And Christmas is the point at which this all comes together in a big way for the residents of the UK, something that they can not only talk about but also bet on – whether or not it will be a white Christmas. It is down to the Met Office to confirm if we have a white Christmas – and the official definition may surprise you;
For many people, a White Christmas means a complete covering of snow falling between midnight and midday on 25 December.
However, the definition used most widely, notably by those placing and taking bets, is for a single snowflake (perhaps among a mixed shower of rain and snow) to be observed falling in the 24 hours of 25 December at a specified location.
White Christmases were more frequent in the 18th and 19th centuries, even more so before the change of calendar in 1752 which effectively brought Christmas day back by 12 days. Climate change has also brought higher average temperatures over land and sea and this generally reduces the chances of a white Christmas. However, the natural variability of the weather will not stop cold, snowy winters happening in the future.
The graphic to the right from the Met Office indicates the amount of snow over the last few years on Christmas day – and it will not surprise anyone that it has increased in recent years – the question has to be why – but that’s for another day…..
The Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) has been with us now in one form or another for over 5 years. Initially introduced to the residential market and then into the commercial property market it is fair to say they have not been universally popular! But how are they now viewed, and how much impact (if any) have they had on the market?
My personal involvement relates purely to the non domestic market – which arguably has been most resistant to their adoption. Within the residential market EPC’s are now accepted by purchasers and vendors alike, they actually appear to like the information it provides them with. Whether or not it actually affects their decision process is not clear – the market may not be that intelligent yet.
In the commercial property market I think it is fair to say that owners and purchasers have all come to accept that the EPC is now a legal requirement, the number of transactions that occur now without one appears to have dropped to almost zero, and the last-minute EPC ‘just before exchange’ is getting far less common.
However to date there are only 472,962 non domestic properties registered on the Landmark Database for England and Wales as having EPC’s – somewhat short of the total domestic registrations of 10,665,662! And a long way short of the England and Wales total property stock which is in the region of 25 Million homes and 1.8 Million commercial properties (VOA data).
What hasn’t changed sadly (from the point of view of an assessor) is the level of fees – these still don’t reflect the work involved in a non domestic assessment – and I don’t see this changing anytime soon. But lets hope activity will continue to rise.
So we still have a long way to go on adoption, but as can be seen from the residential statistics much is down to the market activity – so with more activity in the commercial market adoption should increase. Time will tell if the EPC actually sees its 10th anniversary, what is clear is that the UK is slowly building a database of energy information – what it does with it is another matter.
This year has been rather busy at work and at home, consequently something had to give, and it was my blog….
Well I am intending to address that and fully intend to ‘get back on the blogging wagon’ for 2014 – and as a first step I think it’s time for a redesign to something more contemporary…..
The guest speaker was Lord Lawson – known to the younger members of society as Nigella’s dad, but better known to the rest of us as the Chancellor during Maggie’s three periods in office. He is now in his early 80’s, so it was going to be interesting to see what his take on things as they are now was. And in many ways we were not disappointed – he is undoubtably a very bright man, and if I am half as active at this age I will be very happy!
However, there was one part of his speech that did worry me – he will always play to the ‘Daily Mail readers’ in a room, and the other night was no different. But his views on Global Warming I did find rather blinkered, especially after his comments about it being ‘a religion’ that no one was permitted to challenge anymore! He basically appears to believe that we are having no effect upon the planet and that burning fossil fuels is definitely the way forward!
I accept that it is not a clear-cut case – but the current extreme weather, the melting polar areas – not our fault?
The photo above is of my home town, Malmesbury in Wiltshire. As a family we have been there over 40 years and I cannot recall a time when the bottom of the High Street has flooded and blocked access into the town – even before all the flood alleviation work was done a good few years ago – so do we assume this is just a fluke event?
I am a Chartered Surveyor – and proud of it. My membership of the RICS allows me to do my job and satisfy my clients that I have the necessary knowledge and qualifications to do it properly. So why does the RICS make it so difficult for me to consider them my ‘friend’ in business?
Let me explain – a few years ago I undertook the RICS accredited Energy Assessors course to qualify as an RICS accredited energy assessor – this would allow me to prepare EPC’s for my firm and clients and then lodge them. The training was quite intensive and not cheap, but I was proud to be accredited by the RICS as they were considered to be one of the better managed schemes – so perhaps of a better quality?
