Are you interested in retrofit?

In 2019 nearly 70% of Teignbridge’s existing housing stock had an EPC rating D and below.  Despite the significant increase in new build, this % has changed little in the past 10 years and, in the last 2 years, has actually increased.

Green-House Gas (GHG) emissions from heating our buildings are significant with Teignbridge’s domestic emissions in 2018 accounted for approximately 25% of all its emissions, most of this from heating.

In order to to reach the UK’s Paris targets we can reduce emissions by retrofitting properties to:

  • decarbonise heating energy, by using low-carbon fuel sources (eg Biomass & Hydrogen) or switch to electric heating (eg. Heat Pumps) and using low-carbon electricity generation.
  • reduce the heating energy demanded by eliminating waste and minimising heat loss (ie with better insulation).

Homeowners invest significantly in home-improvements, especially in the able-to-pay sector, however this sector tends to have the highest GHG emissions, primarily because energy pricing is still low relative to incomes in that sector.

Whilst Climate Change is accepted as a serious threat by the majority of the population, including the able-to-pay-sector, it is still the case that, in general, they do not act to address their contribution to Climate Change.

Those who do act are faced with a plethora of solutions, deals and government incentives.  More often than not, many are either disappointed that their emissions and running costs have not reduced significantly or they do not measure the GHG emission reduction to find out.  One of the most common concerns is ‘can I trust the salesperson?’ followed by ‘will the builder do a good job?’.

To address this, ACT is considering an initiative, initially targeted at the able-to-pay, to identify local commercial organisations with the expertise and quality of work, backed by relevant industry standards, to deliver bespoke whole house retrofit solutions.

By identifying suitable customers, designers, architects, builders and material suppliers we hope to demonstrate that a sufficient market can be stimulated to become self-sustaining.  This will of course represent a small percentage of the retrofit needed, but it could be a model to deliver more ambitious initiatives such as in the Carbon Coop model. 

Teignbridge District Council does not currently have plans, or resources, to formally address this and Housing Associations will develop their own specific supply-chain solutions.

Teignbridge has a large number of older, poorly insulated, rural properties.  Increasingly these properties are owned by those wanting to undertake significant improvements and having the budgets to do so.  Normally a piecemeal approach, based on little (if any) measurements or holistic assessment, results in costly retrofits and inappropriate heating solutions.

As an impartial community-based organisation ACT is ideally placed to bring the different parties together under a replicable scheme of effective retrofits, helping to develop a template scheme for both homeowners and service providers.

The initial model proposed is that adopted by the Carbon Coop, based around an assessment/design phase and using suitably experienced local builders/crafts people.

To get the scheme started, ACT would need someone to either volunteer or be paid (grant funding may be available) to identify suitable providers and customers and liaise with similar groups to discover their approach and put a proposal together on how it could work in Teignbridge.

Ideally, we should also find a customer with a retrofit project willing to work with ACT’s Built Environment & Energy group to pilot some of the approaches already well understood.  Trialling each of the elements of the scheme to identify an appropriate supply chain should help identify problems that may occur.  Several such projects are likely to be needed before a Teignbridge-specific model is developed.

Are you interested? If so, drop us an email with your details.

Extracted from a paper written by Fuad Al-Tawil

Imagine how life could be in 2040

The film 2040 does just that, it takes the best thinking and technology available today and imagines how we could use it to deal with the causes and effects of the climate and nature crises, to make life better for us and the planet.

We are planning to make the 90 minute film available to stream online during a 48 hour period and so please let us know if you are interested. The cost to us is dependent on the numbers and so we would encourage people to donate whatever they can but, as a guide, we’d anticipate around £3 per device would cover the cost.

Plant that tree, but make sure it’s the right tree in the right place

Tree planting is fast becoming a national mania as research shows that trees are a key ally in our efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

Planting without due care and attention won’t get us far though. It is all about planting the right tree in the right place for the right reasons. This was a mantra repeated often by speakers at a tree planting seminar held recently by Teignbridge District Council and the Woodland Trust for councillors and community groups.

Dominic Scanlon of Aspect Tree Consultancy illustrated the “right tree in the right place” point by mention of an oak tree someone unknown has planted between two semi-mature trees in Forde Park in Newton Abbot. “It looked like the right place but over the long term we will end up with three poor specimen trees” because there isn’t enough space for all of them, he said. You have to think in terms of decades when planting trees.

Trees in Stover Country Park

TDC commissioned a study last year of the trees it owns. Trees have been considered a burden in the past because of the costs of maintenance, Mr Scanlon said, but they can also be viewed as an asset for their role in carbon capture and storage, and protection from storm water run-off. When considered from that perspective, the benefits far outstrip the costs. 

This is the value attributed to TDC’s tree population, as measured using iTree, which calculates the economic worth of trees based on the ecosystem services they provide :

  • The replacement cost of the trees is £16m.
  • They store more than 5,000 tonnes of carbon worth £1.3m.
  • They bring £20,000 of benefit in pollution capture and water run-off capture.
  • They have a public asset value of £144m.

