The parrots are back

My ring necked parakeets have returned. In London the reaction to these is a bit mixed, some people like me get quite excited, others are a bit non-plussed or even hostile. I like them though, each year they come along for about a week. They make a load of noise ( I think this may be why some people don’t like them) and spend the week stripping the Indian bean trees outside our flats. By the end of the week the whole street will be covered in bean husks and they will be gone.

I think the transient but regular nature is what appeals to me, they are only there for a short time but usually herald the start of warmer weather and cheer everyone up. I first saw them only three years ago and discovered the next year when posting photos to my flickr account that they come back at the same time each year. It’s the nearest we get to the changing of the seasons in central London.

Also cheered me up as I was back from the dodgiest client I have met in a while. They are supposed to be worrying about lizards on their site but are very reluctantly paying lip service. This morning they were a little like naughty schoolboys because I caught them digging a trench in an area they shouldn’t have been. No damage done and they assure me it won’t happen again but you never know. I prefer dealing with the parrots.

Lizards at large

Lizard catching season has started already and I have been quite successful catching them on a site in South East London. So far I have caught 9 and some judicious strimming has been corralling them effectively.

We have a splendid new residence for them in some specially restored grassland. Hopefully we will be able to clear the rest of the lizards from the site in the next five or six weeks and the council can get on with building a school on the site.

Ecobuild

Had lots of fun at Ecobuild last week. Far too much going on to keep up with everything but still pretty interesting. The one disappointment was the lack of many companies with any actual eco credentials. The overall feeling of most people I spoke to was that most of the exhibitors were selling the same products with a thin veneer of greenwash to try and boost sales. Honourable mentions to the companies really trying to make the planet a better place such as the Good Homes Alliance, UK Green Building Council, Action Sustainability and Ecology Consultancy. The last one obviously being a shameless plug as I organise some of their marketing and was on the stand on Thursday.

Managed to attend a few of the talks, these were divided between interesting stuff in the arena and conference areas with high profile speakers and more practical stuff in the conference rooms on BSF and CEEQUAL. I learnt a lot more from these.

Freebies certainly seemed to be well down on last year although the exhibitor drinks were reliably well stocked as always.  Best freebie of the month was a bird box I got at BSEC the week before.

CEEQUAL, Ecobuild and sustainability

Off to Ecobuild tomorrow. I am on the Ecology Consultancy stand on Thursday but heading along Tuesday and Wednesday to see if I can drum up some business as a CEEQUAL assessor, drop me a line ecoalexander@googlemail.com if you are looking for one. Looking forward to catching up with friends and contacts I haven’t seen for a while.

Also looking forward to a little more knowledge than I witnessed this morning from the editor of a national magazine who described sustainability as being about reducing carbon emissions, and maybe some other stuff that wasn’t really important.

CEEQUAL Assessor Course

Finally completed my CEEQUAL assessor course last week. This was something I signed up for when CIRIA made me redundant last year but with one thing and another I hadn’t managed to have free time to coincide with a course in London. Still the work I have been doing in the meantime meant that I was a bit more of an expert when it came to the ecology section.

I was pleased to discover that most of my civil engineering knowledge remained intact. In fact working on the M25 widening project meant I had much more experience of projects in action than previously.

They pushed us quite hard over the two days, not surprising really given the breadth of topics we had to cover. The section on energy seemed a bit vague at first but I suppose I had the advantage of doing a course on energy the week before (see last post). I think for a lot of companies it will be the first time they have thought about energy and carbon during construction and particularly in use.

The assessment divides into 12 categories starting with the project management which underpins it all and then looking at different areas of environmental performance in a civil engineering project. Ecology, for instance  deals with all the improvements you can make and also avoiding any problems you can get like Japanese Knotweed and how they are dealt with. The methodology is a bit like the waste hierarchy, you score highest for not removing environmental features but you can make things back by introducing mitigation strategies and making improvements around the project.

Having learnt all this I am eager to get started on an assessment either for Ecology Consultancy or as a freelancer so let me know if you need one doing. I can also assess a project quite quickly and let you know how it might perform.

The Green Register

Completed the final free module of my course at the University of Westminster. They managed to persuade The Green Register to run a course for us. It was definitely the most rewarding   course and it qualifies all the delegates to become members of their organisation.

We covered a wide range of topics from the basics of life cycle analysis to an in depth look at analysing the performance of different renewable energy technologies. It seems that Solar Thermal is about the most efficient way of generating energy at the moment, unless you happen to live on a hill and have a stream flowing past your house in which case a waterwheel is even better.

The course really covered a lot of useful stuff for sustainable construction and particularly helped me fill in some energy related knowledge gaps. There was also one module on the Code for sustainable homes which came over as quite a long way behind compared to the things we had learnt elsewhere on the course. Still at least it is encouraging people to improve their performance whether they want to or not.

Met up with some friends from previous courses too, I think we all liked this one best. A number of them are participating in projects as part of the course but I will only be able to go along to any fringe events now as I have used up my quota.

The sixty second pitch

Went on another Build Up course at the University of Westminster. One of the things we practiced was the 60 second pitch. Here is my attempt:

Sustainable business development

I can offer you sustainable business development making your business environmentally friendly and more profitable. Working in the environment and construction fields to help you grow.

I can create and develop projects to a profitable conclusion. For instance the training programme I developed at CIRIA reached a turnover of £300,000 in 2007/8 the courses covered a wide variety of environmental topics including SUDS, green roofs and sustainable procurement. Organising and helping to write these courses gives me a broad environmental knowledge to add to my business skills.

I have 15 years experience of sales, marketing and project management in the construction and publishing industries with specific knowledge of the emerging environmental and sustainability sectors.

I can help you sell yourselves and sustainability

Needs some work but you get the idea.

Build it up

Registered for my final courses on the Build up programme at the University of Westminster.  This is for people who’s jobs are threatened or who have been made redundant in the construction industry. So far I have been to a careers workshop day which was very useful. The next three courses I am doing cover built environment topics including Design awareness and a Green register workshop which will allow me to register there as a green professional.

Not only that but I got a University of Westminster student card so I can get discounts at the cinema.

Green careers event

Spent last night at SOAS in London for a green careers evening organised by Positive Change and People Unlimited. Quite entertaining if a little long. There was a wide range of speakers including Blanche Cameron of Reset Development who included a picture of me at the green roofs event we organised earlier in the summer as part of her presentation. Always a little disturbing to see yourself unexpectedly on the screen but at least I wasn’t yawning in the picture.

Most of the speakers agreed that volunteering was the best way to get yourself a green career, good advice to those starting out not sure I want to carry on volunteering until I have a bigger income coming in though. One thing all the speakers had in common was a tremendous enthusiasm for their jobs. Caroline Scott of Islington Council was particularly keen and started by picking up on other presenters negativity to Local Councils generating much laughter and applause.

The final speaker from Worldview Impact, Bremley was particularly inspiring with his rubber tree plantations and pursuit of his dream.

Night time on the M25

Spent last night supervising a destructive search on the M25. A bit cold but a lovely clear evening. We were preparing for the widening works in Essex ensuring that no animals are harmed. Didn’t see anything last night which is good as we were in an area that was supposed to be lacking in wildlife. They shut down all but one lane of the motorway for our safety which made it quite peaceful and also gave us a strange feeling of power.

Sustainable living for a sustainable planet