So all looks rosy – until Friday when I gathered (second hand) that the RICS are going to withdraw their accreditation scheme – so I will have to register with another body. This will possibly entail doing further exams – despite being qualified already, and more importantly if I don’t act quickly, might cause a break in me being able to provide the service.
I picked the information up from an RICS forum, from other equally confused assessors. I have subsequently spoken to the RICS by telephone and they have confirmed the news, and told me the letters are in the ‘process of going out’ – have they not heard of email? I have however been told officially by the software provider I use for EPC calculations and lodgment (Lifespan) and have also received an email from an alternative accreditation scheme (Elmhurst Energy) offering a free transfer.
So why if they can all contact me so quickly and efficiently, cant the RICS (who are supposed to look after my interests for me?)
Oh, and the notice that the RICS has given its members? Five weeks (and that is for the ones that have heard officially – I still haven’t). So am I to believe that this decision was only taken a few days ago – I think not!
Now do you see my issue with the RICS?
It is a common sight now – the suburban street with all the front gardens paved or concreted over to make room for one or more cars. With the growth of multiple car families the available on street parking has become over subscribed – forcing people to go onto their front gardens.
But, there is more to this than first appears;
The need to have extra cars has been forced upon us all by the society that has developed around car ownership and out of town shopping and often poor public transport. The streets of the houses built when cars were a distant dream for most occupants just aren’t designed for this many vehicles – all that is well known.
what is more worrying is the effect all of this extra concrete and hard surface has on the environment from a drainage point of view. With the recent exceptional rainfall (which may or may not become the norm) the inability of the drains to cope has been highlighted.
The number of houses with paved-over front plots has almost doubled in the past 20 years. In 1991, just 16% of houses with front plots had turned them into hardstandings, compared with 30% in 2011, (according to the report Spaced Out: Perspectives on Parking policy, published by the RAC Foundation).
It states that the main cause for the increasing number is the significant rise in car ownership. The number of cars in Britain has grown from 21m in 1991 to 28.5m in 2011, a figure the report estimates could grow to 32m over the next two decades.
The findings also raise concerns about the potential effect the increased paving would have for floodwater run-off, making drains more likely to overflow. The Committee on Climate Change Adaptation Sub-Committee’s (ASC) progress report, published last week, highlighted the increase in paved-over gardens as a danger during periods of flooding. Their report found the number of paved-over gardens in England rose proportionally from just over a quarter of total garden area in 2001 to nearly half in 2011.
This also has a direct effect upon loss of natural habitat for wildlife in our towns and cities – yet another issue that isn’t going away.
All this makes me sound like a tree hugger – I’m not, but it does make you think how seemingly unrelated things can impact on other matters.
It appears that awards are coming thick and fast for Edwalton Primary school – I have blogged previously about this amazing school (I am biased as I am a Governor there) and its green credentials. Well that has now been confirmed by a national award.
The school has been awarded ‘outstanding sustainable school’ in the Times Educational Supplement (TES) awards for 2012. This is a national award and is a fantastic achievement for the school, it is due recognition for the hard work that everyone at the school has put into driving forwards the sustainability agenda, from the kids, through the staff and finally to Brian Owens the headmaster who is the inspiration and driving force behind everyone. We were nominated in 2011 but sadly didn’t win – but this year has seen the ‘right’ decision.
Keep an eye out for this school, this is the way education should be going at primary level in the UK, other schools can (and are) learning a lot from its environment and general approach to teaching.
Fantastic news and another good reason to shout from the rooftops about Edwalton Primary West Bridgfords number one primary school!
Renewables are a great idea – once the method of extracting the energy has been built it is free – whether it is wind, sun or wave power is irrelevant, as long as there is a selection of types to provide general cover. This is the normal argument against renewables – what happens when the sun is not out or it’s not windy – hence the need for a selection of producing sources.
The Germans appear to ‘get this’ and have moved forwards in the quest for a replacement for their nuclear industry that is to be wound down following the Japanese disaster.
German solar power plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity – equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity over a mid day period earlier this month. This is in response to Germany’s decision to abandon nuclear power after the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year, closing eight plants immediately and shutting down the remaining nine by 2022. They will be replaced by renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and bio-mass (a sensible spread).
