpose of this research is to reveal the obstacles that are stalling the wider uptake of LUCTs, and suggest solutions to which ever problems become apparent.

1.4          OBJECTIVES

  1. By reading a wide variety of literature, try to deduce which obstacles may be slowing the wider utilisation of LUCTs in the UK housing Industry.
  2. After identifying gaps in current literature further explore possible obstacles by conducting research in the form interviews and surveys.

 

1.5          LIMITATIONS

I am not an architect. I do not work in building control. I do not work in the risk assessment department of a large mortgage lender. I am almost certain that during this research I will make incorrect assumptions about a particular aspect of what I am trying to understand. I can only approach this research with the knowledge set I currently possess, further reading will enlighten me to some respect but I fear I may “miss the point” from time to time.

1.6          HOW IS THE DISSERTATION ARRANGED?

I have followed guidance from various sources, that I have found on the Bristol University Intranet and on External Websites, the structure the dissertation can be seen in the contents page, and is arranged in the traditional manner.

I do sincerely hope that this research will be of practical use to someone. Perhaps they may wish to build using LUCTs, give advice on them, or they are researching themselves. For these reasons I intend to publish this research as free on line content, as sub directory of my business’s website[10], the structure of the website will be broken down to provide easy navigation of content, definitions and further reading.

1.7          HYPOTHESIS

I predict that there will be number of obstacles that are barring the wider uptake of LUCTs in the UK. These may be for example regulatory or financial, but I predict that they must exist, as there is a well published need for easy to build low impact housing, but still the vast majority of housing is built using a methods of construction that rely heavily on centralised production of manufactured materials.

1.8          WHAT IS A LUCT?

A LUCT is a lesser used construction technique or material, and with regard to this research we can infer them to be of a low environmental impact and require a low skill set in their utilisation.

I have created this notation so as to group number of construction techniques and materials in to a more manageable expression. It describes techniques and materials that do not fit into the UKs high standardised, regulated, high value housing portfolio, yet they could be of massive benefit to the environment.

   

2.0          MAIN BODY

The Intention of chapter 2.0 is not to go in to great detail about the performance of LUCTs but to give incite in to why LUCTs may prove for some a valuable option when building houses.

To explain the merits of LUCTs in a detailed quantitative manner would require a dissertation of its own, perhaps one for each material. I aim to expose the obstacles to their wider use, and so this chapter can not dwell extensively in explanations of their properties and performance.

2.0.1      DESCRIPTION OF LUCTs IN TERMS OF DESIGN

Figure 4 - Very Basic Drawing of a House

Figure 4 Shows a typical UK house, and its simplified interactions with the environmental around it. 

 

We have arrived at this design from an evolution of the house over the centuries. It comes from among other things practicality, suitability, status and affordability. It may have been dictated by the skills available. Various historical taxes have changed the sizes of windows and have propagated various other design trends.

Now in 2010 the governments zero carbon commitment looms ever closer, and in a square plug in a round hole approach developers try to adapt yesterdays houses to meet today’s needs.

The idealist may suggest an earth sheltered house, which have been proven in the UK, and may yet prove popular, they have a part to play, but other alternative solutions may have to be considered. Using locally sourced materials such as straw, cob and sustainable unfinished timber, gives a building with a very low, in some cases negative, embodied carbon value, but ultimately the materials impact on its design, its feel and appearance. Many people may prize there modernity and living in a mud house is not their idea of 21st century living.

2.0.1.1   POSSIBLE MERITS OF LUCTs IN TERMS OF DESIGN

The form / design of LUCTs are largely influenced by the materials used. Straw and Cob houses may appear a little more rudimentary than conventional housing, but in terms of their shape they appear at first glance similar.

Earth sheltered housing is radically different in appearance to conventional dwellings, this is because there functionality is different to a conventional home, the thermal mass of the soil is used to regulate temperature, and as such they must be partially buried.

2.0.2      DESCRIPTION OF LUCTs IN TERMS OF MATERIALS

Energy performances of traditionally designed modern houses are ever increasing. Building regulations stipulated 25mm of insulation in 1974, and by 2006 this had increased 250mm[11]. With modern insulation materials such as Polysisocyanurate[12] foam delivering very low thermal conductivity values, we can expect further increases in performance as from 1st of October 2010.

It should be borne in mind however, that a lot of these low U value materials are very carbon intensive, and there are LUCTs available with comparatively low U values and much lower embodied carbon.

Table 1 : Minimum Requirements from Building Regulations

Parameter

2006[13] (Wm2.k)

2010[14] (Wm2.k)

Best Practice[15]

Walls

0.35

0.30

0.25

Floor

0.25

0.25

0.20

Roof

0.25

0.25

0.13

Windows

2.2

2.0

1.80

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0112

Figure 4 - Flats being built - Taunton

Building materials such as brick and concrete are still predominantly used, which rely on centralized Industry, here to the right we see a typical development of flats in Taunton, Somerset. No doubt that these flats will perform well in terms of energy efficiency, the 100mm thickness foil clad phenolic foam will ensure that, but what about the embodied energy?

BREEAM[16] has developed a “Green Guide”[17] which ways up the pros and cons of various construction materials, presented in a series of Environmental Profiles, and this will prove pivotal in the comparison of conventional construction methods and LUCTs. However, straw bales are only included as an insulation material, rather than a load bearing element. There is no mention of cob, or other LUCTs.

 

The process diagram below shows how these BREEAM Profiles are derived, and is effectively a simplified from of Life Cycle Analysis (LCA). Many LUCTs have very short life cycles, incorporating minimal transport and manufacturing.

Figure 5 - BREEAM Green Guide Method

[18]

 

Inputs might include:

  • Materials,
  • Transport Fuel,
  • Process Fuel,
  • Heat,
  • Water.

Outputs might include: Emissions to air

  • Discharge to water
  • Emissions to land
  • Products, co-products, by-products and wastes

 

 

2.0.3      POSSIBLE MERITS OF LUCTs IN TERMS OF MATERIALS

LUCTs offer low tech solutions to meeting zero carbon housing. LUCTs often include locally sourced materials that have no lengthy manufacturing process, and a result have lower embodied carbon.

If we take for an example a comparison between a cob wall, and a brick wall, we could observe that the bricks are baked clay, and are often transported from centralised manufacturing centres, such as the Barnsley Brick Pit.  Brick laying is a skilled operation.

With cob, for which there is well documented methodology[19] materials can be sourced easily from within a few miles of site, perhaps even on site.  With the regards to England Clough remarks;

“There is no county in the kingdom that has not considerable areas where soil would, if tried, prove well adapted for cob-building”

He also remarks on the remarkably low level of skill required:

“What is most interesting is the workmen’s lack of experience, which seemed to be of no hindrance”

Similar practical guidance is given on building with straw, and end of life tires, in other literature[20]/[21]. They describe LUCTs as affordable, sustainable and low tech solutions to achieving low / negative embodied and operational carbon characteristics in buildings.

 

Figure 6 - Amozonails Standard U-Values[22]

Low tech LUCTs can also perform, very well. Amozonails is a company specialising in straw bale construction, and indicates that its methods can offer high performance. Table Left.

