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Green Building Bible, Fourth Edition
Green Building Bible, fourth edition (both books)
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    • CommentAuthortony
    • CommentTimeOct 31st 2010
    I like the original paper and have been talking about this for years on here with little support. Nice to see some numbers on it that show biomass in its true colours.

    The need to save energy is what we have yet to fully realise not only in our buildings but in other areas too.
    Owlman- There are a number of problems with CHP, it appears a good idea but as gcar90 details local emissions impact of chosen fuel must be priority, Southall recently rejected biofuel CHP because of air quality degradation issue, a decision backed by Gov inspector. Low exit temp of water is problem and reduction in ability to produce power. Can you point me to Mott Macdold site for info please .
    DamonHD- Net benifits of wood combustion is under scrutiny due to impact of immediate high level pollution including CO2. Non fossil fuel sources are available as an alternative. How do you define a rounded view?
    I note UN is featured in discussion, do we have a human right to enjoy clean air ,if so what about neighbours woodburner degrading air quality due to emissions inversion problem?
    Owlman- humble apologies should have typed Mott Macdonald, tried their home site but cannot track down your CHP report.
    • CommentTimeOct 31st 2010
    I'm not advocating letting cheapskate neighbours kill you with PM2.5s.

    I'm suggesting that rather than being driven by (understandable) raw emotion and gut feel, it requires a boring actuarial level of number crunching to work out the best solution overall.

    So, for example, I'm not a great fan of CHP on the grounds that it probably doesn't then do either the H or the P as well as it would otherwise, even though there may well be honourable exceptions.


    • CommentAuthorgcar90
    • CommentTimeOct 31st 2010
    I think for CHP, only gas combustion is tolerable. I don't think incinerators or wood burning plants should be located near populated areas.
    We all worry about the climate and can only surmise what may happen in the decades ahead but we know that combustion of primarily dirty solids fuels prematurely curtails the lives of around 2 million world wide right now and even though we have little control about how countries such as the US and BRICs nations pollute the atmosphere we can try to ensure that our air is kept as clean as possible, especially on a local basis.
    I do not think it is sensible to use wood as fuel to substitute for fossil fuels due to its high moisture content, low overall energy density (quantity of fuel requiring carting about), low efficiency in combustion (due to water content) and its poisonous emissions (due to it being solid in form and made up of complex compounds) as well its lack of sustainability in the UK to substitute for any large amount of any coal, oil or gas). Importing it is crazy especially given that a large ship can emit NOX & SOX of equal mass to tens of millions of cars due to the use of bunker oil.
    Tony's way is the only sensible way to deal with your domestic needs - reduce them to something negligible.
    • CommentAuthorJoiner
    • CommentTimeOct 31st 2010
    Getting to the "world view" is going to continue being problematic. Whilst we're worrying about particulates that will at least come down to earth in relatively short order, dear old Richard Branson is putting the final touches to his latest venture which will scatter them in the upper atmosphere where they'll take hundreds of years to come down to "safe" levels.

    Did any of you hear the Costing The Earth programme last week? Got me wondering and looking, and there was plenty to look at, e.g...


    It's this kind of contradiction (small-scale concerns vs large-scale not-giving-a-toss) that undermines arguments, even those back up by irrefutable statistics.
    • CommentAuthorgcar90
    • CommentTimeOct 31st 2010
    The locations of a lot of the current old generation of solid fueled power plants in the US are often outside urban\suburban areas as a result of peoples greater voice as regarding air quality, as their standard of living improved. The solution to pollution has always been dilution - to build taller smoke stacks and move them further from the populace. This can only ever mitigate the problem. A return to solid fuel burning domestically and via urban CHP effectively moves smoking stacks back into urban areas and is certainly a regressive step.
    • CommentAuthorowlman
    • CommentTimeOct 31st 2010
    Posted By: Brianwilson
    humble apologies should have typed Mott Macdonald, tried their home site but cannot track down your CHP report.

    Try and google this for links; " low carbon kid biomass fired CHP" it gives links to parliamentary answers on 6 Sept 2010 and an extract from Mott Macdonald consultants.

