This month our editor-at-large discusses how he welcomes spring, as well as urban trees and the science of thermal mass.
Spring never really gets going till May. It starts to unwind in late February and falters its way through March. April usually looks promising but the shrubs, hedgerows and trees of Britain only start to deliver in May with the hawthorn blossom and the foliage of oak and ash. For the past 11 years, I have also marked this time of year with Grand Designs Live at ExCeL London, which happens with the regularity of an apple tree bursting into blossom in early May. The season seems to give visitors and exhibitors alike a new enthusiasm and interspersed among them are the weather-beaten diehards who know the building season, like nature’s own, is just beginning. I look forward to seeing you there with a spring in your step. Grand Designs Live, 30 April–8 May 2016 (0844 854 1348; granddesignslive.com).
At Grand Designs Towers, we recently received apolite email from someone called Steamy Tea complaining that I was very, very wrong to use the term thermal mass when talking about how buildings perform: ‘There is no such thing in science. There is thermal energy and mass; they are not connected.’
Unscientific it may be, but it’s an accepted term in the building world, like ‘coolth’ and ‘flying buttress’, neither of which are scientific words. Moreover, a quick trawl across the internet will reveal that thermal mass is a common term and used by, for example, the Passivhaus Institut.
Trees for the city
A new piece of research promoted in Chartered Forester magazine shows that London’s eight million trees are worth £6.1billion to the capital. I like studies that monetise ecology because they get the bean-counters to sit up and listen. And politicians,
too. Boris Johnson is now going to invest further in this particular green bank by planting another 40,000 trees, half of them with London’s schools (it would be great if this were under the One Tree Per Child umbrella) and the other 20,000 via Trees for Cities (treesforcities.org) which is planting a new urban woodland in Ealing.
The value that trees bring has been analysed for some time now, in terms of their health, social, psychological and amenity value. Trees for Cities cites research that shows people walk more, live longer and recover from illness more quickly with visual and physical access to trees. The new research shows that London’s trees remove 299 tons of PM10 particulates and 698 tons of nitrous dioxide pollution every year (total pollution removal adds up to 2,241 tons, worth £126million); they also absorb 2.3 million tons of carbon every year and alleviate flooding by attenuating 3.4 million cubic metres of water annually. Serious statistics
Credit: Theo Cohen Photography; Matt Chisnall; Chris Tubbs