An Introduction To Green Construction

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To build a sustainable future, we need to find efficiencies in all walks of life.

The cars we drive, the food we eat and the homes and offices we build. When it comes to green construction, you need to think about absolutely every aspect of the building.

There are the materials you use, how the materials were produced, the energy efficiency of the building, the ongoing cost of energy bills and even the sources of energy that the building will use.

Introduction To Green Construction

Sustainable Construction

You should think about energy usage in two ways.

You firstly need to think about consumption levels.

If you can find ways to make the building more efficient, you will reduce the amount of energy that you use.

The other important aspect is the type of energy that you use.

When energy comes from renewable sources, such as wind or solar, fossil fuels don’t have to be burned, and emissions are avoided.

Many governments around the world are providing subsidies to make it more cost-effective to fit solar panels.

This is making solar not just the most environmentally friendly option, but also the most prudent choice.

As part of green construction, you must consider whether solar panels are a viable option for your budget.

Keep in mind that energy yields vary widely from state to state, so you must also consider the area where the building will be.

In places with more sunlight, solar panels will deliver a return on investment sooner.

Green construction requires great focus on the exterior envelope of the building.

Around 30% of the typical American’s energy bill can be attributed to leakage through the exterior envelope, so it’s great area to focus your attention.

“According to the National Institute of Building Science (NIBS), there are six fundamentals in sustainable design and several of them relate to the building envelope including the design and indoor environment quality,” writes Good Way. “These fundamentals specify that the proper insulation, selective glazing of glass, day lighting, strategic exterior shading, commissioning the building, and maintenance to keep building systems functioning properly are all ways to maintain a tight building envelope and reduce energy costs.”

An Introduction To Green Construction
An Introduction To Green Construction

When you rent construction equipment, you should also pay attention to the relative energy efficiency of the construction equipment you intend to use.

After all, the energy consumed in construction is an environmental cost that is attributable to the building.

When selecting materials, always aim for choices that are renewable and recyclable.

But keep in mind that lifespan is also an important factor to weigh into your decisions.

If one material is better, but needs to be replaced twice as often, it may lose all its efficiency gains when you need to change something sooner than you otherwise would have expected.

Popular green materials include things that rapidly replenish, like bamboo and straw, and recycled metal.

Keep in mind that you should try to source materials locally.

The closer they are, the less they will have to travel to get to you.

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Green Rebuilding After Hurricane Sandy

The damage that Hurricane Sandy left in its wake in 2012 was devastating for so many people.

Families and businesses that lost their homes and buildings have had to start the difficult process of rebuilding, and design firms quickly unveiled many green plans for this process.

Choosing sustainable, eco-friendly reconstruction is a smart way to make buildings more secure, disaster proof, and energy-efficient.

The green rebuilding effort is one of the few bright spots to come out of such a destructive natural disaster.

Prefab Modular Beach Units in New York

Beaches in New York and New Jersey suffered significant damage as a result of Hurricane Sandy.

Unfortunately, many buildings and structures were wiped out, including lifeguard stations, public restrooms, offices, and more.

Garrison Architects, specialists in green designs, came up with the prefabricated modular units.

The units are elevated, flood proof, solar-powered, and self-ventilated.

The modular units have been set up on beaches in New York, and now serve as comfort stations, lifeguard stations, and offices.

They were unveiled on Memorial Day in 2013, and have since been rolled out in 15 different locations throughout New York.

Beaches utilizing the prefabricated buildings include Coney Island and Cedar Grove in Staten Island, among others.

Green Features

The units have all been constructed out of durable galvanized steel.

The wooden rain screen sidings of the units were crafted out of wood that was salvaged from boardwalks damaged in the hurricane.

Glass tiles line the interior of the restrooms, and large windows run along the entire side of the bathroom units for natural ventilation.

Having the units constructed at off-site locations in Pennsylvania ensured that there would be no weather related delays.

The modules, which are 15 feet and 12 feet high, and 47 and 57 feet long, were built-in Pennsylvania.

Then they shipped on flat bed trucks to the beach locations in New York.

This allowed for the locations to be prepared with the construction of concrete pilings.

Once the location was ready and the unit was completed, it could be set up on the foundation by a crane.

The units are situated on top of the high concrete pilings and are accessible by ramps and stairs, which lead onto the beach and the boardwalk.

FEMA recently updated the storm surge height guidelines for buildings, and the modular units meet the standards.

The elevated height ensures that they will not be flooded out if the water level rises.

Hot water inside of the units is produced by solar power, as the units feature photo-voltaic panels.

Speed and Efficiency

There was a need for the modular units to not only offer green features, but to also be manufactured quickly so that they could be put into use for the 2013 summer season.

The Garrison Architects firm was given a tight five month time line, in which they needed to come up with the design, and have the project completed and ready to be opened up by Memorial Day.

Hurricane Sandy showed just how destructive weather conditions could be, and there is a need for new constructions to meet sustainable standards for the future.

Designed and Built with Permanence in Mind

Hurricane Sandy was a very destructive storm, and scientists say it is possible that such storms are going to become much more common in the years ahead.

It is crucial for rebuilding efforts to focus on creating sustainable structures that will be able to withstand changing ecological conditions.

The prefabricated modular beach units are not only economical, but they also address growing concerns such as congestion in overcrowded areas, preservation of existing beaches, and meeting green standards with eco-friendly elements.

We will leave these efforts in the hands of the professionally trained, such as those holding degrees from online engineering colleges.

Tips to Building Green Homes

When a person is trying to be responsible and wants to build a sustainable home, there are a few things to consider.

Environmentally friendly construction may cost extra money and involve special needs.

Here are some tips to follow when building green homes.

Consider Locations

Tips to Building Green Homes
Tips to Building Green Homes

Besides supplies, the first thing to consider when building a green home is its location.

A person can use a great deal of eco-friendly materials, but if the house is placed in a location that requires a great deal of driving, the positives may be negated.

It is smart to find an area that is close to shopping, restaurants, and other forms of entertainment.

Also, the location should be filled with sun, so it is possible to take advantage of solar power. Factors such as these are incredibly important when deciding on location.

Individuals may want to consider the use of an agent with a degree in real estate to help them with location choices.

Use Sustainable Materials

Most people who want to build eco-friendly homes will know the benefits of using sustainable materials.

For example, reclaimed lumber is an excellent alternative to fresh wood flooring.