    I wasn't referring to the benefits or otherwise of CHP, just replying to gar90s statement implying that biomass is inefficient,and a dumb thing to do, "other fuels can do the job so much better." I'm no advocate of large scale urban biomass plants, and the planning system exists to screen out unsuitable applications,I believe. I don't think anyone has even suggested we have biomass everywhere. As DamonHD says a rounded view is needed.
    • CommentAuthoradwindrum
    • CommentTimeOct 31st 2010
    What do people consider to be Green? Is it with our effect on humans or the planet?

    This debate has raged regards scientific papers banging on about particulates released by wood killing people.
    I bet bugs and other microorganisms love munching up those small particles we release! (although I dont know where we will find the funds to create a research paper on it....all the money seems to be going on health of humans related research!)

    I wish I could be arsed to find a scientific paper that gave me a figure for the number of deaths caused by war in pursuit of gas and oil. It could soon overtake my other pet hatred - religeon - as the number one killer!

    Wood seems to only ever be compared to gas....WHY? Coal is the biggest energy producer and oil is the choice for most people with wood burners!

    Surely the benefits of woodland management (which wouldnt occur without wood burning) create more life than take away from some particulate pollution? I reckon I have created possibly thousands of additional tons of living material/habitats through woodland management - and burnt (very approx!) 50 tons of wood in that time. Surely those benefits are worth thinking about. If I had burnt oil, I would have made absolubtly no positive impact on the planet at all.

    Anyway the debate doesnt seem to be producing anything sensible, you either love it or hate it! I aint one of those romantics mind. I would gladly have a firebox with no glass to increase my fuel efficiency.....

    We all know that better insulated houses and nuclear fuel is the way forward!:cool:
    • CommentTimeOct 31st 2010
    adwindrum-wood only seems to be compared with gas. I am guilty of that but have agreed wood emissions are better than coal and have for and against points when compared with oil. All current combustion systems produce air pollution( with possible hydrogen exception). Gas would appear to be by far the cleanest choice until we have developed a reliable truly clean source of energy. I have worked in research & development and it can be done but requires the investment and will to do it without being impeded by vested interests.
    My concern is that we are not facing up to the health and environmental impact of our energy choices. I have just read through another Biomass- a burning issue forum google (Print Page-Biomass-a burning issue) Contains interesting material but fails to mention emissions impact.
    Owlman- thanks for info , have visited site but find costings appeared skewed when compared with other sources, will carry out further research.
    Brian W
    • CommentTimeOct 31st 2010 edited
    Ok one more.

    Seems we already have laws in place to deal with emission of pollutants for both domestic and industrial air pollution.


    And the actual air quality in your region.

    • CommentAuthorgcar90
    • CommentTimeOct 31st 2010
    Brian, do you have any ideas of what may be or may become a truly clean a source of energy which is as reliable and dependable as fossil fuels are today and is yet affordable for the masses??
    As far as combustion is concerned one of the cleanest burning energy carriers is DME or Dimethyl Ether - It can be burnt without producing SOX,PAH etc, has extremely low NOX and practically zero particulates due to the fact that it is an oxygenated hydrocarbon composed of two methyl radicals and a single oxygen atom.. It liquifies at just 6 bar and can be handled via gas lines or LPG infrastructure, it also has a decent energy density. Its high cetane makes it excellent diesel fuel without soot and v low nox emissions. China & Japan are already on to it but most of the rest of the world is just happy to use it as a propellant in spray canisters. Production is mainly through nat gas or coal but can be formed via biomass as has been demonstrated in Sweden for haulage truck fuel.
    • CommentAuthorGBP-Keith
    • CommentTimeOct 31st 2010 edited
    I have been thinking about this a bit today and adwindrum is right, this debate, though interesting is getting a bit non-productive and repetitive. The long and the short of it as i see it is that biomass, whether it pollutes or not, has a growing (excuse the pun) and ever important future. Therefore my advice to anyone building or renovating a property is:
    1. Put in, preserve or upgrade that chimney.
    2. buy the best (not prettiest) wood burner (preferably dedicated wood boiler)
    3. Think about investing in a bit of woodland somewhere close to you.
    4. Ignore the anti woodburning mongers - if you listen to them you will make the wrong choice and your family (and wallet) will help you regret it.
    • CommentAuthorJoiner
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2010
    "3. Think about investing in a bit of woodland somewhere close to you."

    Oh dear. That more or less sums up what constitutes the assumed readership of this forum - rich enough to even think about investing in a "bit" of woodland. You're having a laugh Keith.

