Showing posts from October, 2019

Future Homes and the Carbon Budget

The Future Homes Standard [1] is a consultation document about changes to the building regulations for new dwellings in the UK. It refers to “our commitment to deliver 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s”. In view of the present concern with meeting carbon budget targets, this post seeks to examine the carbon implications of this building program.

A 2010 newspaper article was headed “What's the carbon footprint of ... building a house” [2]. The answer proposed for a “newbuild two-bed cottage” was 80 tonnes CO2e. Details of the house were not provided, and it is clear that the writer was seeking only to give an indication of the carbon footprint. Is this figure still a useful guide today? We might expect that even if the total energy needed is the same, the CO2e figure might be lower, due to decarbonisation of at least some of the energy used.

A 2013 article proposes that “the average house contains about 1,000GJ of energy embodied in the materials used in its construction.” [3].T…

Three Paths to Carbon Zero

Many local authorities in the UK have stated their approaches to achieving zero or greatly reduced carbon dioxide output, some over a period of a few years, some over several decades. Two such statements will be examined, and compared with a proposal based on cumulative CO2 output.

The first plan is bold and simple: zero CO2 by 2025. If we take this to mean by the beginning of 2025, and expect action from the start of 2020, then we might envisage a straight line graph descending from the current output level to zero in five years, and so falling by 20% of the present level in each year. This has the virtue of simplicity, but is unlikely to represent reality. If in the first year the plan did meet its target, we could reasonably suppose that the measures taken were the easier ones, and that in each subsequent year the task would become more difficult. The shape of graph representing a realistic carbon reduction program is likely to be a curve, sloping downward steeply at first, and less…

The Tame, the Wicked and the Super Wicked

A post on the blog Community Of Practice In Philosophy for Management, contrasts “tame” and “wicked” problems [1].
Tame problems are those which can be clearly stated, have a well-defined goal, and once solved, stay solved.The games of chess and go provide examples of tame problems. In contrast, wicked problems have complex cause-and-effect relationships, human interaction, and inherently incomplete information.They require compromises.

In a 1973 paper, Rittel and Webber compare tame and wicked problems with a view to policy [2].

“The search for scientific bases for confronting problems of social policy is bound to fail, because of the nature of these problems. They are “wicked” problems, whereas science has developed to deal with “tame” problems. Policy problems cannot be definitively described. Moreover, in a pluralistic society there is nothing like the undisputable public good; there is no objective definition of equity; policies that respond to social problems cannot be meaningfull…