The 22 gigawatts of solar power fed into the national grid met nearly 50% of the nation’s midday electricity needs, yes it was only for a short period, but it shows what can be achieved. Never before anywhere has a country produced as much photovoltaic electricity. The record-breaking amount of solar power shows one of the world’s leading industrial nations was able to meet a third of its electricity needs on a work day, Friday, and nearly half on Saturday when factories and offices were closed.
Government-mandated support for renewables has helped Germany became a world leader in renewable energy and the country gets about 20 percent of its overall annual electricity from those sources. Germany has nearly as much installed solar power generation capacity as the rest of the world combined and gets about four percent of its overall annual electricity needs from the sun alone. It aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by 2020.
All this at a time when our Government appear hell-bent on crippling our solar industry just as it was getting into its stride – time for a swift U-turn?
At a time when we have seen some of the wettest weather for months, (but after two years of very low rainfall), we are as far as our water companies are concerned still in a drought situation. So it is perhaps worth looking at the water companies and how they manage the pipe work system they provide our water through.
Now you would imagine that it is in their interest to protect such a valuable resource? However every day, 3.4bn litres of water leaks from the system, almost a quarter of the entire supply. A drought has been declared across southern and central England, with no end in sight for the hose pipe ban imposed in many places, so one assumes this loss must be a worry to the water companies?
Since the privatisation of the water industry in 1989, Ofwat has set leakage reduction targets for the 21 water companies, which operate local monopolies across England and Wales. Analysis of the data, supplied to Ofwat by the companies themselves, reveals:
• Eleven companies have targets of zero reduction of leaks by 2015. They include Yorkshire Water, which failed to meet its 2010-11 targets and as a result was required to spend an additional £33m on leak repairs.
• Leaks have been reduced across England and Wales by only 5% over the past 13 years.
• The worst-performing company, Southern Water which supplies Sussex, Kent, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, missed its latest leak target by 16% and had to pay £5m back to customers, but will be allowed to increase its leakage by 6% by 2015.
• The 25-year management plans of the water companies envisage reducing leakage by only 10% in that time.
Ofwat and the water industry highlight a one-third reduction in leakages since privatisation, but over the past 12 years, year-on-year leakages have increased as often as they have fallen, suggesting no long-term downward trend. However, the average annual customer bill for water has risen by £64 since 2001 and is now £376, while the companies collectively made £2bn in pre-tax profits and paid £1.5bn in dividends to shareholders in 2010-11.
It costs more to repair leaks than the immediate value of the water itself, so while it makes financial sense for a water company to ignore leaks, it certainly doesn’t stack up in the long-term for us, the consumers, or for our environment. There are more than 210,000 miles of water pipes across England and Wales, a length equivalent to eight times the circumference of the Earth, which serve 23m properties. Ofwat say it would cost £100bn to replace all the pipes in England and Wales, and this would only half the leaks as new pipes start to leak quickly.
But surely some additional effort can’t be a bad idea – or is it all about profits?
We have a very good local store in my part of West Bridgford, I am not going to name it, but it is part of a large chain famous for its local stores. There has been a major refurb of the store in recent months and it now offers a very pleasant environment to shop in.
As part of the refurbishment the fridge units have been replaced to the now very popular tall open fronted designs – great from the point of view of selling produce it would appear. But not good from another point – more on which below.
the fridge units occupy the entire rear wall of the shop and they have a return leg up one side, so they form a significant percentage of the walls of the shop. I am a regular visitor to the shop as it is great for those last minute items that you forget from the weekly shop. However, this weekend is the first vaugly warm weather since the refurbishment. On walking to the rear of the store I was amazed to find the air conditioning units in the ceiling pumping out hot air (it was warm outside). I assumed this must be a mistake and mentioned it to the manager.
His reply? “No I have to have it on, otherwise the fridges make it so cold down here that the shoppers complain”.
So here we have a totally refurbished shop from a chain that prides itself on being greener than most supermarkets and cooperating with the locals – but they have not considered the impact of the design of the shop on the green aspects. I hate to think how much electricity the airconditioner is using to heat the cooled corner of the shop.
A definite own goal – surely the shopfitters should be aware of these issues when they design stores?