January 2010

Street News

Why a draughty old terraced home wastes less energy than a brand new eco-house

draughty.bmpWhen it comes to sustainable living, the city beats the country hands down: a family in a house in a new eco-village in Street, Somerset, which has solar power, rainwater collection and a sophisticated warm-air recycling system, has a bigger carbon footprint than a similar family living in a Victorian terrace house in Battersea.

In fact, the London household produces almost a ton less carbon dioxide than its Somerset counterpart.
While London's housing stock may be old and draughty, it is so densely built that neighbours share walls and ceilings, and therefore heat; and the city is so compact that most residents walk or take public transport to work, the shops or on a night out.

Side by side: The results of this investigation may be surprising.

Anyone living in the country, for example, needs a car for even the most basic household trip, and motoring is the biggest single influence on an individual's carbon footprint.

Anyone can now measure their own contribution to global warming, including the impact of heating bills, driving habits and holidays abroad, with the Government's free online calculator at
https://actonco2.direct.gov.uk. The site also includes tips on how to reduce emissions.

Country Living

Take Chris and Ellen Hunt, who moved into a new Crest Nicholson house on the Icon development in Street, Somerset.

Their three-storey, four-bedroom home is a model of energy efficiency, and the couple who have three children, Elliot, eight, Eden, four, and Darcy, seven months - have seen their gas and electricity bills halve since moving out of a Victorian terrace.

'We now pay £700 a year,' says Chris, 30, 'and because it is so energy-efficient, it stays warmer for longer which is great for the children.'

Their house has an energy efficiency rating of 86 and an environmental impact of 85 - putting it in band B - and, with CO2 emissions of 0.89 tons, it is among the greenest houses in the country. 

The savings in financial terms, and for the planet, made by the Hunts would have been far greater however if Chris didn't drive 66 miles a day in his diesel Mondeo to his job as an engineer at Bristol University.

And while Street has shops and schools within walking distance, they need the car for big shopping trips to Yeovil, 15 miles away.

The family's 15,000 miles a year create a massive 3.95 tons of carbon dioxide, giving them a total carbon footprint of 4.84 tons.

In his book, Green Metropolis, David Owen claims that cities such as his native New York are an ecological paradise and that Manhattan is the greenest community in the US, whose citizens live with ten times the energy efficiency of average Americans.

When Owen moved to an isolated home in the country, he claimed he used eight times more electricity than in New York and drove 30,000 miles in a year on ordinary household trips.
City Living

Londoners are much like New Yorkers, and Catherine and Nick Wilson from Battersea are typical of the capital's ordinary environmentalists.

Their four-bedroom, two-bathroom Victorian terrace, on the market at £599,000, is the same size as the Hunts', but it is in band C, the average, for energy efficiency and band D for environmental impact, and they pay a total of £1,200 a year for gas and electricity.

Although domestic energy creates just over 1.5 tons of CO2, their use of public transport and the low mileage they cover in their Audi estate, give them a carbon footprint of just 3.87 tons.

'Nick and I work in the City and we use Clapham Junction for a train to Waterloo and then a bus or Tube to our offices,' says Catherine, 40, who is on maternity leave after the birth of her second child, Tom, four months ago. 'When I go out with Tom and Ollie, who's nearly two, I always put them in the buggy and walk.'

Not only are shops, schools and public transport nearby, but the family also has its groceries delivered by Tesco, which is again eco-friendly.

'We use the car only if we want to go out of London at weekends.'

Another advantage of the capital is that the housing stock is regularly repaired, reused and improved, and in the four years they have lived in the house the Wilsons have added an extension, expanded into the loft and installed double-glazed windows and an energy-efficient combination boiler.

But now they need more space for the children and have bought a larger Victorian house nearby which they are refurbishing.

'The new house hadn't had any work done since 1936,' says Catherine. 'We've replumbed, rewired, put a new roof on it and put in as much insulation as possible.'

Mobile Information

droid.jpgAmid signs of economic recovery, 2010 will be the year when mobile operators worldwide protect their existing revenue channels while exploring new ones, says technology company Synchronica’s chief executive officer Carsten Brinkschulte.

Data services will play an even more important role in 2010, supported by an enlarged mobile messaging landscape that, in addition to SMS, will also encompass mobile email, mobile social networking, and instant messaging (IM). Contrary to many analysts’ belief, the device platform landscape will not consolidate, but further diversify as new platforms like Maemo, LiMo and Android take their market share.

