The greenest building – in the world?

It’s a big claim – the greenest building in the world. Of course this is America – and more specifically Seattle.

The video below is of the Bullitt Center in Seattle. It aims to meet the rigorous Living Building Design Challenge, which looks beyond design criteria and scrutinizes a building’s green credentials, including energy self-sufficiency, over the course of a year in use.

There are some impressive claims. First that this building s design ife is 250 years. Then that the building is fitted with dry composting toilets and rainwater collection on the roof, which directs water to underground storage for purifying.It is made from high performance timber. It has no on-site parking, promoting pedestrianism, cycling, and public transport instead. A cycle store the size of three garages is located on site.

What I couldn’t find in the blurb was the usual measurable badges – LEED, EPC’s BREEAM etc. Rather they satisfy the ‘Living Building Challenge“. Whilst I have no issue with the principles or aspiration here – it is frustrating that a new measurable ‘code’ has appeared?

The Greenest Building in the World. Probably.

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business, Green stuff Tagged BREEAM, Bullitt Center, , Greenest building in the world, LEED, Living Building Challenge, Seattle, sustainable

Food miles and food footsteps

There is a lot in the green press about our exotic taste and how many miles our food has to travel. The corner shop is now replaced with monster Tesco’s and the like. They ship ‘fresh food’ miles – in some cases thousands of miles. The most contentious are the likes of Mango – which come half way around the planet!

But you have balance this against the fact that the £200million fresh fruit and vegetable trade with the UK supports one million people living in Africa.

It really is a modern dilemma.


Last week I read that in Brooklyn , New York there is about to open a supermarket with a twist – it has a 20,000 sq ft (1,860 sq m) rooftop greenhouse growing produce to be sold on the premises. Gotham Greens already specialises in growing produce in hydroponic controlled greenhouses. Hydroponic farming is likely to be big in the future – it allows a strict control over the environment in which produce is grown with computer control – temperature, light, water and nutrients can be tailored to give the best yields.

Under the greenhouse will be a Whole Foods store.

I think this is a great idea. If only I wasn’t allergic to salad and fruit …

I want one of those too…

I am still waiting for Honda to lend me one of their little jets (next weekend would be great thanks).


But whilst I am waiting I have found soemthing else to keep me entertained.

The Ryno is for me. It’s “a multiple use, self-balancing, one wheel, electric scooter that’s adaptable to wide range of uses including urban individuals, government, and industrial customers.” But more importantly it looks cool! And I am an hon. urbanist (which must be similar to an “urban individual”.

You can bomb around at 12.5mph (25 off road). It’s self balancing and will run for 30 miles before needing a boost in power.

They are about to go into production in the US – so hopefully Nottingham will follow shortly? AT $4,200 this is good value?

The future has arrived. And if RYNO want me to test one here – just call…

By Tim Garratt Posted in Green stuff Tagged bike, electric, , motorcycle, one-wheel, RYNO, shameless plug, sustainable, unicylce

Flooding – and weather weirding?

On Sunday night there were 500 flood risk warnings across the UK. Over 800 homes had been flooded – and areas like Exeter were like a war-zone. 2″ of rain fell in a 12 hour period in some parts of the south.

Flooding is one of those natural disasters which can hit quickly and is simply unstoppable. The force and volume of water is one of the most powerful, natural forces on the planet. The real damage is done no so much by the water falling, but rather the fact that the drains don’t work – in fact they work backwards – waste comes back…

The question on everyone’s lips is – are these freak weather storms caused by global warming? The reality is that we don’t know – it is difficult to make a snap decision – although this doesn’t usually stop the newspapers.

There is a new phrase – which is probably more accurate – ‘global weirding‘. In other words we are being subjected to weird changes in the weather.

The UK had drought like conditions in the early part of 2012 – but by the time I headed out to the Isle of Wight in June – it didn’t look like a drought!

There is some melting of the sea ice at both the north and south poles – which can then impact on the gulf stream. The movement of ice means a change in the physical state of water (obviously) – but this just means we get the stuff shifted around. The jest stream moving around also means a change in temperature – we are more likely to see this in increasing frequency.

So whilst we are subject to this weirding – you have to feel sorry for those who have their homes flooded.

By Tim Garratt Posted in Green stuff Tagged flooding, freak, Global Warming, global weirding, , , sustainable, weather

Amazon laid waste….

My son Jak spends most of his income on cars or bits for his cars (or squash). This week a package arrived – from Amazon. Parts for the car. The size of the package was impressive – 40cm x 30cm x 10cm deep. I measured it.

Free packaging and postage was a benefit – when you are buying £3.49 worth of cleaning cloths! In fairness there were six of them in the pack – as you can see from the photograph. This is not photoshopped – this is a real picture. The cloths were the only thing in the box – other than the brown paper to stop the blessed things rattling around and … er .. breaking. They arrived completely intact and unbroken, which you can’t complain about. The packaging is worthy of a dozen eggs.

Amazon – this is a shameful waste of cardboard and paper. I have no idea how much a cardboard box costs. I guess Amazon pay a lot less than I would. I am not exactly a green-exemplar by any means – but even I can see that this is an absurd waste of resource. It cannot be right to waste this amount of card.

I am sure Amazon buy many differing sizes of box. This one was clearly wrong. On all counts!

The supermarkets seem to have got their act together on plastic bags. They always make me feel guilty for not having taken my woven hessian bag with me.

What an utter waste amazon. Well, it is now as it’s in my recycling bin…

I want one of those!

My carbon footprint isn’t brilliant. Partly because I like going to places – on planes. Or in fast cars. But I do offset my carbon footprint by allowing other people to drive the Toyota Prius. Life is, after all, about balances.