The study also showed Teignbridge has a diverse population of trees with the most common species being oak, ash, sycamore and birch. In terms of pollution capture and carbon storage, the oak is the most important species, followed by beech, ash and sycamore. This is because they are the older, larger trees that confer the most benefits on the ecosystem. 

Of course, ash trees are under threat from dieback, caused by a fungus. The disease is expected to kill nearly all of them (94%). Infected trees become brittle and liable to drop branches, which makes them a risk, particularly in public spaces or where they overhang roads. TDC owns 3,800 ash trees and has only removed four to date, but has been planting to replace the trees that will be lost and has almost replaced the full 3,800 already. 

Councils need to develop a plan to deal with ash trees they own, said Mr Scanlon. He recommended the Ash Dieback Action Plan Toolkit available from the Tree Council

Private landowners may also need to take action. Bob Stevenson, tree officer for Devon County Council, said the council estimates there are 448,000 ash trees within falling distance of roads across the county, most of which are on private land.

For 2020, TDC plans to plant a further 1,500 native trees provided by the Woodland Trust on three sites (Sandringham Park Newton Abbot, Michaels Field, Bishopsteignton, Dawlish Leisure Centre, Sandy Lane, Dawlish), plus 15 fruit trees in a community orchard in Bishopsteignton. The aim is to plant adjacent to existing woodland to help create corridors for wildlife.

Heather Elgar of the Woodland Trust said the UK currently has 13% tree cover (10% in England, 15% in Wales, 19% in Scotland and 8% in Northern Ireland), which is significantly lower than for European countries. The Committee on Climate Change, which gives independent advice to the UK government, recommends aiming for tree coverage of 19%. The Trust supports this and considers how to do it in its recently published Emergency Tree Plan for the UK.

Graham Burton, also of the Woodland Trust, took up the theme of right tree, right place but cautioned that it isn’t easy to adhere to that principle. It is about creating a community of trees, a woodland assembly, not just a collection of trees, he said, pointing out there are 24 types of woodland.

The Trust has a preference for natural regeneration over planting but recognises it is not always possible. The drawback to planting is that guards are required and these are often plastic. Biodegradable options are under investigation.

The Trust’s ambitions are to work at landscape scale. For example, it aims to reforest 2% of Cornwall and double canopy cover in Bristol. There is capacity in UK nurseries to produce 100m UK sourced and grown trees, said Mr Burton; the hurdle is finding enough land to plant on. “80% of the UK is farmland, so unless farmers are supported to plant trees under the natural capital banner, it will be really hard to get enough trees planted.”

Teignbridge has a lot of smaller woodlands, he added, and we need to find ways of joining them up. He also gave brief details of the funding and help available for medium scale planting (between 0.5 and 3 hectares) and the free trees available to schools and communities.

Steve Edmunds of the Forestry Commission also gave details of the funding streams for woodland creation and management that local authorities and other landowners can access. These include Countryside Stewardship, targeted at biodiversity and water management, the Woodland Creation Planning Grant, mainly targeted at productive woodlands, and the Woodland Carbon Code, which helps landowners obtain top-up funding for carbon offsetting for businesses.

Then came the reality check. ACT’s Audrey Compton said planting trees is necessary but not sufficient. “Even if we planted every square metre of Teignbridge with trees we still couldn’t make our lives carbon neutral,” she said. 

The annual average carbon footprint in the UK is 13 tonnes, including imported goods. We each need four mature trees to offset that footprint. And as long as we keep using soya and palm oil, planting trees won’t help much. Both crops are often planted on land cleared of rainforest. Soya is widely used in animal feed, making it important to avoid buying imported beef and intensively reared meat. Palm oil is used in many food products and toiletries, although labelling doesn’t always make that clear.

Audrey also spoke of the power of hedges to connect nature and reduce flooding. She showed how the hedges in her steep fields grow along contour lines, and said there is evidence there were more hedges in the past. This approach to planting slows down water run-off and soil erosion. 

“We need to work with the Environment Agency and local farmers to put hedges in the right places, but these are projects that Parish Councils and local Climate Action Groups can help with,” said Audrey. She highlighted how volunteers this month planted 6,000 trees, including 3,500 as hedgerows, in Ide and Shillingford, two parishes in Teignbridge.

Finally, there was welcome news from Cllr Jackie Hook, portfolio holder for climate change on TDC, who said the council will extend its climate emergency declaration to an ecological one too. 

Increasing tree coverage is an essential element in any plan to deal with both of those emergencies, provided we put the right trees in the right place. 

Further reading:

Exeter based Treeconomics has done reports on the ecosystem service value of the tree populations in Exeter, Exmouth and Torbay. The Torbay report finds the area’s estimated 818,000 trees store 98,100 tons of carbon and sequester a further 4,279 tons each year.  They also remove 50 tons of pollutants from the atmosphere each year, a service with an estimated value of £281,000, while the structural value of the trees has been calculated at a remarkable £280m.