With regard to cob the following observation should noted;

 

“… whilst a typical new dwelling having walls constructed of masonry and

High performance insulants, will achieve acceptable limiting U values, the dwelling

emission rate does not take into account the CO2 used in the material production

and transportation.”[23]

 

This low embodied energy is a merit of cob building, and cob walls perform fairly well in terms of their thermal conductivity;

 

“U-values for 600mm wide cob of 0.66 W/m2 K, and 0.55 W/m2K” [24]

 

although unfortunately they require additional insulation in order to meet building regulations, this could be mitigated by making the walls thicker or adding extra insulation. Despite this weakness they still form an insulative and load bearing envelope, with very low embodied carbon values.

2.1          REGULATORY OBSTACLES

2.1.1      THE NATIONAL STRATEGY

“A quarter of the UK’s current carbon emissions (around 150 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year) arise from the way we heat, light and run our homes. We want to increase protection of the environment by cutting carbon emissions, and we want all new homes to be zero carbon from 2016.”[25]

There is no doubt what so ever when it comes to the governments overarching principles with regards to sustainability. There are well established driver policies for the encouragement of sustainable homes[26], and there is a means of rating these homes in terms of the sustainability[27].

But when the zero carbon targets are met in 2016, and further improvements are needed, a possible solution may be the use of LUCTs, which in terms of their environmental credentials fit in very well indeed, but they may encounter problems at a local level . . .

2.1.2      LOCAL PLANNING AUTHORITIES

Anyone with any knowledge of the planning system will know that Local Planning Authorities are adverse to out of the box designs when it comes to housing, if the design does not fit in with its surroundings then it has a lesser chance of being successful as part of a planning application.

“With regards to non-standard construction; Planning consent is still an issue, but many developers/ manufacturers are making houses  ‘traditional’ in appearance to make the point that there is no need to think of them as being different” [28]

This may lead developers to;

“negate the potential benefits in the use of prefabrication*”[29]

The BRE report cited is focused on all non traditional building in the UK, most of which have been designed to look similar to traditional building i.e. those manufactured from bricks and motor. Why have we become entrenched in this style of building homes?

Figure 7 - Not Practical!

Zero Carbon is a well publicised goal. However just as a footballs team’s ambition might be to win the world cup, there may be problems encountered whilst turning aims in to results.

On a local level designs have to be practical, they have to blend in with other buildings in the area. They are restricted in terms of their maximum height, the external materials and in some cases must match existing historic neighbours.

Their environmental benefits will have little bearing on whether permission in granted or not;

“. . . the fact that a house is built with straw walls is of very little concern to planners”[30]

However, on the whole we must assume that as an alternative to dwellings meeting minimum environmental targets, especially in the in areas of affordable and mass housing that LUCTs will be looked upon favourably by Local Planning Authorities, provided they fit in with their generic requirements for planning approvals.

Large scale projects such as The Lizard in Brighton have been successful in there planning applications. It could be noted however that Brighton and Hove is perhaps one of the “greener” councils in the UK, which since the 2010 general election has taken on a literal meaning with the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas, being elected.

 

Figure 8 - Lizard Community - Planning Application[31]

 

2.1.3      BUILDING REGULATIONS

Figure 9 - Extract from Planning Application[32]

The extract to the left shows the apparent reactions of building control to the unorthodox building techniques used in LUCTs. We can assume that building regulations are not an obstacle to the Earthship Principal as the original pilot project in Brighton has been completed, and further development with this design is planned in the future.

Barbara Jones notes that building regulations are written to:

“cover the most common types of twentieth century building materials, that is concrete, brick and timber”[33]

So although it is possible to build using LUCTs it is the very least going to be more difficult.

2.1.4      STANDARDS

Many commonly used building materials are well standardised, as are manufactured environmental products such as insulation board etc. Concrete blocks for example have a great selection of standards relating to them[34] and there is standardised guidance for mortars which are suitable for use with them.[35]

When we look at straw bales, tyres, or any other non manufactured product we find that there is often no standard with regards to the material. Whilst it is easy to standardise a manufactured product like an insulation block, standardising a straw bale or a hazel dowel is not really possible due to the natural variation of the material. There is of course un-officiated guidance often of a very high standard. But it will not fit in to a neat list with other standardised materials, especially when making quantitative comparisons.

There are standards for manufactured straw products[36]  although these are generally manufactured and distributed in the normal centralised manner. One very good idea is “Modcell[37]” a modular straw bale panelling system. Unlike other remotely manufactured products these panels are manufactured with in a flying factory. This cuts down on the element of carbon generated by transport. Again this system does not have a relevant standard, but hopefully it may be able to associate its self with one in the future.

2.1.5      OTHER PROBLEMS

Another peculiar regulatory obstacle encountered was that of waste regulations, tyres used in construction at the Earthship Brighton pilot project. Tyres are classed as controlled waste under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, it would have been necessary to apply for Waste Management licence. In this instance we saw the project was given an exemption from regulations. This exemption is now been nationally implemented under the Environmental Permitting Regulations. A “U1 – Use of waste in construction”[38], exemption can be applied for.

2.2          MORTGAGES

“getting a mortgage for a straw bale house can be difficult as can insuring it”[39]

Are problems in securing finance for LUCTs? What is the theory behind lending, and how can it be changed?

2.2.1      EXISTING GUIDANCE FOR LENDERS

2.2.1.1   LPS 2020

LPS 2020[40] is a Standard released by the BRE it aims to:

“encourage methods of construction whilst maintaining acceptable levels of safety and durability” and “create confidence in the use of such methods in residential construction”

It is specifically aimed at;

 “Council of Mortgage Lenders and Lenders (and) Surveyors”

as well as a number of other key sectors such as insurers and building control. The standard consists of a 30 page document which gives real technical guidance, and recommendations, with an aim to providing a certification.  Sections 1 - 3 of the report outline current literature, section 4 containing the requirements of the standard.

Mechanical Resistance and Stability is covered in section 4.1, it refers heavily to building regulations, and as such represents little improvement of current inflexibilities, nor will the standard bolster confidence in lenders and insurers. However, it would appear that there are various methods such as “verification by calculation” there are various British Standards relating to this form of verification.

Section 4.1.2.3 states that

“design of systems elements and components shall be carried out by a qualified structural engineer in accordance with relevant material and structural standards”

I would question as to whether a “structural standard” exists for straw bales or car tyres, and as such is LPS 2020 any use at all, with regards to LUCTs. We might expect to find structural standards for concrete blocks, or more recently even structural insulation panels, due to their increased frequency of use in the industry. 

2.2.2      HOPE?

2.2.2.1   LENDERS WITH A GREEN AGENDA

There are various lenders which have “green” initiatives with regards to The Co-operative Bank and The Norwich & Peterborough Building Society[41], but these schemes are based more on the bank’s behaviour than the consumer, largely relying of tree planting initiatives for offset.

One potential source of hope for the future is the Ecology Building Society[42], they have a “unique lending criteria” and since their inception they have been committed to mortgage.

2.2.2.2   HELP FROM THE GOVERNMENT

It might be assumed that LUCTs will incorporate some form of renewable power generation on the basis that developers / builders of such homes will have a strong environmental agenda. The recently introduced feed in tariff[43] for renewable energy may prove a boost for LUCTs

2.3          LAND PRICES

Since the most recent housing boom (2000-2007) we have seen land prices increase dramatically, alongside residential housing.  As a percentage of the build cost land prices has also risen. Whilst we have seen an inflationary rise in the cost of building materials, land prices have increased rather more rapidly.

