NOT AN OPTION’
As the world’s leading scientists warn that extensive action is required to reduce the devastating impact of global
warming on our planet, architect and Passive House designer, Thomas Denhof, issues an environmental call to
arms and asks: when will we get serious about climate change?
despite living in the fifth richest country in the
world? It’s political choices defining the settings,
not a question of inevitableness.
As long as governments worldwide protect the
interests of the rich as a priority, we should not be
surprised about decisions diametrically opposed
to tackling looming climate breakdown. The
phasing out of the feed-in tariff for photovoltaic
by the end of March
this year, jeopardising
a whole industry’s
existence, the plans
to sneak in dangerous
shale gas fracking under
rules, as well as
Heathrow’s third runway,
come to mind.
We have the tools to build a greener future
Let’s open the toolbox and build a greener world
with the UK leading the way. Huge business
opportunities are waiting to be deployed.
There are many tools to be used: zero carbon
buildings, Passive House, BREEAM, car-free cities,
green roofs, LED lighting, renewable energy,
smart glass, district heating, smart thermostats,
sustainable materials, low-energy cement and
many more. Large scale funding for research into
new green technology and materials needs to be
provided. How about diverting the large subsidies
still flowing into the pockets of the fossil fuel
junkies? It’s down to us to stop the fossil fuel
industry, with governments reluctant to do so.
I believe climate change goes hand in hand
with inequality and
corporate greed and it
will affect the poorest
worst. If your bank
and power provider
can’t let go from fossil
fuel extraction you
should swap to greener
choices. Reducing meat
consumption is another
We need to depart from an ideology of short-term
gain and start building a long-term vision again.
Perpetual growth is incompatible with the limited
resources our beloved world provides us with.
Climate change is an existential threat to life on
earth. Inaction is not an option.
There is so much to win, if we only want it.
In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a landmark
report about the impacts of global warming
on our planet.
It’s the year we’ll remember a town in
California, called ‘Paradise’, being turned into
charcoal. The likelihood of extreme weather will
increase drastically if we fail to keep temperature
rise to 1.5ºC maximum. The symptoms we are
experiencing already are based on an increase of
1ºC since the industrial revolution began.
With CO2 emissions still mounting, we are
currently heading towards 3ºC, resulting in a
global climate catastrophe, with mass extinction
likely. The sobering news is that we have a mere 12
years left to avert global havoc. What’s our plan?
UK construction and the lack of
According to the Technology Strategy Board, the
construction operation and maintenance of the
built environment accounts for 45% of total UK
carbon emissions. The UK had the highest level of
people living in fuel poverty in Europe in 2013,
partially caused by a substandard housing stock
emitting vast amounts of CO2 and impacting on
health, at huge financial cost to the NHS. While
the Climate Change Act 2008 is committed to
reducing the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by
at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, is the
construction sector actually doing enough to
Those working in the UK long enough will still
remember the ‘Ecohomes Assessment’, the ‘Code
for Sustainable Homes’ as well as the ‘Zero Carbon’
agenda. The latter was meant to be implemented
by the whole industry in early 2016. While none of
these measures were perfect, they were created for
very good reasons. All three schemes disappeared
mysteriously without any suitable alternatives
put into place to fill the void. A flawed Building
Control system is pretty much all that’s left. May
I suggest that opposing business interests have
played a significant role in the downfall of these
essential measures by means of lobbyism?
Those shouting the loudest seem to get their
way these days, regardless of what the wider
consequences mean to all of us.
How is it that we are constantly reminded
about all the things we can’t afford in the UK,
BUILDING PRODUCTS | FEBRUARY
Let’s build a greener
world with the UK
leading the way