Recycled plastic and composite materials be used throughout the home as well.

Even though some of these items cost more upfront, they will last for many years and avoid the need for replacement.

Consider the Air Inside

Many people disregard a home’s interior air quality.

It is easy to forget that many products emit toxic fumes into the air.

This can lead to health problems or environmental dangers.

It is essential to use products that are made from low volatile organic compounds or contain no form of formaldehyde.

When choosing paint or carpet, it is best to purchase water based products and materials made from natural fibers.

It is also vital to build the green home with proper ventilation.

This will balance moisture and prevent mold from forming.

Control Energy and Water Usage

Today, more and more appliances are manufactured with the ability to conserve energy.

Washing machines, dryers, and refrigerators are just a few appliances that come energy rated and run on lower levels of electricity.

Installing programmable thermostats will also save energy.

These devices allow a homeowner to set the time when heat or air conditioning will run.

For example, when a person leaves for work, they can be set to automatically shut off.

One item in the home that takes a great deal of energy is the hot water heater.

It accounts for almost 15 percent of the home’s energy bill.

It is possible to select a high efficiency water heater that will use up to 50 percent less energy.

The most popular form is a tankless water heater.

Not only will it use less energy, it will also take up less space.

To save water, a person can select a low flow toilet or showerhead.

A unique solution for the exterior of a green home is to create a storage tank that holds rainwater and other wastewater from the house.

This can be used for the garden in place of fresh water.

Compare Insulation Options

A green home must be properly insulated.

This will cut the energy needed to heat and cool the home’s interior.

One of the most efficient ways to insulate walls is with spray foam.

This will seal hard to reach places like attics.

When insulation is in proper position, it is essential to caulk around all windows and doors as well.

This will block any hidden gaps where air can enter or escape.

The above tips will aid anyone interested in building a green home.

Saving energy and helping the environment does not need to be difficult.

Even though it may be more expensive, it will provide a clean conscience knowing that the planet is being preserved.

Safe and Natural Carpet Cleaning

I always want my house and my carpets to be clean, but I do not want to sacrifice my family’s health to accomplish this.

A few months ago, I started noticing how many harsh chemicals were present in the cleaning supplies that I used every day.

I could not believe I had been using all of these chemicals in my home for many years.

I wanted to find a natural solution, but I also did not want to sacrifice a high level of cleanliness.

When it was time to schedule my annual carpet cleaning for the whole house, my neighbor told me about Green Choice Carpet Cleaning.

I had never heard of a carpet cleaning company that only used natural and organic cleaners, and I will admit that I was a little bit skeptical.

Most of the carpets in our home are several years old, and I have three boys who are constantly tracking in mud, spilling food and doing anything else that you can imagine to stain our carpets.

I contacted Green Choice Carpet Cleaning for an estimate, and I was impressed at how reasonable their prices were.

The phone associate even offered me a discount that was lower than their advertised rate.

Now that my carpets have been cleaned by Green Choice Carpet Cleaning, I could not be happier.

I feel like I got an excellent value for my money, and I love knowing that no harsh chemicals were added to my home during the cleaning.

Green Choice Carpet Cleaning is the only Green Choice carpet cleaning I will use in the future.

Air Conditioning: Friend to Green Living that is Often Labeled a Foe

Green watchdogs tend to bark whenever homeowners turn on their air conditioning units.

Sure, these machines run off electricity, and the hotter it is, the more electricity one consumes to stay comfortable.

Jacksonville’s air conditioning usage is especially high, as Florida weather is extremely hot and humid.

However, you can investigate into a greener solution that allows homeowners to reduce their carbon footprint, and save a ton of money on their utility bills.

Calling upon Helios

If Helios, the Greek God of the sun were living in Jacksonville, he would surely bless anyone who upgrades from a current air conditioning unit to a Solar Energy System.

By harnessing the power of the sun, you will be drastically minimizing your utility’s power usage thus saving you lots of money.

Furthermore, you will most likely qualify for some generous tax credits for upgrading to a solar-powered heating and cooling system.

The air conditioning system is solar-ready, and can be easily integrated into solar modules.

When researching the solar systems, ask your heating and cooling provider to explain the many innovative features that are found in these units.

For example, some units have a two-stage operation that helps minimize temperature shifts and keep humidity levels under total control.

Some tips for Floridians

Living in Florida offers many enjoyments and beautiful outdoor environments, but our local weather can pose challenges.

In an article published by The Huffington Post, the author addresses Florida residents directly, stating that the local weather is indeed oppressive.

But there are some things that residents can do to stay cool and green that goes beyond the act of upgrading to a solar-powered unit.

The article suggests that people dress accordingly.

It is easy to let the home cool to the point where you feel like wearing that stylish turtleneck sweater, but green responsibility dictates that one must maintain a temperature setting, and dresses for it accordingly.

The author also advises to open windows early in the morning or at night if the weather is cool enough outside.

Finally, the article advises homeowners to shield the sun from blaring in through the windows.

The sun’s rays may power your solar cooling system, but if they shine through the windows your home can be heating up, which will cause your equipment to have to work harder.

Pay attention to the time of the day when the sun’s rays hit your windows, and close the blinds during these hours.

Saving money provides more equity

By upgrading from your energy-guzzling air conditioning unit for a solar-powered green machine, you will be adding equity into your home.

When you go to put the home on the market, local and out-of-state buyers will find your house especially more valuable in that a green unit will slash utility costs and make living much more affordable.

In fact, in many cases home buyers will raise their budget if the home has a solar-powered heating and cooling unit.

This is a one-time investment that offers numerous benefits and a huge return.

Green air conditioning can be your best friend.

Contact a local dealer and ask for more information on how the it can change your life.

Green Housing: In Buffalo, It’s Not Just for Rich People Anymore

Green Housing: In Buffalo, It’s Not Just for Rich People Anymore

Massachusetts Avenue Park was not a place you would want to take your kids.

Before, the small neighborhood park in the heart of Buffalo’s West Side was little more than vacant land with a small playground and a crumbling basketball court.

“It was a real mess,” says Terry Richard, a neighborhood resident who was born in Trinidad and Tobago and later moved to Buffalo by way of Brooklyn.

“So we figured… why don’t we just take this on as a task to really force the city’s hand to take care of their problem,” she adds, standing next to the park’s new playground with a bright smile.