Figure 10 - Graph of House Prices in relation to Plot Prices

[44]

The graph above shows house prices for Taunton, Somerset UK. In the 1990’s[45] the cost of a building plot would represent around 25% of the total build costs, now in 2010 it can represent up to 50% of the build costs. This must drive developers to consider how to make best use of what land they have.

To list a few examples of LUCTs that may be affected as a result of this trend:

  1. Earthships: Mischa Hewitt & Kevin Telfer[46] note that;

earthships solving the zero carbon housing shortage is practically a non starter”

One of the reasons given is their low density, it is unrealistic that this particular form of LUCT will become more popular as land prices rise proportionately against build costs, as developers, however committed to the environment will seek to make better use of the land that they have purchased.

  1. Straw bale: Although a straw bale wall may have an impressive u-value, and a negative carbon footprint, it could be noted that building a house with walls that are around 600mm in thickness, is not making good use of high value land, the smaller the units the more of issue this will be due to the walls foot print area as a proportion of the entire buildings footprint.

 Although out of context in this discussion, it can be noted that housing density is beneficial in terms of efficiency, terraced housing systems (which may incorporate LUCTs) have a lesser surface area (heat loss), and higher density housing has been shown to use less resources[47], this may count against low density LUCTs.

2.4          FINANCING

Just as individuals may be jittery about building LUCTs on proportionately expensive land, banks may also be hesitant about pouring their own money in to projects with a higher risk.

Traditional lending models from high street banks[48] rely solely on return. Lending is based on track record, and gearing[49] is likely to be low. When such large amounts of the builder’s / developer’s money are at stake, it can be no wonder that the “tried and tested” designs are the more favourable route to take.

As with mortgage lenders business banking is guided by a written “lending policy” these documents are “internal documents” and as such not available for viewing, to the public or researchers.

There are however, other sources of finance available.

2.4.1      SOURCES OF FINANCE

2.4.1.1   THE GREEN INVESTMENT BANK

The GIB[50] was set up with £1 billion with an aim to;

“to support the delivery of the UK’s emission reduction targets as set by the Climate Change Act 2008”[51]

It identifies that there is a;

“challenge of making large numbers of small, low carbon investments attractive to institutional investors.”

 

But how much of this money will go towards helping the proliferation of LUCTs? From reading the above report[52] it would seem that the GIB is primarily interested in infrastructure, and we can expect to see most of the money disappearing in to expensive large scale generation schemes, or “enhancement” of existing schemes (Carbon Capture etc).

2.4.1.2   FUNDING ON A LOCAL LEVEL

For community development initiatives[53];

·         Community Development Finance Institutions

·         District Council's Executive Committee

·         DEFRA’s Rural Social and Community Fund

·         Housing Associations

 

2.4.1.3   PRIVATE FINANCING

 

On a smaller scale LUCT projects are often funded by passionate individuals. These might include;

 

·         Jon Broome - Project Managed and funded the construction a green hone in South London. Many LUCTs were employed, its design and construction.[54]

·         Earthship Brighton - The visitor centre for the Low Carbon Trust was the second Earth ship to be built in the UK. This project was again privately funded.[55]

 

2.5          POPULAR PERCEPTION

When marketing any product market research is a vital part of any would be successful companies operating procedure. We know the UK is short of houses, and this need must create a demand in the market. But what shape does the demand take? What do the public want?

2.5.1      HOW IS THE PERCEPTION FORMED?

Painting the Town Green[56] gives an interesting look in to the mind set of three UK family of differing “greenness”. Most people over the age of 30 are probably self educated when it comes to environmental matters and those who rely on the common media for this education sea a wishy washy argument that is provided by the tabloids, and more importantly television.

For every one person that watches “Grand Designs”[57] and is inspired to build a house out of straw and go and live in the woods, there is another who will laugh, walk outside and wash his 20 mpg BMW in drinking grade tap water, because he has been brainwashed by the likes of Jeremy Clarkson whilst watching Top Gear.

 

 

 

 

 

2.5.2      WHAT THE PEOPLE WANT?

Figure 11 - George Wimpey - Hornchurch[58]

The picture to the left shows a future development planned by George Wimpy in Hornchurch. Why do developers build homes in this way?

 

Gladly we can see a smattering of solar panels, and one would hope that the there is good natural lighting etc, but visually in terms of the external cladding material and the shape and layout, you are effectively looking at a Victorian terrace. (Developers only build semi detached because they have higher demand ergo larger profits.[59])

 

With regards to the aim of this area of my research I would suggest that houses continue to be built in this way for primarily two reasons:

1.       Meeting their customers’ needs, i.e. they are building the type of house that the consumer wants, the type of house that sells. Or;

2.       They are operating under the illusion that the above type of house is what the public wants, and that faced with a choice the public would choose something more like the homes below.

Figure 12 - BedZED[60]

There are large scale developments occurring which utilise LUCTs, such as the bedZED development (above).

“The community comprises 50% housing for sale, 25% key worker shared ownership and 25% social housing for rent.” [61]

50% of the homes at bedZED were purchased by people; did they have problems overcoming their perception of what a house should be like?

Below are some like and dislikes mentioned in a survey of residents at bedZED. I have struck off the comments I believe are irrelevant in the context of this discussion.

Likes

Dislikes

[62]

 

We can see that many of the problems are associated with a method of building that is in its infancy, i.e. technology that is not working, lack of well being might be improved upon by advance in technology such as better double glazing etc.

In terms of the home owners perception of the building we can see that living in a LUCTs is “liked” by a majority of participants in this particular survey, and “dislikes” although of a significant are considerably less.

The public’s perception is an important part of wider acceptance of LUCTs, and as such I will expand on this line of questioning within chapter 3.1.

2.6          DEMAND

There is a strong demand for housing in the UK[63]. Both in terms of people waiting for social housing and wishing buy affordable properties.

High demand cannot be considered to be an obstacle to the wider uptakes of LUCTs. In fact high demand should drive innovation in the area of sustainable building methods.

2.7          PRICE OF LUCTs

It can be noted that the price of LUCTs can be at either end of the pricing spectrum, just as conventionally built homes may be designed to a lavish specification or be built in an affordable manner.

When comparing homes on large scale housing development we can notice a marked increase in sale prices;

“Additional features needed to make a house zero carbon could add between £35,000 and £50,000”[64]

large “zero carbon” developments such as Hanham Hall, near Bristol[65], will fetch premium prices. 

Conversely many  LUCTs seek to empower the individual, and are suited to cost effective self build, small scale developments,  one such example is an affordable housing scheme in Dorset[66], which has built straw bale homes at a comparatively low cost;

“£700 per square metre to build, compared with about £1,100 per square metre using conventional techniques.”[67]

 

A further example of low cost housing is the Hockerton Housing Project in Southwell, Nottinghamshire;

 

“advantages of the project is the low cost of construction - just £65,000 per house”[68]

 

Also it should be noted that many LUCTS are installed with energy saving features, and generation capacity which will help offset potentially higher costs. Introduction of the governments Feed in Tariffs can only help in this matter.

