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Push for Zero Carbon


Interview by Alanna Malone

Professor Phillip Jones is the Chair of Architectural Science and Director of Architectural Science Research at the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University. His research activities encompass a range of subjects including energy use, environmental design, and sustainability in the built environment. He has published extensively and carried out numerous research projects in the international arena. He currently chairs the Wales Low Carbon Research Institute (LCRI).

Professor Phil Jones chairs the Low Carbon Research Institute
Photos © The Welsh School of Architecture
Professor Phil Jones chairs the Low Carbon Research Institute, which recently created the Sustainable Building Envelope Centre to test and monitor technology using building facades to generate electricity.
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GreenSource: What is the Low Carbon Research Institute (LCRI)?

Phillip Jones: The LCRI was set up with funds from the Welsh Assembly Government across six universities in Wales, led by Cardiff University. We applied for a program under the European Funding Office, and successfully received 34 million pounds for actual projects in collaboration with industry (large and small). The aim is to assist the Welsh Assembly Government in achieving their targets for a low-carbon economy.

GS: Why is a collaborative effort of government/research/industry crucial to achieving goals?

PJ: The important thing is how we link the research. On the one hand, we seek to make sure that we support industry in Wales and take the carbon agenda forward, but also we need to inform the Welsh Assembly Government on policy—how they fund both the major projects and education. We want to make sure that people have the right skills to do the green jobs that are being created by government.

GS: What is the “Zero Carbon Built Environment”?

PJ: The Welsh government has targets for achieving zero carbon in new buildings within the next year, and a 3 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2011. Wales also wants to be totally self-sufficient in renewable electricity within 20 years. These targets are quite ambitious compared to the UK and the world, so we are working with the government and industry to deliver.

GS: Is the zero carbon new building target by 2011 really possible?

PJ: It’s important to have these targets because unless you have fairly ambitious targets, you won’t get the innovation needed. People will sit back and say, “Well, it’s not for a few years yet.” But we’re finding that industry is accepting these targets, and is changing the attitude from “no, we’ll never be able to do it” to “yes, we can do it, and if we do it in Wales first, we’ll be ahead of the game.” And that applies to architectural practices as well. It’s quite an exciting time because everybody’s working toward our target plan.

GS: What strategy do you think will be the most effective to achieve carbon reduction goals?

PJ: It’s a mix of reducing the energy demand and then looking at the renewable energy supply. Maybe there will be more of a focus on how we decarbonize the energy supply. On the urban scale in particular, we’re looking at how we match the reduced demand with an energy supply system that is responsive to that reduced demand. So we’re thinking of the various scales from components to buildings to cities.

GS: Why is LCRI work special in the international market?

PJ: At the moment, our focus is on Wales. But the LCRI is more than that—while it’s our biggest project, it’s one of many projects. About a month ago, we set up the Low Carbon Research Centre in Chongqing, China, based on the same principles of the LCRI. We’re working with other universities in China on the built environment, and also in the Middle East. We recently published a book on Europe and the built environment that has an international perspective.

GS: Is the United States behind on low carbon goals and research?

PJ: Maybe it’s something that’s not as high a priority as it is in Europe. In recent years, the U. S. government has made certain announcements about being committed to a low carbon economy—it will be interesting to see how you develop these ideas. There has been talk, so we wait and see.

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This article appeared in the March 2010 print issue of GreenSource Magazine.

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