Buffalo is located where the waters of Lake Erie feed into the swift currents of the Niagara River.

It was established as a major grain shipping and storage center in the late 19th century, but as shipping routes changed and heavy industry packed up and left the Great Lakes region, Buffalo’s population rapidly declined.

In 1950, Buffalo’s population was about 580,000, but by the 2010 census it had fallen to about 260,000.

It isn’t just the population that’s been shrinking though:

Employment numbers are down, and like other Rust Belt cities, Buffalo has struggled to support its infrastructure with a shrinking tax base.

The rebirth of Massachusetts Avenue Park echoes many other stories taking shape throughout the city.

Instead of waiting for the city to make things better, residents like Richard are taking matters into their own hands.

Richard is a board member for People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH), a grassroots organization based in Buffalo that seeks to provide affordable, environmentally friendly housing and job training.

In early June PUSH celebrated the opening of Phase 1 of the small but pleasant new Massachusetts Avenue Park, which resulted from about two years of petitioning City Hall to fund the project.

The park is just one piece of PUSH’s broader plan to create a Green Development Zone within the West Side — a 25-block area where the group is developing sustainable, affordable housing and creating new career pathways for neighborhood residents.

There goes the Buffalo neighborhood PUSH

Like many Buffalo neighborhoods, the West Side is full of vacant properties, and PUSH co-founders Aaron Bartley and Eric Walker wanted to know why.

When they launched the organization in 2005, their first order of business was to conduct a survey of Buffalo’s West Side, which meant going door-to-door in the community for about six months.

With a bit of digging, they discovered that a sub-agency of the New York State Housing Finance Agency was in control of nearly 1,500 tax-delinquent properties in the city — about 200 of which were on the West Side — that were being left to rot.

In 2003, the state of New York’s Municipal Bond Bank Agency bought the delinquent tax liens for those homes, which were then bundled and sold as bonds to investment bank Bear Stearns.

But there was one major problem: According to a report published in Artvoice, Buffalo’s main alternative weekly, the assessed value of the properties was much higher than they were actually worth.

In effect, the state was using vacant houses in Buffalo to speculate on Wall Street.

Meanwhile, nothing was happening with the houses; the state was neither maintaining them nor selling them.

“There just was absolutely no due diligence done as part of the transaction,” Bartley said. “If there had been, they would’ve seen that bond was fraudulent.”

PUSH renovation in Buffalo’s Green Development Zone.

The value of bonds was based on revenue that was supposed to have been generated by the houses, through either selling them or collecting unpaid taxes.

But the state made little effort to sell or collect taxes on the properties. Why?

Because doing so would reveal the true value of the properties, according to Bartley, and the house of cards would come crumbling down.

“The reason they didn’t do that is that would’ve shown the lie to the deal, because they would have sold for $0, and it would have indicated that it was worthless,” Bartley explained.

When Bartley and Walker made the discovery, they tried to bring it to the attention of state officials through standard channels, but when that failed they launched a direct action campaign.

Using a big stencil, they painted an image of then Gov. Pataki’s face on more than 200 houses across the city.

Eliot Spitzer was campaigning for governor at the time, and he took an interest in the issue.

When Spitzer took office, his administration unwound the bond, gave the houses back to the city of Buffalo, and created a small housing rehab fund.

The houses were turned back into the city’s inventory, and when PUSH or one of its partner organizations wants to redevelop one, they ask to have it transferred.

The Green Zone

Two years later, PUSH invited hundreds of residents to a neighborhood planning congress to draft a development plan for the largely blighted 25-block area on the West Side that would later become the Green Development Zone (GDZ).

The plan went far beyond energy-efficient affordable housing to include the creation of employment pathways and promoting economic stability within the zone.

‘Sustainability’ in the context of PUSH’s agenda means reducing the neighborhood’s environmental impact, but also strengthening the local economy and creating green jobs.

On the surface, the GDZ still looks similar to other Buffalo neighborhoods:

The streets are lined with 100-year-old two- and three-story houses, and in the summer, they teem with people.

Old ladies sit and talk on first-floor balconies, while kids weave in and out of slow-moving traffic on bicycles.

But this small neighborhood is in the midst of a pretty radical transformation.

“Sustainability” in the context of PUSH’s agenda means reducing the neighborhood’s environmental impact, but also strengthening the local economy and creating green jobs in the building rehabilitation and weatherization industries.

PUSH was instrumental in getting the Green Jobs – Green New York legislation passed, which seeks to create 35,000 jobs while providing green upgrades and retrofits for 1 million homes across the state.

PUSH recently established PUSH Green to implement the GJGNY program in the Buffalo area, functioning as an independent outreach contractor in the region.

For the work, PUSH has established what it calls a “Community Jobs Pipeline,” a network of contractors who agree to provide job training, pay living wages, and hire local workers from target populations.

Energy-efficient — and affordable too

In September, PUSH held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for three gut-rehab buildings with a total of 11 affordable housing units, bringing the total number of residential units PUSH completed in the GDZ to 19.

Green buildings enjoy lower operating costs, but they’re more common in luxury real estate portfolios than in the inner city.

But the organization has much bigger ambitions.

In December, PUSH announced plans to build nine new-construction buildings and to renovate seven existing properties, adding a total of 46 more energy-efficient, affordable units to the neighborhood.

“We’re very strategic in our development work, so we’ve taken a small section of the West Side, and we’re really trying to concentrate our development,” explained PUSH Development Director Britney McClain. “We don’t want to contribute to the scattershot development work that is also common in the city of Buffalo.”

Ensuring that the homes it produces are energy-efficient is an important component of PUSH’s work, because heating and energy costs account for a large percentage of living expenses in Buffalo.

“A lot of the houses in this city are over 100 years old and poorly insulated, so to have an apartment at an affordable rate but also that is totally energy-efficient, through the new windows and insulation, the utilities bills will be drastically reduced,” McClain told me.

Green buildings enjoy lower operating costs, but they’re more common in luxury real estate portfolios than in the inner city.

That’s a perception that PUSH is looking to change.

In 2011, PUSH completed a net-zero energy house — a home that produces as much energy as it uses.

The project was launched to showcase renewable energy technologies and to help give low-income residents paid job training.

In the process, the builders found another innovative use for vacant lots:

They dug a deep trench in the adjacent lot to provide geothermal heating and cooling for the house.

