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Happy national allotment week!

With a rapidly growing population, an estimated 90% of our time spent inside, and with increasingly digitalised realities submerging us (you can buy virtual reality head sets in Tesco?!), I think it’s safe to say, we need to get outdoors; look at the trees, swim in the sea and of course, grow some potatoes.

The mental and physical health benefits of being outside are well established. Indeed, even replicating the outside, inside, is becoming increasingly promising #biophilicdesign. And we’ve all heard those shocking anecdotes of children not knowing where lettuce comes from. It’s not controversial; being outside is great and we need to know more about our wildlife and where our food comes from.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging these kids who think salad leaves are born in plastic packets – I’m only 27, a mere whippersnapper, and there are certainly some embarrassing gaps in my knowledge…avocados come from… trees? Blimey, thanks Google. All I’m saying is, let’s reduce our carbon footprint and grow some exciting things that make home cooked meals so much more satisfying, help teach children and adults alike, and contribute to biodiversity. I think one of the biggest benefits of growing your own food is knowing it is responsibly sourced. What better way to ensure your food has reduced carbon miles, is without industrial pesticides and the workers have been treated well, if you’ve grown it yourself?

As soon as you start unravelling the complex web of supply chains, whether it be food, jewellery or building materials, we can make more informed choices to help reduce our environmental and social impact. Only through this knowledge can we as consumers become more empowered and contribute, however modestly, to a version of the world we want to live in. And it’s a joy! After carefully tending to your home grown tomatoes or chilli plants, the meals that come from that and the gifts they can make to loved ones are genuine; a humble nod to a part of ourselves many of us are largely disconnected from. It’s the same satisfaction that can come from making more informed choices, whether it be organic and fair-trade tea or conflict-free diamonds, it feels good. It’s all about independent third party certification, which is why I am passionate about working in this area but for sustainably built developments.

Working at BRE we are fortunate enough to be immersed by some beautiful wildlife, tucked away just off the M1. We have a Site of Special Scientific Interest, Bricket Wood Common, right on our door step which is host to ancient woodland, heathland and streams. Rabbits, deer and red kites are just some some of the beautiful visitors that I’ve seen just in the last couple of weeks when sneaking out for lunch. There are some BRE’ers who even keep bees! It’s brilliant, catching the occasional glimpse of bee keepers tending to the hives, within view of one of the innovative housing projects we have on our Innovation park. Bees are clearly a key component to our ecosystems, and the honey they make each year is delicious. Great for ecosystems and amazing in tea.

There’s also talk of allotments being opened up on our own site as a part of the BRE S-Plan. So we try to practice what we preach in our certification schemes and further encourage the provision of outdoor space. The Home Quality Mark awards credits for having growing space accessible to new homes assessed against the scheme. During mater-planning,  BREEAM Communities encourages the early thought of community spaces, including allotments, to help bring communities together.

So hear hear to allotments and to those keen allottmenters out there! If we could all grow a bit more, it would make a big difference, to us all individually and to our environment. No brainer, see you there. I’ll be the one with tomatoes on his face trying to work out which way round the roots go.

Rich Cobb
About the Author
Rich Cobb - Housing professional in the BREEAM Homes and Communities team. I help to develop and maintain the Home Quality Mark (HQM); the UK's foremost certification scheme for quality and sustainable new homes. Main technical focus includes: ecology, energy performance and cost, low and zero carbon technologies, overheating, build quality, smart homes, aftercare support and post occupancy evaluation.

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