 

2.8          THE RECESSION

 

In its round table on Carbon Reduction[69]  the Guardian News Paper recognised that;

 

Future spending on sustainability will be at risk because in a year or two there will be a squeeze on public finances”

 

A reduction in public sector spending will have knock on detrimental effect of private sector businesses, including house builders.

 

Despite pressing economic times sustainability is still high on the agenda for many;

 

68% saying sustainability was either ‘very’ or ‘highly’ important”[70]

 

Although many are sceptical of the government ambitions with regards to zero carbon housing.

 

“76% of respondents think that the Government’s plans for making all new housing zero carbon by 2016 are unrealistic”[71]

3.0          METHODOLOGY

From extensive (but by no means exhaustive) reading of available literature I have deduced that there are a number of gaps in available data. I aim to fill these gaps by sourcing my own data.

3.1          PUBLIC PERCEPTION SURVEY

Surveys were used to fill gaps in understanding with regard to public perception. It is important to gauge public perception of LUCTs as this may act as a barrier to their wider uptake.

3.1.1      PREDICTIONS

I predicted that the public’s perception of what constitutes an acceptable construction method would be so clear that a very limited survey would prove my “point” in this regard.

3.1.2      SURVEY METHODOLOGY

In order to provide useful data a test methodology was used when designing the survey.

 

Figure 13 - Survey Methodology[72]

It became clear that a high response rate was extremely important. And owing to limited times and resources on my part I had to use a survey method that produce high response yet returned answers to the questions, I posed;

 

“Low response is the curse of statistical analysis”[73]

 

When I am striding through town, on my way to the bank, and someone flaps a piece of paper at me I rarely, if ever stop to answer their questions. Time is of essence for many people. So I felt I should approach data collection in a very time conscience manner. Gauging people’s reactions without the need for them to even stop walking. I proposed to use a set of flash boards, pictures of which are presented in section 3.1.3. In this way I could cut down a pedestrian’s participation time to perhaps five seconds, thus improving response rate, ergo certainty.

 

 

3.1.3      QUESTIONS TO BE ANSWERED

3.1.3.1   WHICH HOUSE WOULD YOU LIKE TO LIVE IN?

Members of the public were presented with the board shown below and asked to choose their preferred design. As mentioned above the idea was to encourage as much participation as possible.

 

The pictures on the board included various designs of houses. There were designed to show that people are not keen on change, especially when it comes to choosing a place to live.

 

The pictures were all off three bedroom houses, and they were all detached properties, this was done to ensure that the size / or presumed value of the house did influence peoples decision.

 

The pictures were changed to black and white, and they were cropped so as to remove their “setting” from the decision process.

 

The images were chosen in the hope that they might divide opinion.

The images shown were only intended to assess the perception of the form of the building, and not the material it is made from.

Picture A – Shows a typical thatched house, built out of natural stone. Thatch could certainly be classed as LUCT, whilst natural stone is more widely used in present day construction projects. For the purpose of this study I have classified this house as conventional. This choice represents conventional historic building methods.

Picture B – Shows a detached house on a proposed George Wimpy[74] Development. This is a very “standard” in its design; it is this house that I predict will be the most popular. For the purpose of this study I have classified this house as conventional. This choice represents current mass building methods.

Picture C – Shows a new zero carbon home from the Barret Hanham Hall[75] development, this house is high tech ergo presumably high cost. For the purpose of this study I have classified homes within the Hanham Hall Development as LUCTs. This choice represents future mass building methods.

Picture D – Shows the Earth ship Brighton[76], which I predict will be visually unappealing to most, because an earth ship is half buried, it does not show its full size. For the purpose of this study I have classified Earth ships as LUCTs. This choice represents pioneer building methods.

Picture E- Shows a low tech cob built house[77], with a thatched roof. This house will have very low embodied energy. For the purpose of this study I have classified cob built homes as LUCTs. This choice represents low tech building methods.

3.1.3.2   WHAT WOULD YOU DEEM AS SUITABLE BUILDING MATERIALS?

Just as people’s perception of what form a house should take will influence uptake of LUCTs so will the materials that are used. In common culture we often hear;

“An English man’s home is his castle”,

the thought of a home as a place of permanence, safety and strength. Tales of foolish pigs with straw houses can only impound the issue. So we may expect the average English person to want to live in an over engineered structure that will last for thousands of years??

The second survey question was whether the public’s perception of building materials would affect uptake of LUCTs.

As with the housing form survey, a flash board was used to display a number of materials, a selection of fairly standard day to day materials that people will recognise, and some others they will recognise, but not necessarily trust as building materials.

I predicted that familiar, standardised construction materials will prove more popular with participants, thus proving that use of unfamiliar construction materials in LUCTs further inhibits there wider uptake by the end user, the general public.

The materials included and a brief justification for their inclusion are described such forth;

A – OSB Board – OSB board features heavily in many new “sustainable developments, it is often incorporated within structural insulant, and is used a supporting backing for external cladding etc. Eligible for use in LUCTs, but for purposes of the survey this will be classified as a conventional building material.

 

B – Concrete Block – Perhaps the most ubiquitous building materials of the last 30 years. A reliable contender with dubious environmental credentials. Seldom used as part of LUCTs.

C – Brick – Another widely used and externally visible construction material. Again with a high environmental impact. Seldom used as part of LUCTs.

D – Natural Stone (Cornish Blue) – Widely used in the past, and certainly a premium product in more recent years. A firm favourite? For purposes of the survey this will be classified as a conventional building material.

E – Straw – Straw is well known as a roofing material which may well aid is cause in the survey. This material will be classified as a LUCT.

 

F – Unfinished Wood – Personally I love the look of unfinished wood. But will others find it a little rudimentary? Unfinished wood can be easily sourced locally and as such is a very environmentally beneficial material to be included in LUCTs.

G – Cob – A house that may well survive 250 years, is durable. But as with unfinished wood, will it be seen as a bit backwards? Cob is one of the lowest embodied energy building materials available. This material will be classified as a LUCT.

H – Tyres- A great way to use up unwanted and costly waste, they are the back bone of earth ships, and have been used as foundations in affordable housing projects. But really? Fancy living in a house built with tyres! I predict these will not be a popular choice. This material will be classified as a LUCT.

I predicted that people would opt for familiar building materials.

3.1.4      METHOD OF DATA COLLECTION

3.1.4.1   LOCATION

For reasons of convenience the town of Taunton, Somerset was chosen for the survey. Taunton has a population of approximately 61,400 in 2001[78]. It has low unemployment at 4.1%.

As an indication of the environmental performance of the area Taunton Deane Council currently recycles 48%[79] of refuse. Obviously this is due to a number of factors but some of this success must be attributed to education of the populous on green issues.

3.1.4.2   WORKINGS OF SURVEY

The pedestrian survey was undertaken in the centre of Taunton and a number of locations were used for the collection of data, order to avoid bias.

Pedestrians were approached and asked the question relevant to each flash board being used. The answer was written on the back of the board using felt tip pen. The sample was stratified by recording adult and child results separately. A dot was placed over a recorded answer if it came from a person judged too young to be “in the market” for buying a house.

3.1.4.3   SAMPLE SIZE

As is common with surveys of this type a margin of error of 5% was deemed appropriate[80], with a confidence level of 95%. With a population size of 61,000 the calculated sample size was 382. These values were calculated using the figures below.