    The non-productive and repetitive elements of this thread have been the numerous calls for evidence to back up the claims of the "anti-biomass" lobby, and yet almost every link and cited authority has been crammed from Introduction-to-Index with figures backing up the claims of scientific and government establishments - with no obvious axe to grind - that biomass has a case to answer. They're not anti woodburning "mongers" or Jeremiahs, but (allegedly - there you go, that establishes my 'independent' credentials) apparently concerned bodies reacting to the expressed concerns of others.

    Keith, it could be claimed by some that your connection to the Woodland Trust gives you a vested interest in promoting the burning of wood. Perverse, I know, and I certainly wouldn't think that. But...
    • CommentAuthorbillt
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2010
    Woodland used to be the cheapest land available, as it usually isn't suitable for anything else. Used to be about £600 an acre, so my 10 acres would have been worth about £6,000 which isn't an enormous sum of money if you're interested in doing it. Maybe the value has shot up recently with the increased number of people burning wood, but I doubt that it's that expensive.

    As someone who has a Rayburn, 3 pretty efficient stoves and an efficient gasifying log boiler, I think that the original article that Keith introduced was correct. Wood burning is not viable on any sort of large scale. There isn't enough of it in the UK to supply any significant part of the energy demand, and lots of small scale burning is going to re-introduce serious air quality issues.

    As a reasonably responsible wood burner I'm well aware that burning wood is a polluting activity. However clean the burner is when burning dry wood at high temperatures the start up period produces smoke, refuelling also does, but generally much less. If you get the start up wrong, so that the fire starts slowly and smoulders before getting up to operating temperature you can produce enormous amounts of smoke. If you are burning wet wood and not running the fire at a high temperature (which a lot of people with stoves seem to do) you will be generating considerable amounts of pollution throughout the burn.

    Yesterday evening we could smell woodsmoke in the house. We hadn't done any burning for 3 days and our nearest neighbour is 1/4 of a mile away from us, so someone distant was producing perceptible pollution with a wood burner. This morning I went out and, within a mile, saw 4 chimneys producing plumes of thick smoke. This is in a rural area and they may well have been burning coal, but it is an indication that local air pollution is going to become a big problem if more and more people take up wood burning.

    The wide spread availability of natural gas was the best thing to happen for air quality in the last century. I remember the days of coal burning and don't want to go return to that degree of polluted atmosphere, but with wood not coal.

    I'm not anti wood burning, but it makes no sense at all on a large scale. Fortunately, I expect that most householders will give up when they find how expensive, messy and hard work running a solid fuel fire is.
    • CommentAuthorJoiner
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2010
    • CommentAuthorGBP-Keith
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2010 edited
    Not at all Joiner, I'm a working class guy with no more qualifications than any other joiner. I'm a chippie (perhaps like you).
    People waste far more money every year on cars and holidays than would buy a nice little plot of woodland. It' just a case of getting your ducks in a row mate. We all just have differing ducks I guess. I am just offering advice, it is of course up to the reader what they want to do with it.

    PS who says I have a connection to the woodland trust?

    PPS. I lit my wood boiler for the first time today! (I bet most of the gas boilers have been on for the past month!). It took just 17 minutes for the chimney smoke to turn clear. If you were anywhere near the boiler room now and for the next five hours (burn time) you would not even know that the boiler was running.

    It is clear that most people complaining about woodburning are blaming the wrong people for the pollution. For instance, my farming neighbour has a field burnup about twice per year of all sorts of crap including silage plastic. My guess is that I could run my boiler for about 50 years and still cause less pollution than his farm bonfire will cause in that single day.

    Billt seems to be confusing soild fuel and wood fuel. Are you mixing the two in your fires? Not a good idea because they require differant types of appliance.
    • CommentAuthorGBP-Keith
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2010 edited
    I can find woodland for about or perhaps just under £1000 per acre now if I want to. I was looking at details for a 45 acre parcel just the other day.

    I may still have those details here if anyone wants them.

    As a rule of thumb, the smaller the parcel the dearer it will be.
    • CommentAuthorGBP-Keith
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2010 edited
    Just for the record and so readers know I'm not talking out of my hat, here are my outgoing fuel bills:

    Heating: £000.000
    Electricity: £000.000
    Water: £000.000
    Total: £000.000

    At this rate I may soon become middle class as joiner expects me to be. When I earn money I like to keep it and not hand it over to multinationals.