A couple of weeks ago though I saw some details for a new Honda plane that has just been launched. I want one. I know I’ll have to win the lottery…

I still have a Pilots Licence – although I haven’t flown for a few years now. But it’s only like riding a bike – nose forward, power on, off we go! Landing is just a controlled crash. The bit in between comprises a bit of steering and chatting to those nice air traffic control folks. Simple really.

But this new plane looks amazing – as you can see from the PR picture – designed for gadding about – especially if you have a dog (I don’t). It seats four ideally plus the two crew. It will travel 1600 miles on a full tank – climbing to 43,000 ft – at up to 420knots (around 460mph). It is a light jet – and is clearly aimed at the ‘executive’ market.

Perhaps the most important thing is how ‘green’ this jet is. It emits less nitrogen dioxide than other ‘light jets’. Praise indeed. Green too. Well, greenish.

Although you don’t get a ‘standard’ jet the basic price is a very reasonable $3.65m (£2.25m). I definitely want one.

PS – A few weeks ago I blogged about the new F-Type Jaguar and as a direct result of that blog, Jaguar invited me to a track day with them. Honda if you are listening, I’m free at reasonable notice…

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business, Green stuff Tagged footrpint, , Honda, Jet, pilot licence, plane, private jet

Nottingham – on yer bike!

At long last Nottingham is to get some Boris bikes. A feature of London these bikes can be hired for a short time and are intended to relieve congestion.

Nottingham is to join the trend. We now have two racks set up – with 15 to follow by the end of the year. The scheme has cost £350,000 and has been fully funded by the Department of Transport. The bikes will be free to hire if you have a Kangaroo card, but otherwise £2 for the day. They have been liveried in black and green. Lincoln Green I am hoping!

We aren’t going to get the electric charging points like the London bikes, just locks and locations where we hope the bikes will find their way back to!

It is expected to cost £50,000 each year to run.

City councillor Jane Urquhart said at the launch: “One of Nottingham’s strengths is that it is a relatively compact city, which makes getting around by bike very easy.”

I think it’s a great idea. I have always fancied using the Boris bikes in London, but wearing a suit and carrying a case precludes it for me I’m afraid. The same problem will happen in Nottingham I suspect. Although in the summer it all sounds quite tempting. I’m not sure yet whether there will be a rack of bikes near my office – I hope so!

My only worry is whether they will go walkabouts. I haven’t yet seen how the Council are going to clamp down on theft – but assuming they have a way. This initiative is good for us as a City. It’s very green and makes us look more cosmopolitan! Great news then.

Carrot and stick? Sustainability – how will we ever change?

If you have dropped by here before you will probably have spotted some stuff about sustainability. Last year I did some research with my friends at the School of Architecture at Nottingham University; the topic was ‘are green buildings more valuable’. The answer was ‘no’. But there was more to it than that!

I’m not sure about ‘global warming’ – the case isn’t helped by the likes of the East Anglia University scandal over match-rigging. If they had been Badminton players we could have just sent them home and forgotten the whole affair. But we can’t – because this is important. And we don’t have transparency. So cynics (like me) will just question the ‘facts’ as we are given them.

But I do wonder what is happening around us. We have just had the wettest summer for 100 years. It has been a wash-out. And when we do get rain, it seems to come monsoon like! Last week I had to pull my car over onto what I assumed was the hard shoulder as I couldn’t see the bonnet!

Perhaps we do need to look after the planet and reduce what we use.

Which got me wondering about when people might change their behaviour. I think it will be when fuel poverty really hits home. We are constantly being warned about how fuel prices are rising. So I wondered about this. Through my office I have obtained the data for wholesale retail prices for gas and electricity going back over 5 years – the data is set out below…

As you can see this isn’t a doom and gloom story of sharp rises. I’m not advocating price increase – far from it. But unless we had a sharp rise which affected people’s pockets we will just continue to be in denial?

Kids pollinating plants instead of each other…

I don’t watch hours of TV – there’s not a lot on. But if you ever want to take a bite size of interesting stuff you should visit

This week I saw a 13 minute whirlwind which you have to watch. Do you ever wish your teacher was like this at school? Stephen Ritz is a whirlwind of energy and ideas, he’s also a teacher in New York’s tough South Bronx. There he and his kids grow lush gardens for food, greenery … and jobs.

Fascinating and inspiring…

Not so sustainable….

I drive past McDonalds every day – deliberately. It isn’t part of my daily routine.

But I do remember the Nottingham Castle Marina branch being opened. If my memory serves me right it was 1989 – and a certain Martin Brandon-Bravo, the local MP at the time performed the little curtain drawing ceremony. I remember this as there was a brass plaque form many years. Then when he lost his seat McDonalds took the plaque down! Like erasing history?

So 24 years on, it is interesting to see another re-fit. A major one this time as the ‘restaurant’ has been closed for weeks. It’s not a great advert for the longevity of buildings.

Last week I was judging some awards – and the question of sustainability came up. Sure, we are putting buildings up with low carbon footprints. We are even getting good at it – some of the technologies are so clever we are being paid by the utility companies as they produce too much electricity to use themselves.

I guess McDonald’s are fitting better insulation and greener technologies.

But this building is 24 years old. It’s not exactly sustainable then. We have all of the embedded carbon from its original construction – and now another load.

My point is that some of the best sustainable buildings we have are buildings that have stood the test of time. Take the Pitcher & Piano in Nottingham. It was a church – built in 1876. It stopped being used as a pace of worship in 1982 when it briefly became a Lace Museum. Now a thriving pub. Sure, it has had a refit internally, but is this not a truly sustainable building? 136 years and counting?

Compare this to the monstrosity being built on Castle Boulevard I blogged about here. Will this be standing in 136 years – not a chance. Bet you my life on it…

Oh – and Ronny McD I haven’t forgiven you for taking down that brass plaque….