On all of the buildings, PUSH reuses existing materials where possible, upgrades the windows and insulation, and installs Energy Star-rated metal roofs that help to passively cool the buildings.

Extreme neighborhood makeover

Back at the PUSH headquarters I met co-founder Eric Walker, who I instantly recognized even though we had never met.

Walker guest-starred on an episode of ABC’s reality TV show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition that aired in 2010.

Eric Walker, co-founder of PUSH, promotes the mission of creating strong neighborhoods with hiring opportunities and community resources. Photo courtesy of TEDxBuffalo.

In a typical episode of the show, a handful of hyperactive celebrities and local volunteers target a distressed home that is owned by a family undergoing illness, disaster, or some other hardship, and they quickly fix it up for the family in need.

Instead of just fixing up one house, though, PUSH and some 4,500 volunteers teamed up with the show’s producers to fix up several surrounding properties in the neighborhood as well.

Extreme Makeover brought the West Side some positive national exposure, but Walker still has mixed feelings about the show.

Neighborhood improvement can either come from external forces or it can come from within, and the forces of change portrayed in the show weren’t entirely homegrown.

“In organizing, we talk about three kinds of power: power over, power for, and power with,” explains Walker.

The TV show gave PUSH an opportunity to inspire, but the tools of change were in the hands of the ABC producers and the celebrity hosts — not members of the community.

“It was one step removed from the power we’re trying to build,” Walker says.

The TV cameras packed up and left, but the transformation power remains in the neighborhood.

It is evident in the carefully restored Victorians that line Massachusetts Avenue; in the raised beds the community has acquired through PUSH; and in the fact that parents now take their children to the once-dangerous park they fought for and won themselves.

Check out Eric Walker’s talk at TEDx Buffalo.

Ways Buildings Can Be Greener ~ Inoperable Windows and Efficient Lighting

Standing at two ends of the sustainability spectrum, inoperable windows (picture most any large skyscraper in any town) and efficient lighting seem to represent opposite ends of the conversation vis-a-vis sustainable practices.

Efficient lights demonstrate the steps we have taken to illuminate interior spaces that ostensibly would be dark otherwise.

However, natural light is a free, inexhaustible resource.

What are ways buildings can be greener?

Choosing natural light over energy-efficient lighting

True, the sun doesn’t always shine. Buildings may need to be lit up at night or other times of darkness.

However, the fact that light bulbs have become more efficient belies the fact that they are terribly inefficient.

Natural light is the optimal choice when it comes to lighting a space.

For schools and office complexes, the prime time for occupancy is during daylight hours.

Innovations like day lighting tubes can bring natural light into interior spaces that otherwise may not have the benefit of “natural” illumination.

Even though lighting may be efficient, it doesn’t mean it’s the most sustainable option.

Ways Buildings Can Be Greener
windows on highrise

The problem with inoperable windows

Inoperable windows are another problem. Recently, I had the opportunity to tour a number of LEED certified projects as part of the workshop I led, “Buildings as Teaching Tools.”

Many facilities earned silver certification (or higher), but they had inoperable windows.

These buildings were designed to minimize energy use, but they had to shut out the natural world to completely control and maintain balance inside.

Large mechanical systems regulate airflow, temperature, etc.

Opening a window can upset the delicate balance.

Where does that leave individuals who want some fresh air while they sit in their office?

Green features are good but there is usually room for improvement

Just because a building has “green” features (LEED certified mechanical systems that maintain an “optimal” indoor air environment and highly efficient lighting) doesn’t mean they’ll perform that way.

Leaving efficient lights on all the time negates their goal.

True, sensors and timers help alleviate the issue, but it’s not enough.

Being unable to open a window because it may upset the  building’s balance is not ideal.

Ways buildings can be greener

Yes, these systems have numerous advantages over older, less efficient ones that fail to take indoor air quality into account.

However, there’s got to be a happy medium. LEED certification is a goal, but there is often more to do to optimize efficiencies.

There can be a balance between an overly mechanized, sterile office space and one more integrated with the natural world.

It is worth repeating that efficiency (by itself) is not the key to sustainability.

Environmentally Friendly Central Heating

Heating is something we all need and grumble about at a certain points of the year in particular.

Are you fed up of immensely fluctuating gas bills or the feeling that you have well and truly been beaten by the big six energy companies.

Well your not alone, it’s estimated that up to 30% of households in the UK suffer with the predicament of struggling to meet their energy bills demands.

In some extreme circumstances gas and electricity companies can even cut you off from the network all together.

Environmentally Friendly Central Heating

Upgrade your heating system to electric

Over the last few years a new generation of electric radiators have emerged enabling households to really take control over their energy bills and consumption.

They work through utilising highly accurate digital thermostats and ultra sophisticated built in programming.

When we heat our properties we often turn up the heating without making a second thought.

In reality we are actually turning the heat up for an entire household.

For example we may only be occupying the living room and bedroom on an evening and out of the property for entire day during the week.

This is where things get clever, the built in scheduling system offers users the ability to input their requirements for every hour of each day, seven days a week.

In turn this offers users the potential for the most refined and efficient heating system available.

On top of that they are constructed with precision digital thermostats that work through monitoring the rooms temperature, then switching off when energy is not needed.

Simply turning back on to top up the heat thus conserving a significant proportion of energy.

It’s estimated that out of a typical one hours worth of heating the eco electric heaters may purely consume just 20 minutes of electricity making them a truly powerful heating appliance.

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But what about fracking?

You may be overwhelmed or have cloudy vision on the arrival of fracking, is it a stable environmentally friendly source of energy that we can reply upon or a wolf in sheep clothing?

Ok so let start of with what actually is fracking – Fracking is by definition the process of drilling down beneath the earth ahead of exercising a high pressure water mix immediately into the rock which in turn permits gas to move out of the well.

So what is the controversy?

As we know fracking uses enormous amounts of water which requires transportation to the site at a large environmental price tag.

Then there is the concern that utilised carcinogenic chemicals could possibly abscond and thus contaminate the surrounding groundwater. While the industry maintains that this only occurs through bad practice and is not an inartistic and precarious technique.

There are also beliefs that the process can additionally cause miniature Earth tremors. Only very recently there were two recordings of 2.2 and 1.5 small-scale immensity located in Blackpool, Lancashire subsequent to fracking procedure. A Professor from the University of Manchester voiced his knowledge that while miniature earth tremors are of course identified as a possible menace from the process, at the same time are vastly improbable to be experienced by human beings and highly improbable to cause damage of any sort.