Field values were considerable less than the calculated values when taken in terms of the separate “materials” and “design” survey. This resulted in a higher margin of error for these data sets of 5.97% and 5.52% respectively.

Figure 14 - Equations Used to Define Population[81]

However, when combined the sample size increases giving a total sample size of 582 giving a margin of error of 4.04%.

3.1.4.4   LIMITATIONS

The following limitations were considered;

 

 

3.1.4.5   OBSERVATION OF PARTICIPANTS

Below are a number of observations I noticed whilst carrying out the survey work.

I found that people were “second guessing” they would say things like “well that one looks the most eco- friendly” and choose that mentioned house. Which was not what the original question was, they were guessing what house I wanted them to choose, rather than the house they wanted to choose.

3.1.5      SURVEY FINDINGS

3.1.5.1   MATERIALS SURVEY FINDINGS

MATERIALS SURVEY

Materials

Adult

Child

Totals

% Adult

% Child

%  Totals

OSB

11

3

14

5

5

5

Concrete

5

0

5

2

0

2

Brick

62

23

85

30

38

32

Stone

57

23

80

27

38

30

Straw

22

2

24

11

3

9

Wood

31

5

36

15

8

13

Cob

14

4

18

7

7

7

Tyres

6

0

6

3

0

2

Pop

208

60

268

100

100

100

 

Question: “When buying new home which of the materials on the board would be you preferred construction material?”

Traditional Building materials namely brick and stone took 62% of the vote, with Unfinished Wood being the third largest at 13%. If we group the materials in to groups of;

a)      Conventional and;

b)      Those used in LUCTs

 

We can see that;

 

MATERIALS SURVEY

Grouping

Adult

Child

Totals

% Adult

% Child

% Totals

Conventional

135

51

186

65

85

69

LUCTs

73

9

82

35

15

31

Pop

208

60

268

100

100

100

 

In total 69% of participants opted for conventional materials. The groupings are explained in the table below.

Group

Materials

Conventional

OSB, Concrete, Brisk, Stone

Used in LUCTs

Straw, Unfinished Wood, Cob, Tyres

 

In terms of materials we can see that there is a strong tendency in preference of conventional building materials.

3.1.5.2   DESIGN SURVEY FINDINGS

DESIGN SURVEY

Design

Adult

Child

Totals

% Adult

% Child

% Totals

Traditional Stone (A)

82

10

92

32

17

29

Traditional Mass (B)

59

14

73

23

24

23

Zero Mass ( C)

18

15

33

7

25

11

Earth Ship (D)

45

15

60

18

25

19

Cob & Thatch (E)

51

5

56

20

8

18

Pop

255

59

314

100

100

100

 

Unlike the “materials” survey there is no strong tendencies in the “design” survey, traditionally built building did receive more votes but on balance, the results were spread more evenly. If we group the materials in to groups of;

a)      Conventional and;

b)      Those used in LUCTs

 

We can see;

DESIGN SURVEY

Grouping

Adult

Child

Totals

% Adult

% Child

% Totals

Conventional

141

24

165

55

41

53

LUCTs

114

35

149

45

59

47

Pop

255

59

314

100

100

100

 

 There is a 53%/47% in favour of Conventional designs, which I find to be inconclusive in terms of gauging the public’s perception.

The groups were established as follows;

 

Group

Materials

Conventional

Stone and Thatch Historic, Brick Built Mass Housing,

Used in LUCTs

Zero Carbon Mass Housing, Modern Cob & Thatch, Earth Ship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.1.5.3   COMBINED SURVEY FINDINGS

When grouping the results as above it is possible to combine data from the “materials” survey and the “design” survey to give an overall view with regards to the public’s perception of LUCTs.

COMBINED

Grouping

Adult

Child

Totals

% Adult

% Child

% Totals

Conventional

276

75

351

60

63

60

LUCTs

187

44

231

40

37

40

Pop

463

119

582

100

100

100

 

Overall we can see that conventional materials and designs attracted 60% of the vote.

3.2          SOURCING INFORMATION WITH REGARDS TO FINANCING OF LUCTs

I was clear from the literature review conducted within chapter 2.2 and 2.4, that further information was needed on the process by which lending is approved on unusual building projects, which may include LUCTs.

This was an area that I considered I would have guaranteed success; I even have contacts that work in risk assessment for a major high street building society, so I expected that a request for information would find its way in to the right. This was not the case.

Never the less I will state my intentions, and reveal what little information I did obtain.

3.2.1      QUESTIONS

 It is easy to find superficial information with regards to lending practices. Any of the larger conventional financial institutions have websites that provide information on Ethics, Who they lend to and how much they will lend. It was my intention to source information on the mechanisms of this lending, and as such indentify which aspects of their structure might have an impact on the wider uptake of LUCTs.

3.2.1.1   QUESTIONS INTENDED FOR THE ECOLOGICAL BUILDING SOCIETY

The question were are followed;

1.       What is different about the Ecological Building Society in the way it works? -  I have read your website. I need to know which part of your “rule book” states that is OK to lend on unusual properties. Who wrote this rule book? I realize you may not have a document called a rule book. But what is the closest thing to a rule book that you do have.

2.       Where did your initial funding come from?

3.       When you source money for your operation do you find that it costs you more in terms of interest / assurances due to a higher risk portfolio?;

4.       Is your business deemed to have a higher risk than the mainstream equivalents?

 

3.2.1.2   QUESTIONS INTENDED FOR CHELTENHAM AND GLOUCESTER

The questions were as followed;

1.       How do you judge the risk of lending with regards to a property?

2.       When a surveyor assesses a building with regards to its suitability for mortgage lending, what sort of information does the report contain?  . .

3.       How do you then translate this in to a Yes / NO Lending Decision?

4.       Do you know of any examples when C&G have leant on new properties that were unusual in terms of their construction?. . . . .

5.       If so can you give details

 

3.2.1.3   QUESTION INTENDED TO BE PUT TO THE NATIONWIDE

As per 3.2.1.2

3.2.3      METHODS OF CONTACT AND FINDINGS

In order to arrange an interview I tried a number of different methods.

3.2.3.1   TELEPHONE

Many people joke of the notoriety of telephone switch boards for wasting people’s time. My experience was seldom amusing.

The problem was that there are many specialist teams i.e. “Press 1 for Mortgages”. Or “Press 2 for Insurance”.  Unfortunately there is no “Press X for Enquires relating to academic studies”, and so I ended up being passed around, because no one would answer my questions, whether they couldn’t or weren’t allowed too, I can’t say.

Eventually I tried “Can I speak to your advisor” and this often resulted in the same kind of problem as their subordinates. Most of the useful information I gained from these calls is presented in section 3.2.3.1.1 (below).

3.2.3.1.1 LENDING TERMS

 

When talking to a customer service representative at Nationwide, I managed to obtain the following information:

 

When assessing particular properties a mortgage advisor, working for a large high street lender will at first refer to a set of “lending terms”. This consists of a list of building designs that have various lending terms attached to them.

 

Appendix 3 shows the information sourced from Nationwide with regard to Lending Terms this information is summarised in the table[83] below.

Lending Terms

Construction types which might be classed as sustainable.

