Prototype sustainable neighbourhoods

Low cost,  sustainable housing in California

A comment on
A multi-dimensional approach to affordable housing policy:
Learning from climate change policy

by Professor Karen Chapple

See also Berkeley zero net energy cottage deserves study

A sustainable backyard cottage

This article gives me a glimmer of hope. It shows that low-cost, environmentally sustainable homes might be built and get through zoning regulation. (Is “zoning regulation” the correct term for what we call planning permission in the UK?). I like the look of Professor Chapple’s backyard cottage but hope the $98,000 could be reduced production volumes were higher – there was a piece in the UK press reporting a family in Arkansas moving into a $20,000 “shotgun shack” with satisfactory results.

What price level could actually be achieved for a tiny home with a very low carbon footprint?

Embodied carbon

Measurement of the carbon emissions from the buildings, when in use, is not the only consideration: Measurement should also include embodied carbon – based on the greenhouse emissions from constructing the buildings (including the embodied carbon in solar panels & etc.) Embodied carbon is usually ignored.

Embodied carbon in conventional building is very large and often large in “sustainable developments”: Some flats in the Beddington Zero Energy Development in South London had embodied carbon calculated as 67.5 tonnes of CO2e. Compared this to the “remaining carbon budget” from the recent IPCC report. This is only 115 tonnes CO2 per person – and that might not keep us below 2°C of global warming.

Prototype low carbon neighbourhoods

Aside from the cost and environmental performance of individual buildings, who is looking at the performance of neighbourhoods as a whole? There are “sustainable developments”, where the residents have high carbon footprints because their savings on biomass boilers are blown on increased travel. This is the case in Derwenthorpe, York – and is likely the case for the “eco-town” at Bicester, near Oxford. Oddly, the UK Department of Communities and Local Government’s definition of an “eco-town” did not include “embodied carbon or carbon emissions related to transport”

The inhabitants of the Bicester “eco-town” can be heated by their combined heat and power plant before driving to the new motorway junction to commute to Oxford. Prototype buildings are a good start but where are the prototype neighbourhoods which can show that the total carbon footprints of its inhabitants are zero carbon – or even close?

As well as sustainable prototype buildings, sustainable prototype neighbourhoods are needed.

That is neighbourhoods in which the average carbon footprints of the residents can be shown to be sustainable.

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