Bee Beautiful Scenery – Fracking

What about our beautiful scenery?

Under new rules fracking licences are only obtainable for attractive locations under exceptional circumstances. Environmentalists insist that new regulations are not adequate. Currently planning permission could be permitted inside National Parks on the condition that they are in the public interest.

A Greenpeace spokesman made comments that the new rules have ironically made it even easier for developers to drill nation parks and beauty locations by means of providing communities secretary automatic rights to overrule local authorities that reject such an application.

Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Tony Bosworth states: “Shale gas is not the solution to the UK’s energy challenges, we need a 21st century energy revolution based on efficiency and renewables, not more fossil fuels that will add to climate change.”

Ok so what are the advantages of Fracking?

Fracking permits the ability to enter troublesome to reach sources of both gas and oil. While over in the USA it has no question uplifted oil production and forced down oil cost. It’s even been estimated to have satisfy gas security for the following 100 years and has the potential capacity to generate electricity and a fraction of the Co2 emissions currently produced with coal.

It’s anticipated that through fracking shale gas in the UK could notably furnish energy demands. Having said that though a recent report from the Energy and Climate Change Committee outline while shale gas generation can conceivably assist the UK in energy supply security, it’s entirely possible that gas prices would not see a reduction to the end consumer.

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Contact your supplier

Are you struggling to meet your energy bills? In the first instance contacting your energy supplier sooner rather than later is by all means the best course of action to take, ignoring the problem and thinking it will disappear if you try hard enough certainly isn’t the solution in solving your utility debts.

Once you have explained your circumstances in relation to finance ask if you can make an arrangement to pay your accumulating energy bill off in a viable payment plan. Remember that energy suppliers must follow specific rules when customers are in arrears with their energy bills. By UK law energy companies must:

  • Supply you advice with how to pay off any outstanding moneys owed.
  • Provide you a suitable payment plan based on what is feasible financially for you.

If you need help or assistance or feel what an energy supplier is demanding is unreasonable you can get in touch with Citizens Advice where they will be able to offer your the most suitable support and guidance.

Remember that analogue meter readings are notorious for being inaccurate and are often simply an estimation so please be sure to physically check your meter reading and relay this back to the energy supplier ensuring that the bill is indeed correct.
Copper has been used for wiring for as long as most of us can remember, we see it in our homes and our vehicles, where it’s been used for decades because of its flexibility, ductility and high conductivity.

There are a few metals that are more conductive than copper, but these include silver and gold, so widespread use just isn’t possible. Copper also lasts for a long time, although it does start to corrode when exposed to the elements.

New Metal – Six Reasons why Aluminium is Replacing Copper

The days of copper are numbered, though, especially in the newer vehicles like hybrid cars and in the electrical systems of larger buildings. Aluminium is rapidly replacing copper as it has several advantages over it.

The first and biggest advantage that aluminium has over copper is that it’s a lot lighter. This is especially important in vehicle wiring, where lighter cars mean lower fuel usage. Hybrid car makers want to shed as much excess weight from their cars as possible, and replacing heavy copper wires is one way to do this. Every unnecessary kilo on a car uses more fuel or battery, so the lighter the wiring harness is, the more efficient the car is.

The fact that aluminium is so much lighter than copper has benefits before it’s even installed in a car or a building. It weighs 70 per cent less than copper, which makes it a lot easier and cheaper to transport and faster to install. Builders and contractors appreciate how fast and cheap aluminium components are to move about and use and are using them more and more.

Aluminium is also much cheaper than copper. Once upon a time, copper was the cheapest metal we had, but the increased demand for copper from the emerging nations like China and India, combined with global copper mine depletion, has pushed the price right up. It’s become easier to mine and extract aluminium, as well as to recycle it, so this metal is quite simply a better bet than copper.

Aluminium is also unaffected by political events, which can cause sudden upswings in the availability and price of copper. Most of the aluminium in use today has already been recycled once, so we don’t need to worry about it running out any time soon.

One old problem with electrical connections made from aluminium was creep, or the tendency for the connections to lengthen and change shape over time and under high temperatures. Special wedge-shaped aluminium connectors have been developed, so that when creep occurs, the connectors actually end up moving closer and tighter together, ensuring better connectivity than ever. This was one of the last hurdles aluminium needed to overcome to beat copper.

Another complaint about aluminium in electrical systems like Busbars was its oxidisation, as this affects conductivity. However this problem has also been overcome by electro-tin plating conductor bars. This means that builders enjoy the benefits of Busbar trunking systems made from aluminium without the downsides of aluminium reacting with other metals.

Aluminium is non-magnetic, and so it’s ideal for use in technologies and appliances, like sensitive or high-voltage electronic devices, that need the minimum amount of magnetic interference.

How to Improve your Homes Energy Efficiency Rating

Homes Energy Efficiency Rating – Making your home more energy efficient has many benefits, including reducing the cost of high energy bills, improving personal comfort, and helping to protect the environment.

As the cost of energy rises and people’s awareness of the harmful effects of energy production increases, the demand for environmentally renewable energy sources becomes greater than ever before.

However, there are lots of small changes that you can make to everyday living that will can lead to a big difference on your carbon footprint.

We’ve put together a shortlist of seven changes you can make around the house to lower your carbon emissions.

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Improving the energy efficiency of your home requires a new mindset.

Start small by intentionally replacing wasteful habits with small changes that can save big in the long run.

The savings will be both financial as well as environmental.

Remember your mum or dad following you from room to room, constantly switching off the lights?

That small habit can save a lot of energy. If you are not in the room, switch off the lights.

Additionally, replace traditional fluorescent light bulbs with more energy efficient bulbs.

Plug all major electronics into a power strip that can easily be turned off when not in use.

Heat-generating appliances are the biggest culprits of energy waste.

Strive to eliminate any unnecessary usage of these appliances.

Try multi-tasking when using the oven by baking several items together.

Preheating is generally not necessary if you adjust the cooking time.

Only boil as much water as you need at one time rather than filling up the entire kettle.

Wrap an insulation blanket around your hot water heater to keep the temperature more stable.

Most energy is leaked through walls, windows, and doors.

Make use of curtains and blinds to keep the cool or warm air in, depending on the season.

Make sure that all window and door cracks are properly sealed.