Frame Type

Lending Term A (Acceptable)

A-Frame (Nucleus Projects Limited)

 

Anvil

 

Anvil 6B

Timber

 

Timber

 

 

Timber

 

Lending Term B (Unacceptable)

 

Aberdeen Corporation

 

 

Timber

Lending Term C (Unacceptable)

 

No Examples

No Examples

Lending Term D  (Acceptable)

 

No Examples

No Examples

Lending Term E (Acceptable)

 

No Examples

No Examples

Lending Term F

 

Applies to certain types of PRC construction.

 NA. Precast Concrete

 

The list supplied did not include techniques such as straw bale, earth sheltered, or Earthship, are these merely variation of an existing design or are they techniques in their own rite.

It is very apparent that successful lending is secured by the structural survey element of the process for example lending term E is;

“Acceptable for houses and bungalows not more than two storeys in height, provided that a survey and appraisal from a structural engineer is available in accordance with the BRE.”

3.2.3.2   EMAIL

Proved utterly fruitless.

3.2.3.3   VISITS

On visiting branches of Nationwide and Cheltenham and Gloucester, I was advised that there was no one in branch privy to the kind of information I was after. I was recommended to ring head office which lead to the same problems as encountered in 3.2.3.1

 

 

4.0          CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

4.1          REGULATORY

4.1.1      CONCLUSIONS

It would appear that with regards to planning and regulation LUCTs are not impossible, just more difficult. They do not hold any special favour with regulators and as such with regard to the average house builder there is no benefit commercially in changing your operating procedure, to building with LUCTs.

In Spain[84] they have a different planning system, which is rather more flexible, especially at the individual / family level. To build a property with the intention of sale, full regulations apply. However, if an individual is building, and merely wants to provide accommodation for themselves and their family then the regulations are significantly slackened. The down side being that the property cannot be sold for any reason.

Perhaps it would be beneficial to implement a similar scheme in the UK. Obviously where people build should be tightly regulated, but in terms of what they build, could not regulatory obstacles be eased somewhat to enable the wider uptake of LUCTs.

I live in a cob house, it was built in 1750. Bearing this is mind who could possibly say that cob is not a durable material. I think in the UK we have a tendency to over engineer our buildings, whether this arises from the regulations themselves, or there are other driving factors, is a matter for further discussion.

4.1.2      SOLUTIONS

With regard to regulatory obstacles for LUCTs I would envisage the following.

Planning would remain as it is. Planning at present does a good job of encouraging sustainability in buildings. LUCTs are “out of the box” but they are valuable in terms of their environmental credentials. Any planning officer would no doubt support any form low carbon home if it fits in the strategic planning guidance for his / her particular county / city council.

Building Control is a major stumbling block for LUCTs. Perhaps it is not the “Building Control”  that is the problem, but the writing of regulations themselves, their quantitative content is very much aimed at manufactured “ISO9001” type materials. Cob, Straw and Waste Tyres have rather variable qualities, and do not fit in to this model.  Could the government or a relevant NGO fund a program to standardise the materials used in LUCTs for example;

BS3456 – Specification for Cob Walls in Dwellings

or

BS2345 – Use of Tyres as a construction material

Funding for such documentation may not come from the private sector as who would benefit? There is no manufacturer who would reap the financial benefit from selling newly standardised product, as no manufacturing is needed in the creation of these materials. I would like to see such funding given, but with wide spread public sector pay cuts forecast in the next few years where will the money come from?

Perhaps funding could come from companies wishing to offset there carbon. Large companies could fund the research needed and as such offset the carbon against the saving made in using low embodied carbon LUCTs instead of conventional building materials. Suitable companies might include Tesco[85] who already have well an established green agenda, as well as the commitments under CRC etc.

Carbon based funding could be given to an institute such as in Germany;

“The Passivhaus-Institut promotes and establishes standards for the Passive House - Passivhaus international program for Low-energy houses and other low-energy building techniques and structures.”[86]

4.1.3      LIMITATIONS

Government Documentation is well published and highly accessible. I believe therefore that the reading carried out with regards to this line of investigation was well covered. The government’s use of the internet to disseminate information makes content highly “searchable” and relevant litrature can easily be found.

4.2          MORTGAGE LENDING

4.2.1      CONCLUSIONS

I conclude that is very difficult extracting information from financial institutions with regards to their operating procedures. Nationwide, C&G, Lloyds have all been contacted and on the hole have been non responsive. It would appear the information I am seeking is contained within the confidential documents, and as such I will have to either get a job in a building society, or remain ignorant.

On the whole getting a home loan on LUCT will be difficult, since the credit crunch lending has become more and more risk averse[87].  Insurance also takes a similar line, with LUCTs being outside companies risk classification structure.

Help may be at hand from specialist lenders, such as the Ecological Building Society, but unfortunately I am unable to discuss their methods as they were just as unresponsive to communications as the other lending institutions.

 

4.2.2      SOLUTIONS

Perhaps the government good guarantee loans on LUCTs to help individuals but more importantly large companies build with low tech un-standardised materials without risk of financial short comings.  However, I do not think that building with mud and straw is very high up on the agenda of a newly formed government.

Again the answer may come from the private sector, and companies may accept the higher risks involved in order to flout their environmental superiority[88].

I think the biggest element that will help with mortgages is time. As 2016 approaches and more and more unusual zero carbon houses pop up on the scene. For example Hanham Hall[89] incorporates unusual buildings, and lenders will have to be found.

Another solution may be found in the tenure of the property. Local housing associations could lease people a plot of land for 100 years and they could build their own homes on the site. Historically this has been a popular tenure option.

Social housing may be well suited to LUCTs.

4.2.3      LIMITATIONS

I am dissatisfied with the content and quality of the information present in this line of investigation. It is also the area that I spent most time in trying to source information.

The shear lack of reading material available due to confidentiality etc, is very evident when search for such documents on the internet. Although lenders such as the ecological building society presented a very helpful façade, detailed information was impossible to come by. Although I understand that they (Ecological Building Society) are different I do not understand why. Similarly with conventional lenders such as the Nationwide, and as such I cannot compare lending models.

I also feel that the hours spent being passed around various switch boards could have been better spent elsewhere.

4.3          LAND PRICES

4.3.1      CONCLUSIONS

The proportionate increase in land prices over that last 20 years can only be damaging to the wider uptake of LUCTs.  Most LUCTs have a higher area to occupancy ratio, and as such represent poor value, when utilising poor value building land.

4.3.2      SOLUTIONS 

Again, LUCTs may prove most suitable for affordable housing. Land price per residential unit is normally lower, and so perhaps there is a higher land area budget available per residential unit. After all low tech materials such as straw are cheaper[90], and so given regulatory support they may be a popular option with affordable homes where budgets are often tight.

The recession has seen some fluctuation in property prices, with further public sector job cuts forecast in 2011 will we see spiralling property prices. This n turn will lead to proportional land prices being lowered.

4.3.3      LIMITATIONS

In many respects this one of the more simple facts to demonstrate. Good quality, data is readily available for property prices through the Land Registry. Therefore I would hope this line of investigation proved accurate.

4.4          FINANCING

4.4.1      CONCLUSIONS

For a number of factors mentioned in the main body financing from conventional lending, is not influenced by the materials or techniques used in particular project. So we can not consider this aspect to be an obstacle to the wider uptake of LUCTs in the UK.

