Most people here in the UK live in old housing stock. I live in a flat in a Victorian building. They weren’t too concerned with energy efficiency when they built my street.
At least new buildings have to conform to new regulations that make them more energy efficient, but anyone who’s ever tried to build a real eco house knows how hard it is to get it past planning authorities here because we’re weighed down with regulations about what houses should look like.
Maybe it’s time to junk all our quaint British ideas of what houses should be. I just came across some designs by the American architect Michael Jantzen who creates interesting green structures like this footbridge/wind generator.
Nice, isn’t it? But can you imagine what a fuss there would be getting something like this past planning departments in the UK? Or this one, that looks like a little a mushroom designed by Le Corbusier?
Whole segments of Jantzen’s Wind Pavilion supposedly rotate slowly in the wind, generating electricity. Actually, I feel a little seasick just looking at it. But my point is, something’s going to have to give, in our straight-laced concepts of what buildings should be. They’ve been talking about building a Frank Gehry skyscraper on the seafront not far from where I live. It’s one of those ones that look like a crumpled baked bean can on acid. Maybe there are legitimate concerns about it, but from the way local conservationists have been talking, you’d have thought Gehry was out to kill their grannies and bury them in the foundations. A lot of people hate it simply because it doesn’t look like what a building ought to look like.
On a more practical level, here in Brighton we’ve got the Brighton Earthship. The plumbing was done by the wonderful Annie Lowden, a woman who used to advertise in a local alternative magazine I set up and used to edit before I set up the Eco Store. She goes by the colourful name of Mama Plumber. The building is off the mains and exists entirely on recovered water…