Try turning your thermostat down one or two degrees in the winter and up one or two degrees in the summer.

Dress accordingly rather than constantly changing the temperature.

Consider investing in energy-efficient appliances, such as a new boiler.

Though the cost is larger up front, the end result is bigger savings for you and your family.

Replace old windows with news ones that have double-glazing.

Again, this will be an investment that will save a lot of energy and money over time.

You can learn more about replacement windows as well as payment options by visiting www.consumersadvocate.org.

As an added efficiency boost, using roller shades with light filtering and blackout materials will save you even more energy.

Determine whether or not greener sources of energy, such as wind and solar power, would be feasible for you.

If you plan to live in your home for many years, these “free” energy sources tend to pay for themselves.

Rising energy costs have truly made people dig deeper into their wallets.

This fact, coupled with the detrimental effects to the environment is plenty of motivation to improve home energy efficiency.

The changes do not need to be dramatic to have a big effect.

Start with simple, everyday changes.

Today in the UK it is a legal requirement to have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) if you are selling or letting your property so these there benefits of being green really are bigger than ever.

An EPC measures the energy efficiency of your property and the better rating you get the easier it will be to sell your home.

So follow these tips and not only reduce your carbon footprint but you may even make your home more attractive to buyers and tenants in the process! Become a smarter shopper that helps the environment

Home Energy Efficiency

We have all been told time and time again about how to save energy and the importance of doing so for future generations and the planet.

So I’m not going to repeat all that to you; instead I’m going to offer you much more actionable suggestions for improving home energy efficiency, and how to ensure you are giving it your best shot; because it really is a good thing.

Breaking Down Your Utility Bill

On average you may spend half of your utility bill on heating your home and around a quarter on heating your water.

That is a huge chunk of your money so it would be wise to see if there is any way of making savings.

By insulating the hot water tank with a thermal efficient jacket you will maintain the temperature of the water for longer.

Washing machines and dishwashers have become more efficient in recent years thanks to European legislation and directives.

It’s possible to save £13 a year per appliance by using an A-rated appliance.

So combining the energy efficiency of an A-rated washing machine with your dishwasher, fridge and freezer and you could potential save a cool (pardon the pun) £52 a year!

There are loads of effortless ways to save energy including turning the heating thermostat down by one degree Celsius.

It is estimated that the average saving on energy costs is £65 a year.

This is something that you can do without really thinking about it; you probably won’t even notice the difference in temperature.

But hey, there is only one way to find out, I’ll give you a minute to make the change.

There are many less obvious advantages to energy saving than those seemingly generic benefits.

For example, improving the wall and loft insulation of your home will make huge savings compared to the aforementioned tweaks.

Insulating the cavity walls of your property could save on average somewhere in the region of £140.

Combine cavity insulation with loft insulation plus the installation of double glazed doors and windows and the sum you will save year on year will make impressive reading.

Something Else to Contemplate

Energy supply companies have a responsibility to help consumers reduce their utility bills, reduce carbon emissions and help maintain and sustain a cleaner environment.

The energy supply companies currently are offering help under a government initiative called The Energy Companies Obligation.

Depending on your personal circumstances you may qualify for free energy efficiency improvements.

It costs nothing to find out; your energy company is obliged to help and will, if required arrange for a home energy assessment to be made.

If you do not qualify for free assistance there is a funded programme called The Green Deal.

This is a method of obtaining a loan which can be paid off in installments which are added to subsequent energy bills until the loan is paid off.

Home Energy Assessment

Depending on your personal circumstances you may qualify for free energy efficiency improvements.

It costs nothing to find out; your energy company is obliged to help and will, if required arrange for a home energy assessment to be made.

If you do not qualify for free assistance there is a funded program called The Green Deal.

This is a method of obtaining a loan which can be paid off in installments which are added to subsequent energy bills until the loan is paid off.

Check out your energy company deals today.

You have nothing to lose but, should you take it up you have a lot of savings to gain on your future energy bills while making your home energy efficiency.

Reduce Your Heating Oil Costs This Winter

Did you know that the average household in the United States spends nearly $1000 on heating each winter – and the bill is a lot higher in certain areas of the country.

Aside from the cost, the environmental impact of burning all that fuel oil is significant, leading to high emissions of greenhouse gases.
Reduce Your Heating Oil Cost This Winter
However, if you are an environmentally aware homeowner, there are a number of things you can do to drastically reduce the amount of fuel that you need from a residential heating oil supplier

Let’s start with the things that will reduce your heating costs without you having to spend a cent.

It may seem obvious, but if you turn down your thermostats, you are going to save a surprisingly large amount of money – and you don’t need to leave yourself shivering to do this.

In most cases, turning down the thermostat just one degree will reduce your heating bill by about 3%.

So, if you keep the thermostat set at 70 rather than 72, you will immediately take 6% off of your heating costs.

Furthermore, if you also set your thermostats to go down to 65 when you are out of the house during the day and when you are sleeping at night, then the total savings can be closer to 12%.

Another thing that can save a significant amount of energy is turning off fans when they are not in use.

It may seem unbelievable, but if you leave a bathroom or kitchen fan on for just one hour, it can expel a complete houseful of warm air.

If you have fireplaces, keep the dampers closed as well, as these can suck air and heat right out of the room.

Finally, consider turning down your water heater to around 120 degrees – this will reduce your energy consumption considerably, and you are unlikely to notice the difference.

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Now, let’s look at things that cost very little but have a big effect on heating costs.

You may not think that your house has any leaks, but you would be wrong.

If you take into account all of the little gaps around doors, windows and other exposed areas, these can add up to the equivalent of a 9 square foot hole in your walls.

These leaks are easy to find – on a windy day, simply hold a lit candle up to any areas that you suspect might be leaking and see if the flame flickers.

Once you have identified the leaks, you can eliminate them by caulking around windows and installing door sweeps on outside doors.

The other key area where energy is lost is in your duct work.

In fact, if your ducts travel through unheated spaces and are not insulated properly or leak, you can lose up to 60% of the heat they carry before it ever makes it to its destination.

To fix this, simply tape all the joints with a metal-backed tape and wrap the ducts with special duct insulation.

Other low-cost ways of reducing energy consumption include replacing any clogged air filters on your furnace, making sure there is enough insulation in your attic, and winterizing your windows – you can do this by putting plastic film on them.

Finally, there are the big ticket items.