Where the opportunity lies is with privately funded builds. An individual or a private company may embark freely in to any business venture they wish. However, most people have come to the position of being moneyed by making shrewd discussions, I am unsure as to whether LUCTs represent such a decision, being relatively untested when compared to conventional construction methods.

4.4.2      SOLUTIONS

A possible source of funding for LUCTs may well be through Housing Associations via the Homes and Communities Agency. Perhaps the subsidies offered by             the Homes and Communities Agency could be made available to a wider number of individuals who would like to become involved in building their own homes. Skills required to build with straw and cob are low, and training can be given to those wanting housing. At present there are 4.5million[91] people are on waiting lists for social housing, how many of these would be willing to lend a hand building their own home? This would reduce costs in labour, as well as empower individuals, and kindle community spirit.

4.4.3      LIMITATIONS

I would write similar comment here as to Section 8.2.3. All in all a frustrating experience with little hard data to show for it.

 

 

4.5          POPULAR PERCEPTION

4.5.1      CONCLUSIONS

 In section 8.1 I mentioned that in the UK building are over engineered. In Australia and New Zealand[92] people expect their house to last maybe 100 years, any more is a bonus. Houses are typically made of wood, with corrugated iron roves, and provide comfortable accommodation. In Australia and New Zealand this is the norm, it is how the public perceive their homes being built.

The materials survey showed that over 60% of people expect their home to be built out of either Brick or Stone; they did not recognise the other materials on the board as worthy building materials. This is a major obstacle in the wider uptake of LUCTs.

Perhaps where this will have the largest negative effect is where large companies who really have the ability to change the way the UK approaches mass housing, will avoid LUCTs due to their lack of appeal to their prospective clientele.

In terms of design however people appeared generally open minded in with a roughly 50 / 50 spilt overall, typical mass housing option which I expected to be a runaway leader received similar votes to Earthships, and cob & thatch housing. I would conclude therefore that the appearance of LUCTs is not a limiting factor in their wider uptake.

4.5.2      SOLUTIONS

 My compulsory education finished in 1996, and it did not contain a great deal of environmental content. With regards to people older than myself we can assume will have had minimal education with regards to environmental issues, people younger than myself will have had ever increasing environmental content in their education.  Now in 2010 the National curriculum includes a great variety of environmental content including climate change[93], and the impact of tourism on the environment[94].

With the average age of a first time buyer currently at 38[95] we can expect the majority of purchases to be made by people with no formal environmental education. However, with the environment enjoying plenty of media attention many people will be self educated in the area.

So we can expect with the passage of time more and more consumers to become ever more environmentally driven in their choices from a minimum of 8 years time we can expect everyone who buys a home to be “wearing an environmental hat” when making their purchase. Just as people value the solidarity of bricks and mortar in 2010, will people prefer the environmental credentials of straw and cob by (at the earliest) 2018? Of course there will be other factors affecting their choice such as costs and availability, but we can expect them to consider the environment when making their choice.

4.5.3      LIMITATIONS

 Although I used a correct sample size for the overall population statistically at I can only expect a 4.02% margin of error, this does not take in to account the various bias that may have affected the results.

The result came from one town, and as such they will be bias with regards to regional variations in attitude towards the environment and preferences.

Although the questions were clearly stated, I definitely got the feeling that people were treating the survey as a test, and give the answer they thought I wanted to hear. Some people gave careless answers.

I included results collected from children in the survey, which some might consider to be misrepresentative due to the fact that children do not seriously consider the implications of buying / living in a house. However, it was remarkable how the children’s answers mirrored the adults.

The picture on the design board were not particularly well thought out I had three LUCTs for people to choose from, and only two conventional designs one of which appeared (in my opinion) a higher value property than the other conventional building.

4.6          DEMAND

4.6.1      CONCLUSIONS

There is a high demand for housing in the UK. And this benefits anyone wishing to build using LUCTs as when supply is not meeting demand prospective resident will be more open minded with regards to alternate modes of accommodation. This applies to private purchases, but especially to social housing. With current housing models failing to meet demand, innovation may lead to the wider uptake of LUCTs in the future.

4.6.1      LIMITATIONS

The information stated on Demand is based on secondary data, I cannot be sure of its source.

4.7          PRICE

4.7.1      CONCLUSIONS

It can be concluded that price is not an obstacle for the wider uptake of LUCTs, although many new high tech zero carbon homes are comparatively expensive, this is due to the systems that are installed in to them, photo voltaic, super insulation, all come at a price. Just as you can buy an environmental sound car for £7500 you can also buy one for £25000, LUCTs are the potential Fiat Panda of the construction industry, whilst the new homes at Hanham Hall are more the VW Phaetons of this world.

4.7.2      SOLUTIONS

With regards to pricing LUCTs may offer a solution to the comparatively high prices;

Wall Construction Comparison

Example house[96] – Wall Area = 115m2

Cost in Concrete Block – 115 x (£9.90 x 2[97]) = £2,277

Cost in Straw Bale – 115 x 2.63 = £302

Other factors:

Labour costs in will be higher with block work.

Lower skill level for straw bale.

Extra costs involved with block work – Wall ties, cavity trays etc.

 

So potentially there is a minimum saving of around £2000 pounds to be made when using straw bale construction in this example. Parts only a typical solar thermal array cost around £4000[98], so potentially by using straw bale construction you could save 50% towards such system.

4.7.3      LIMITATIONS

There are thousands of components that go in to making your average house. My overview of the pricing of low carbon homes in relation to LUCTs is very simplistic. However, this dissertation is not intended to make a detailed pricing study its aim it to identify obstacles and solutions to the wider up take of LUCTs. In this respect the information was sufficient to make a decision.

4.8          GENERAL CONCLUSIONS

There are surprisingly few obstacles standing in the way of the wider uptake of LUCTs. They seem a plausible option in many respects.

The major problem I perceive is that of the public opinion. On the whole people fear change, moving from their trusted brick house to one made of . . . . straw . . . mud. . . . tyres, probably doesn’t fill many people with confidence.

This resistance to change is built in to all of us. It will not be until we see a new generation of house buyers / occupants who have been educated to the merits of sustainable dwelling and who value the environmental cost of the homes they live in that we will see true innovation in material use and design. Then perhaps, slowly we will begin to creep towards a style of housing that is suited to the environment’s needs rather than our own.

4.9          GENERAL LIMITATIONS

The topic chosen was a very broad one, and as such on numerous occasions I have found myself losing my direction.

The concept of a LUCT in itself I have fallen in and out of love with as the time has elapsed, I have found it to be an ungainly nomenclature. There are a lot more lesser used construction techniques that could help make our housing stock more sustainable, affordable and easy to build but I have had to keep my research focussed to the few I deem most viable to avoid swallowing of content.

Knowing what I do now I would probably focus my efforts on purely exploring the public’s perception of LUCTs as now I see it has revealed its self as a major barrier.



[1] Cottage Building in Pise, Chalk and Clay – Clough Williams – Ellis (1919)

[2] www.geograph.org.uk/photo/40556    

[3] Affordable housing built in Priddy, Somerset - 07/2010

[4] Homes for the future: more affordable, more sustainable - CM7191

[5] Earthship Brighton - www.lowcarbontrust.co.uk 

[6] http://www.sustainablehomes.co.uk/upload/publication/Embodied%20Energy.pdf

[7] http://www.bre.co.uk/greenguide/

[8] Cement, Brick and Concrete feature heavily.

