by Sandy Halliday

ENERGY inefficiency in buildings is a significant aspect of the current crisis that we face. It is expensive, wasteful and generates pollution that leads to climate change and contributes to biodiversity loss. It is also unfair. It leaves too many in fuel poverty.

But we do not simply shape the environment. The relationship is symbiotic. It shapes us. As we harm the thing that helps us live, it hurts us back. Energy inefficiency is creating flooding that kills and pollution that kills.

The increasing heat is particularly felt in cities where hard dark surfaces, tarmac and buildings, absorb the Sun’s heat and create urban heat islands that really do kill. Our regulations must encourage building design that is energy efficient in winter and safe in summer. There are initiatives that Scotland can learn from. Upgrading and regeneration of existing buildings has been addressed in Germany by the The Credit for Reconstruction Bank.

As far back as 1996 the bank launched a scheme to support energy efficient building renovation for households, business and local government. Many new housing developments in continental Europe are bucking the trend of selling land to private developers.

Instead local communities and authorities put their own development teams together to create affordable energy efficient developments. They take control and set benchmarks for energy.

Without the need to satisfy developers’ needs for large profits they can build affordable efficient and even “energy exporting” houses.

They are able to invest in integrated transport infrastructure and use ground floors for shops, offices, cafes, workshops, manufacturing, health centres and community hubs. This saves energy and space and makes for a cleaner environment. It has often been said that our built environment should be at the heart and soul of social and economic policy to fight climate change. The best time to start has gone. The second best time is now.

Sandy Halliday is a professor with Gaia Research