Putting in new, energy-efficient windows can be expensive, but it pays off in the long term.

You should look for units that are double or triple-glazed, and filled with an inert gas.

It’s often a good idea to wait until you need to replace your windows anyway before you do this, since the incremental cost is likely to be no more than $100 per window.

If you have an old furnace – over 20 years old – then it is time to replace it.

When you come to do this, consider buying a new furnace that carries the ENERGY STAR label.

These furnaces, which are rated by the federal agency of the same name, are up to 15% more efficient than a new conventional furnace.

You will pay a premium for this, but your payback period is likely to be less than four years.

While many of these investments pay for themselves, there may also be state and federal tax credits that you can apply for to help offset the cost.

While these are not typically large, they can make a difference.

One good place to look for any available federal and state incentives is the Database of State Incentives for Renewable and Efficiency (DSIRE), which is funded by the US Department of Energy.
How Does Energy-efficient Light Bulbs Work

How Does Energy-efficient Light Bulbs Work

Compact Fluorescent Lights, otherwise known as CFLs, have come a long way since they entered the light bulb market a few years ago.

Along with their light-emitting diode cohort (aka LEDs), they’ve become standard fare at home furnishing stores and can now be dimmed, diffused and clustered for maximum impact.

Godo Stoyke, author of The Carbon Buster’s Home Energy Handbook: Slowing Climate Change and Saving Money, writes that switching to CFLs will save the average household $350 over a five-year period, not to mention a whopping 4,500 pounds of carbon dioxide and 3,500 kilowatt-hours of power.

For a lifetime of CFL use, that works out to just under $1,000 saved in lighting costs and 12,800 pounds less carbon dioxideout and about in the atmosphere.

These bulbs are more efficient, less expensive and much more eco-friendly; and in the case of LED, cooler and more durable than regular Einstein bulbs.

It’s important to know that CFLs contain trace amounts of mercury — an average of 5 milligrams, considerably less than the 500 milligrams or so that was present in older thermometers — and need to be recycled properly.

Home Depot offers a nationwide recycling program, and many local recycling centers are set up to take back old CFLs as well.

Of course, since these bulbs will last you longer than usual, you won’t have to worry too often about how to dispose of them.

Should You Switch to Energy-efficient Light bulbs?

Compact Fluorescent Lights, otherwise known as CFLs, have come a long way since they entered the light bulb market a few years ago.

Along with their light-emitting diode cohort (aka LEDs), they’ve become standard fare at home furnishing stores and can now be dimmed, diffused and clustered for maximum impact and energy-efficient light bulbs.

Switching to Energy-efficient Light bulbs

Godo Stoyke, author of The Carbon Buster’s Home Energy Handbook: Slowing Climate Change and Saving Money, writes that switching to CFLs will save the average household $350 over a five-year period, not to mention a whopping 4,500 pounds of carbon dioxide and 3,500 kilowatt-hours of power.

For a lifetime of CFL use, that works out to just under $1,000 saved in lighting costs and 12,800 pounds less carbon dioxideout and about in the atmosphere.

These bulbs are more efficient, less expensive and much more eco-friendly; and in the case of LEDs, cooler and more durable than regular Edison bulbs.

It’s important to know that CFLs contain trace amounts of mercury — an average of 5 milligrams, considerably less than the 500 milligrams or so that was present in older thermometers — and need to be recycled properly.

Home Depot offers a nationwide recycling program, and many local recycling centers are set up to take back old CFLs as well.

Of course, since these bulbs will last you longer than usual, you won’t have to worry too often about how to dispose of them.

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New Lightbulb by Phillips “Greenest Ever”

A 10 watt light-emitting diode, or LED, bulb has been named the greenest replacement for the time-worn 60 watt bulb.

The Philips made bulb won $10 million from the Department of Energy by winning the L Prize  (covered here nearly 2 years ago) for creating “high performance, energy-saving replacements” for the incandescent that still proliferate around the country.

In order to compete in the competition, Phillips had to submit 2,000 bulbs.

Why so many?

With a product so important to daily life as the light bulb, rigorous tests were conducted to make sure the bulb could replace the hearty 60 watt we all know (425 million) of which are sold each year in the U.S. alone).

The battery of tests included short-term and long-term performance testing carried out by independent laboratories and field assessments conducted with utilities and other partners.

The product also performed exceedingly well through a series of stress tests, in which the product was subjected to extreme conditions such as high and low temperatures, humidity, vibration, high and low voltage, and various electrical waveform distortions.

It also gives of a “warm white” light that LED bulbs have often failed to produce up till now.

Bulbs not used in testing went into field assessments where 1,300 bulbs were used in supermarkets in Sacramento, residences on Martha’s Vineyard, and apartments in New Hampshire.

DOE reported that people liked the light and would recommend it to others.

The long term savings and reductions in pollution would be dramatic, too.

DOE estimates that, “If every 60-watt incandescent bulb in the U.S. was replaced with the 10-watt L Prize winner, the nation would save about 35 terawatt-hours of electricity or $3.9 billion in one year and avoid 20 million metric tons of carbon emissions.

That’s enough electricity to power the lights of nearly 18 million U.S. households, or nearly triple the annual electricity consumption in Washington, D.C.

”There are some down sides, namely a price that could top $40 (Philips hasn’t said how much it will cost).

For one light bulb?

Yes, but current bulbs have to be replaced ever 1-2 years where the new LED can last for 35 years.

Just be sure to keep the kids’ footballs away from them.

Green Building Materials For Home Improvement

If you feel that it’s time for a little bit of home improvement, then why not consider using green building materials for the projects?

There are numerous options in the market today.

Below are just a few green alternatives to think about for various types of renovations.

Low-Emissivity Windows

Windows are necessary to allow light and fresh air inside the house but they can contribute to increased heating during the summer and excessive cooling during the winter.

Fortunately, materials have been developed to control the heat flow through windows.

The glass can be coated with a metallic oxide that reduces its emissivity without affecting its clarity.

Therefore, sunlight passes through but the heat stays out.

Then, during winter, the warm air that circulates around the house will not leak heat through the treated window.

Hard coatings are used for the outside-facing glass panel while soft coatings are used between multiple layers.

When the energy savings from these windows are considered, their cost makes a lot of financial sense.

Paper-based Countertops

Paper-based countertops are made by bonding recycled paper with petroleum-free resin through heat and pressure.

