Julia Hailes MBE

Sustainability Pioneer


What is a green building? (Jul07)

I’m not convinced that the Government’s goal of zero carbon buildings is a good one. For a start it only applies to new buildings. And wouldn’t it be better to invest in significantly reducing carbon emissions in a huge number of houses rather than going the whole way in a very few? Achieving the final 5-10% of carbon reduction will be the most costly and difficult bit (by the law of diminishing returns)

On my visit to BRE (the Building Research Establishment) I was reassured to find that others share my view. I went with Michael Pawlyn, who has just left Grimshaw architects to set up on his own. I first heard him speak, amongst other things about the work he did at the Eden Project at the end of last year and was inspired by his innovative eco-system approach to architecture and design. We met up with Nick Hayes and Lynne Ceeney at BRE to discuss how we might help them with some of their projects.

Lynne Ceeney, Nick Hayes and Michael Pawlyn

Our time was little rushed in part because we missed the right bus stop and had to be picked up trudging along the verge of a busy dual carriage-way.

So after lunch in the BRE canteen we were taken on a whistle stop tour of their show houses, most of which had been built in the last few weeks. The idea seemed to be that different companies sponsored each house to show case their approach.

It was the model school that impressed me most. With a wall of brightly coloured squashed mobile phones and a well insulated window made from recycled bottles, it was fun.


Many of the other houses looked pretty ordinary – even when I was enlightened about their innovations.

One thing that struck me was that LED lights (which are the most energy efficient) – and even compact fluorescents (CFLs) – were not fitted as standard.

Why would anyone design a state of the art ‘green’ building without minimising the electricity used in lighting? It has to be the simplest thing you can do.

So if a green building doesn’t mean optimum energy efficiency, what is it? And what more can we do to make existing houses

Posted originally on Telegraph blogs by Julia Hailes 

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