Providing the right incentives to be ‘green’ sounds so easy, yet we only need to look back over the last few years to see how it can go wrong. Subsidising solar panels created a bubble that quickly burst when the subsidies were retracted. The Code for Sustainable Homes is another example of where it looked really good on paper but silly things started to happen. For example, I heard one story about some solar panels that had been put on a north facing roof. It was the only place they could go but at least it ticked a box and got them up to the code level they were after! No doubt there are plenty of stories like this.
When it comes to energy efficiency I was always under the impression that this was the ultimate incentive. Who could argue against taxing people for the amount of energy they use? Well, perhaps anyone who uses a lot of energy, but the idea being that it would provide people with the necessary motivation to make their houses better. Even as I write this I’m imagining it might make low-income families switch off their heating and shiver in the winter instead, so perhaps it is flawed too.
Anyway I think my point in all this was whether we are concentrating too hard on low energy design. Wilf Meynell is my latest podcast guest and he believes that a lot of projects are forgetting the basics of environmental design in preference of focussing on energy efficiency. Taken to an extreme, this could be distancing us from our environment as we create indoor spaces with very stable temperatures and clean, filtered air. So, what’s the solution? As with everything in life it’s about striking a balance, which in this case is between low energy design and environmental design.
Wilf explains how he has tried to do this in one of his upcoming projects. Download the podcast to hear more about it.