These are great for green kitchen renovations for homeowners who want to create a fresh new look and use safe materials for their food preparations.

They have high tolerance to heat at 350 degrees, scratch resistant, stain resistant, and easy to clean.

DIY enthusiasts like using them because it’s easy to get them into the right shape for drain boards, sink installations, and the like with just the basic woodworking tools.

Don’t be fooled by their attractive surfaces as they are tough enough to last for many years even in the busiest of kitchens.

Cotton Insulation

Fiberglass insulation works well in regulating the temperature inside the house during weather extremes but they tend to contain toxic substances such as formaldehyde and VOCs which may cause harm to people.

Cotton insulation is a much safer alternative with no unwanted chemicals but has a similar degree of effectiveness.

It is made from recycled denim jeans and other consumer wastes which are rich in cotton.

Aside from its green and thermal properties, the material is also absorbent to sound waves, impervious to pests, and resistant to fire thanks to a borate treatment.

Cotton insulation will not tolerate the growth of fungus, mold, and mildew.

Composite Lumber

Composite lumber is a mixture of wood and recycled plastics.

If you take your plastics to a recycling facility, then may end up in one of these products.

It has a lot of excellent features that make it a desirable green building material for home improvement projects.

For instance, it retains much of the natural look of wood for that warm glow yet it is much more durable because of the binding action of the plastics.

One of the most common complaints about wood is that it rots easily when exposed to moisture so outdoor usage is limited.

Composite lumber is resistant to wetness and is thus the perfect material for deck and patios.

Natural Stacked Stone

Another green household product is Stacked stone is an ideal green construction material and gives a visible natural feel to whichever room it is placed in.

A kitchen upgrade of natural stone veneer decreases the consumption of strictly wood based products in the home.

This upgrade also lessens the need for wallpaper and paint or other unnatural building materials.

When utilizing a product made of natural stone, such as natural thin stone veneer,  there is no need to worry about loss of color or texture due to age or exposure to weather.

Ways Consumerism Shapes Design

Architect Alejandro Zaero-Polo of Foreign Office Architects comments that his generation emerged in a social and political context of “cheapness.” This societal pursuit of cheapness expresses a central strategy of economic growth— cost-cutting—one of several that are constant and pervasive, affecting our everyday lives.

Ultimately, growth relies on increasing profits; common ways to grow profits include reducing costs, increasing sales, expanding markets, and attracting investment. These economic practices aimed at increasing consumption, shape design in a number of problematic ways.

Standardization

Standardized, mass-produced and uniform materials (or plants, where landscapes are concerned), especially when made into the same basic shapes (standardized forms), are typically cheaper than many environmentally or socially preferred options.

Although designers and consumers alike may yearn for more diverse formal and material exploration, rarely does financial cost allow for it.  The primacy of cheapness then constrains the scope of design work and leaves us with a uniform, frequently uninteresting environment where the lack of diversity itself carries a social cost.

Safety

It is now widely understood that the market and its financial or capital resources (for example, money, buildings or equipment) sit within a much wider economy made up of ecological and social resources. But the market doesn’t account for damage to ecological and social resources, in fact this kind of damage often represents a threat to consumer safety. For example, there are many economic pressures in favor of using harmful chemicals to grow and process fabric fibers.

Chemicals used in plastics and fibers make those materials more versatile, which allows for an expansion of market offerings—and consequent growth. At the same time, testing chemicals is expensive, and huge profits would be sacrificed if the 1000 or so new chemicals introduced each year had to be proven safe.

Bisphenol A (BPA) Consumer safety
Bisphenol A (BPA), one of many chemicals that were formerly thought to be “safe”

It’s a “multi-billion-dollar hornets’ nest,” so regulators keep their distance; most chemicals aren’t tested; rather they are presumed innocent until proven guilty—92 percent of chemicals in use are unregulated. Although evidence mounts against many chemicals that were formerly thought to be “safe” (an example is Bisphenol A (BPA) withdrawn from water and baby bottles in 2009), no major university chemistry department in the United States specializes in “green chemistry” (ecologically safe chemical development), and designers up against both economic pressure and lack of knowledge end up using “standard” materials such as BPA.

Landscapes

If we think further about the pursuit of cheapness, we find other design-related areas where prices are low precisely because they don’t capture social and environmental values. The pressure toward privatizing public services and public spaces illustrates the problem. There has been a strong trend toward cities contracting out the management of public spaces, along with other public services such as waste management.

Private companies compete to provide the lowest possible cost for services, while at the same time maximizing their own profit out of the deal. In these scenarios, civic values that a city may once have sought through design solutions are typically lost to the priority of maximizing profits in private “service” companies.

Prices also send the wrong signals through the mechanism of impact fees. Emily Talen describes how cities such as Phoenix and Chicago implement new parks and other public spaces not according to where they are needed, but rather, according to where developers have paid impact fees. In the case of Phoenix this means that parks are planned for low-density, peripheral locations rather than strategic locations that might synergistically enrich the public landscape.

Individualization Solutions

Individualization Solutions

The market focuses on “individual” consumers. In design terms, increasing sales also means focusing on individual solutions rather than seriously examining how groups might share structures and objects. For example, we sell more power tools, cars and washing machines when each individual or household owns their own private goods.

Research shows, however, that during its lifetime the average domestic power tool is used for a total of only about 10 minutes. Similarly, four- and five-seat automobiles are hardly ever used to capacity; most carry one passenger to work, sit parked all day, and return home with one passenger.

Yet priorities of increasing sales filter into design research and design innovation that tends to concentrate on individualization and solutions for the individual or single household.

Keeping up

“keeping up” means generating waste

Consumerism provides a form of social language based on private consumption. Using this language we gain social status, avoid shame, even shape our identities. The consequences of “keeping up” our social position through “positional consumption” appear in architecture and design. For example there is an emphasis on “buying new” over repairing and maintaining existing buildings, landscapes and objects.

Many modern appliances cannot be opened or repaired by their owners, and most are not “upgradable.” To keep up with the newest benefits, consumers must buy new products and structures rather than upgrade what they have.

Many of us will recognize this in its extreme form with electronic products such as computers and phones. Yet research also suggests that many buildings are outpaced by the changing contexts around them and are demolished long before their functional life has ended.

Conclusion

In general we can see how the relative cheapness of large-scale projects, mass production and privatization govern a number of aspects of architecture and design, typically at the cost of local scale and diversity.