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Go local to go green

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Blog post by Andy Downey, as featured in NLA's Don't Move Improve


David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg have brought environmental matters into every household more effectively than any government initiative could have imagined. Images of oceans and creatures consumed by wrappings and buds has transformed our use of plastic. Yet if we asked people to better consider environmental design when commissioning works to their property, would they know what to do? What to think about? Double or triple glazing, lots of insulation and an efficient boiler used to be the norm. But today it’s more wind turbines, photovoltaics, heat pumps and smart controls. All great energy saving products and well intentioned but perhaps too much focus on products and technology. There is one thing that every homeowner can do when undertaking works to their property that requires little technical understanding and almost always has a positive environmental impact – think local:

  1. Use local materials. Local materials not only enhance the vernacular the can also utilise local skills.
  2. Use a local builder (and pay VAT). Local builders will understand local materials and are more likely to employ local tradesmen. Firms paying taxes will almost always invest more in their teams.
  3. Use a local architect and engineer! Architects and engineers have a huge knowledge of local nuances from planning and energy policies through to the local supply chain.

Notwithstanding all the skills benefits a local supply chain will have a much-reduced carbon footprint in terms of transport miles for materials and labour. Its also a long-term investment in the local community that will help create and grow the circular economy.

On my own recent renovation project, the local bricklayer dropped off his tools at the start of the project and cycled to us each day – he didn’t like sitting in traffic. It would be an amazing achievement if we could reduce the number of vehicle journeys, saving fuel and creating healthier places for everyone. Global issues can be addressed by simple local initiatives.