    My advice is friendly and and built on sound economics.
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2010 edited
    Posted By: GBP-KeithHeating: £000.000

    Is all your space heating from biomass burning?

    If that is the case then there are costs associated with it, just that they do no appear every time you use timber in your stove surely?
    • CommentAuthorGBP-Keith
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2010 edited
    I'm just telling you what happens ST. Yes all my heating is wood logs. I do use chainsaw and that does run on petrol but we try to do a lot of our conversion with a fleet of handsaws (they cost about £8.00 each). But lets not split hairs i said outgoing bills not sundry expenses. Of course like any system there are capitol costs but if done wisely they are investments. A chainsaw is a wise investment in my book. Because we (wife and I) have a landholding, I also have other useful capitol equipment but my advice is that you start at A and move to B then C, D etc.. The long-term plan is to cut out regular insidious bills but i don't want to get into an economics lecture do I? Should I?
    • CommentAuthorGBP-Keith
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2010 edited
    Oh, I also have a whizzo real effect electric fire which has been really nice this autumn. With just the log effect on it consumes about 250watts of sunshine, wind and water. it has been, along with a few incandescent bulbs, the mainstay of my autumn heating. I'll take a pic of it but I am not recommending that anyone goes out and buys one unless you have spare (not grid connected) electricity.
    • CommentAuthorGBP-Keith
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2010 edited
    Forum visitors may be interested to know that I am now, at last writing up a serialised report (in Green Building magazine) of how my family went (perhaps overly!) green. At the moment I'm covering self sufficiency in electricity (2 parts already published but only one available yet as an independent download http://www.greenbuildingpress.co.uk/product_details.php?item_id=241). However, I am minded to inject an extra story into the winter edition about my biomass journey so here comes the advert. Subscribe now if you want to read it. http://www.greenbuildingpress.co.uk/products.php?category_id=7.
    • CommentAuthorbillt
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2010
    Joiner, plots near the big conurbations are going to be more expensive for obvious reasons. At £4-5,000 an acre someones trying it on, that's good quality agricultural land prices; someone's looking for a mug I think. (You get a lot of building plots priced like that and they never seem to sell.)

    Keith, wood is a solid fuel, and I just said that I can't tell the difference between a coal fire and a wood fire by looking at the smoke, they're both polluting. There are some stoves that can burn either coal or wood efficiently.

    My log boiler also stops producing visible smoke after 15 minutes or so, but it has been polluting during those 15 minutes, and will do for another 20 or so as it continues to warm up properly. Yes, there are lots of other sources of pollution, although I don't think stubble burning is common these days. Wood burning isn't a problem on the small scale that you or I do it, but it won't scale. There are upwards of 20 million households in the UK. It isn't sensible or realistic for more than a tiny percentage of them to burn wood.

    Like you I'm aiming for zero energy costs. I've probably got there for space heating, electricity is going to take more work. I haven't paid a utility for water for 20 years, but there are still electricity and maintenance costs to pay for sterilisation and pumping. But we are in a tiny minority of people in the UK who have the resources and inclination to do that.
    The Woodland we are all being urged to buy- how will it be managed to maintain ability to sequestrate CO2 whilst feeding the rapid increase in burning requirement? Ref saving money Keith ,my understanding is current fuel costs show wood price some 60% higher than gas so unless you have private access wallet will suffer with predictions of rapid cost increase due to reducing availability = guaranteed misery.
    Stubble burning now illegal with general burning restrictions on agricultural burning. Trying to point to other sources of pollution does not reduce our responsibility to apply due diligence.
    • CommentAuthoradwindrum
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2010
    Keith isnt on about stubble burning, its general rubbish burning. My 3 local farmers seem to always do it on a sunday - my guess is thats when the pollution swat teams arent about. Plastic costs them money to get rid of.
    You also dont need to own woodland, farmers would be more than keen for an extra pair of hands to work on hedges and overgrown trees....or wood owners for that matter. (I rent (with my dad) an 11 acre wood for £150/yr).

    Joiner....the facts are out there....the reports are all over this debate but I am poor and have no option. I at least offset the ill health I may be casuing my imediate neighbours some 500m away with a stunning improvement in habitat over at least 21 acres of land.

    Again all the concern seems to be about human health.....as though that is the biggest prioirty regarding "Green" issues. Why?