[9] Cottage Building in Pise, Chalk and Clay – Clough Williams - Ellis

[10] http://www.southwest-environmental.co.uk

[11] http://www.communities.gov.uk/planningandbuilding/buildingregulations/ (15/07/2010)

[12] T206 - Energy for Sustainable Future - Open University

[13] http://www.planningportal.gov.uk/uploads/br/BR_PDF_ADL1A_2006.pdf (15/07/2010)

[14] http://www.planningportal.gov.uk/uploads/br/BR_PDF_ADL1A_2010.pdf (15/07/2010)

[15] Energy efficient domestic extensions - Publication from Energy Saving Trust

[16] http://www.bre.co.uk/ (20/07/2010)

[17] http://www.bre.co.uk/filelibrary/greenguide/PDF/Environmental_Profiles_Methodology_2007_-_Draft.pdf (20/07/2010)

[18] http://www.bre.co.uk/filelibrary/greenguide/PDF/Environmental_Profiles_Methodology_2007_-_Draft.pdf (20/07/2010)

[19] Cottage Building in Cob, Pise and Clay – Clough Williams Ellis - 1920

[20] Building with Straw Bales – UK and Ireland – Barbara Jones

[21] Earthships – Building a Zero Carbon Future for Homes – Mischa Hewitt and Kevin Telfer

[22] http://www.amazonails.org.uk/

[23] COB DWELLINGS  -Compliance with The Building Regulations 2000 – Devon Earth Building Associations

[24] COB DWELLINGS  -Compliance with The Building Regulations 2000 – Devon Earth Building Associations

[25] Homes for the future: More affordable, more sustainable - CM7191

[26] Planning Policy Statements  1 -25 - www.communities.gov.uk

[27] Code for Sustainable Homes

[28] Non-traditional housing in the UK - BRE Publication

[29] Non-traditional housing in the UK - BRE Publication

*could equally apply to LUCTs

[30] Building with Straw Bales - A Practical guide for UK and Ireland by Barbara Jones

[31] Design Statement - Earthship Biotecture Europe (In connection with The Lizard)

[32] The Lizard - Earth Ship Brighton Planning Application

[33] Building with Straw Bales - A Practical guide for UK and Ireland by Barbara Jones

[34] BS EN 771-3 which covers the BS requirements of all types of concrete block (and brick) units.

[35] BS 8103-2, BS 5628-1, BS 5628-2 & BS 5628-3.

[36] BS 4046:1991 Specification for compressed straw building slabs

[37] http://www.modcell.co.uk/

[38] http://www.southwest-environmental.co.uk/further%20info/permitting/list%20of%20permit%20exemptions.html

[39] http://www.sustainablebuild.co.uk/ConstructionStrawBale.html

[40] BRE - LPS 2020 - Standard for Innovative Systems, Elements and Components of Residential Buildings

[41] http://www.sustainablebuild.co.uk/financing-your-sustainable-development-project.html

[42] http://www.ecology.co.uk/

[43] http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/Generate-your-own-energy/Sell-your-own-energy/Feed-in-Tariff-scheme

[44] Derived from data obtained from http://www.landregistry.gov.uk/

[45] Conversation with Father - Builder

[46] Earthships building a zero carbon future – Mischa Hewitt

[47] Buchanan & Buchanan Lecture Notes -2009

[48] Telephone Conversation: Lloyds TSB Business Manager - Ian Lowe - 27/08/2010

[49] Proportion of money lent in relation to that invested by customer.

[50] Considerations for Creating a Green Investment Bank  - British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association’s  Energy, Environment and Technology Board

[51] Unlocking investment to deliver Britain’s low carbon future - Report by the Green Investment Bank Commission

[52] Unlocking investment to deliver Britain’s low carbon future - Report by the Green Investment Bank Commission

[53] Making It Happen: Working, Learning &Building Together -Timber Frame, Straw Bale housing project, Buckland Newton, Dorset - www.dorset.gov.uk

[54] The Green Self Build Book – Jon Broome

[55] http://www.lowcarbon.co.uk/node/add/contact-details - Telephone Call

[56] http://www.green-engage.co.uk/PaintingtheTownGreen.pdf

[57] UK TV show that details unusual building projects, which sometimes are exemplar in their sustainability.

[58] http://www.georgewimpey.co.uk/newhomes/North+Thames/HarrowLodge/

[59] Conversation with representative of George Wimpy - July 2007

[60] http://www.bioregional.com/files/publications/BedZED_seven_years_on.pdf

[61] http://www.bioregional.com/files/publications/BedZED_seven_years_on.pdf

[62] http://www.bioregional.com/files/publications/BedZED_seven_years_on.pdf

[63] http://www.communities.gov.uk/housing/housingsupply/

[64] http://www.hvnplus.co.uk/news/zero-carbon-homes-too-expensive-builders-warn/8603016.article 

[65] http://www.hanhamhall.co.uk/

[66] Making It Happen: Working, Learning &Building Together -Timber Frame, Straw Bale housing project, Buckland Newton, Dorset

[67] Making It Happen: Working, Learning &Building Together -Timber Frame, Straw Bale housing project, Buckland Newton, Dorset

[68] http://www.ecology.co.uk/html/aboutus/casestudies/hockerton.htm

[69] http://www.guardian.co.uk/carbonreduction/roundtable

[70] Hitting the Green Wall ... and Beyond – Taylor Wessing

[71] Hitting the Green Wall ... and Beyond – Taylor Wessing

[72]  Designing and Using Questionnaires - David S. Walonick

[73] Designing and Using Questionnaires - David S. Walonick

[74] http://www.georgewimpey.co.uk/newhomes/Manchester/ManorCourt/

[75] http://www.hanhamhall.co.uk/site/web/home

[76] http://www.lowcarbon.co.uk/earthship-brighton

[77] http://www.builditgreen.co.za/GoingGreen/EarthHouses.aspx

[78] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taunton#Demography

[79] www.guardian.co.uk

[80] http://www.raosoft.com/samplesize.html

[81] http://www.raosoft.com/samplesize.html

[82] Edexcel – GCSE Statistics

 

[83] Nationwide Building Society - Lending Terms - Appendix X

[84] Personal Experience

[85] http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/sep/03/corporatesocialresponsibility.carbonfootprints

[86] http://www.passiv.de/

[87] Personal experience – Five years ago easily secured a mortgage with 5% depots, now I am struggling to remortgage with a 30% deposit.

[88] Hanson Building - http://ttocb.blogspot.com/2009/03/monday-300309.html

[89] http://www.hanhamhall.co.uk/

[90] Straw Bales =£3.00m2 (Farmer) Concrete Block = £20m2 (Travis Perkins)

[91] http://www.lga.gov.uk/lga/core/page.do?pageId=1518784

[92] Personal Experience

[93] www.orderline.qcda.gov.uk/.../QCDA-10-5020_Science_in_travel_and_tourism.pdf 

[94] www.coventry.gov.uk/ccm/cms-service/stream/asset?asset_id=31630001

[95] http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/house-and-home/property/no-place-like-home-the-generation-who-cant-afford-to-buy-1921781.html

[96] The Green Building Bible Volume 2 – Green Building Press

[97] Cavity wall construction

[98] Verbal Quote – Travis Perkins (Wells Branch)