    Is the solution to this debate to make woodburning illegal? To stop grants for "green energy" such as log boilers, to stop wood burners in houses with neighbours less than 200ms, to ban large scale power production with biomass?

    If anything that causes ill health (according to a scientific paper) were to be banned then this world would be a very sad place and drinking water can even be shown to have its risks!

    It all has to be contextualised and I dont believe that this is possible.
    • CommentAuthorevan
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2010 edited
    I tested my new wood burning stove yesterday. Got it going nicely and turned the air down. Suddenly became aware of a choking smoke / burning smell in the kitchen, oh no! Rushed outside to see if the newly installed chimney liner was on fire somehow, but I could see only the faintest wisp of white smoke, rising upward. The problem I was sensing was the billowing cloud of black coal smoke *descending* from my next door neighbour's chimney into my garden and in through the open kitchen window.

    Ho hum.
    • CommentAuthorJoiner
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2010 edited
    Just making the point Keith, that if you look too closely at associations you can draw all sorts of conclusions if you wanted to stretch a few points, hence “perverse“…


    From one of your earlier posts I got the distinct impression that the property in question was yours? I now suspect that to be a misapprehension on my part, which your reference to a farming neighbour suggests, and I apologise unreservedly.

    As to any “clever ideas” I might have, that’s why I’m following this thread so closely, to pick the brains of those far cleverer than me and learn from their clever ideas what I’m doing wrong and what I can do to make up for it. So far, in the light of all his evidence and experience (which many posters on this forum value above all other references) I’m inclining towards Brian’s thinking but wondering what the hell I can do about it, given the nature of this property and the shortage of funds to replace the current heating arrangements, a situation I suspect most people are in. So, upping the insulation even further and possible double-glazing of the sash windows will kill two birds with one stone. I and my family feel more comfortable and the sound insulation thus introduced stops us feeling guilty because we can’t hear the distant neighbours hitting the deck gasping for breath.

    The reality for the majority of people is a dependence on one or other of the utility companies (or oil or lpg suppliers) that can’t be avoided, not least because most modern housing doesn’t come with a chimney. If dependence on those noxious-waste producing suppliers is to be ended then a reliable, consistent alternative neighbourhood heating source has to be provided but, given that such a neighbourhood source is by definition in the neighbourhood, that looks to rule out biomass unless it can clean up its act.

    Meanwhile, we spoilt few who enjoy the luxury of our woodburning stoves can help maintain the living standards of those employed by the companies involved in the stewardship of our woodlands. I can at least feel good about something I’m doing for one aspect of the environment.

    And Bill, I phoned a farming friend of mine and he says if you can find woodland for less than two-and-a-half grand an acre can you tell him where it is please. And just got off the phone to my son who, SIX years ago, considered going for a share in woodland near him in North Devon, 84 acres that went for £160,000. £1,904.76 an acre SIX years ago. So, whilst I’d love to own my own 10 acres, finding even nineteen grand is going to be a problem. That makes it a pretty exclusive club, open to a lucky few.

    I could always look to the future though. Although I could buy a hell of a lot of nets of logs at £10.95 for five nets with that kind of money - 1,739 to be precise - I’d only have about seven years fuel at our rate of burning. So nineteen grand would be a good investment for the future. But then, there’s the rate of interest on the loan and the cost of woodland management, the tools and cost of transport. Bloody figures getting in the way of decision making again.

    Adwindrum - “Again all the concern seems to be about human health.....as though that is the biggest priority regarding "Green" issues. Why?”

    Why “green issues” at all then, if the idea is not to save the planet for humans to live on with at least a marginal degree of quality of life. Otherwise just let Gaia go her own way and reclaim the planet again a few thousand years after “we’ve” been wiped out by our own profligate ways. I think that’s the meaning of ‘poetic justice’ and I’m with Gaia on that.
    • CommentAuthoradwindrum
    • CommentTimeNov 1st 2010
    Green issues are for people who care about their impact on the environment. Humans are not the environment.

    If its purely human health you are concerned with we should remove gas from our list of alternative "safe to use" fuels as it is being shown to cause an awful lot of deaths due to war (plus just think of the pollution caused by the mere act of war - what is the pollution from a half ton bomb?).

    As a dwindly resource surely the gas burning lobby are being a little short sighted in demanding its use for all?

    Nuclear power really is our only alternative.....
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