As the battle between operators, device manufacturers, and internet portals for value-added services (VAS) intensifies, operators will play their strongest card - their billing relationship with the user.

1. The battle between handset manufacturers, portals, and mobile operators will intensify:

In 2010, the battle for supremacy in value-added services will intensify in the triangle between mobile operators, device manufacturers and internet portals. Over the past few years, operators increasingly have come under attack in particular from device manufacturers like Apple, RIM and Nokia who are massively pushing device-specific services, differentiating their product offerings, establishing direct relationships with the end-users and locking them into services hosted by the manufacturers.

iPhone 3GS: manufacturer-dependent.

Premier examples of device manufacturer-specific and -dependent services are Apple’s App Store, MobileMe, iTunes, RIM’s BlackBerry Internet Services, as well as Nokia’s OVI. These services are very attractive to the end-user as they offer a great user experience and unique functionality, but they also present a threat to mobile operators which are increasingly at risk of becoming dumb bit pipes.

If the mobile operators don’t fight back, all they will be left with is to provide the data transport and their differentiation will be reduced to price per megabyte and speed of data transmission. Operators would be sharing the fate of ISPs who have faced the results – dramatic price wars and increasing churn rates.

Some industry observers have pointed towards Google’s Android as the white horse that would create a level playing field, and some operators are endorsing this allegedly open platform. However, Google, like Apple, really wants to be the premier value-added service provider, and, not surprisingly, Android phones by default point to Gmail for email, Google Talk for instant messaging and (of course) to Google’s search engine and application store – again reducing the role of mobile operators to deliver the bits.

However, the war is not over yet. Operators can fight back and remain in the driving seat for value-added services by promoting operator-hosted and device-neutral value-added services. Their chances of winning are quite good, in particular in emerging economies where internet services have yet to take off in the mass market.

A trump card of mobile operators is their billing relationship with the end-user and their ability to control the pricing for services. For example, operators can ensure success of their own email service by offering a flat rate for accessing the operator-hosted email while charging volume-based fees for accessing internet email, using their billing relationship as an ‘unfair’ advantage.

2. The diversification of mobile device platforms leads to an increasingly heterogeneous landscape:

Just a few years ago, analysts were predicting a radical consolidation among mobile device platforms with only two or three platforms controlling the majority of the market.

Of course, these analysts were completely wrong, and the industry has taken an entirely different direction. Now it seems that about two to three new device platforms are introduced every year, leading to further diversification and an increasingly heterogeneous device landscape.

Over the past few years, the industry saw the introduction of the Apple iPhone, the Google Android platform and, more as a side note, the Palm WebOS. In 2010, we will see a plethora of Android devices from various manufacturers and Nokia introducing its first Maemo devices based on the Linux operating system.

Others are also expected to bet on LiMo, including NEC, Panasonic, and Samsung, which introduced the first Vodafone 360 handset based on this Linux platform.

Nokia’s Symbian continues to command about 40% of the smartphone market, and RIM remains with their closed proprietary platform. Windows Mobile, which once was supposed to be one of the few remaining platforms and a main consolidator, seems to be dwarfed, leaving Microsoft’s platform with a single-digit market share.

On top of that, the industry continues to use a wide variety of proprietary operating systems in mass-market feature phones which, despite common belief, will continue to represent the vast majority of devices shipping to market for the next few years.

All of these platforms have a completely different runtime environment, incompatible with any other platform. This increasingly heterogeneous device landscape is presenting a growing problem for developers of messaging applications, in particular for those which require proprietary client software to be downloaded and installed on the handset.

While these proprietary solutions can offer impressive functionality due to their end-to-end-integrated architecture, their developers are facing a Sisyphean task of having to develop and maintain clients for an ever-increasing number of incompatible platforms.

Once touted as an answer to this problem, Sun’s Java (J2ME) no longer presents a complete solution as it is not supported in many new platforms (Apple iPhone, Android, WebOS do not support J2ME).

The only viable solution to the issue of heterogeneous platforms seems to be the use of industry standards for delivery of messaging services.

Just like literally every phone supports SMS and MMS, almost all platforms support IMAP for email, and the majority supports SyncML for synchronization. During 2010, messaging solutions which are based on open industry standards will thrive while proprietary platforms will start to see the limits of their success.

3. Emerging markets will lead the mobile internet revolution:

While most users in Europe, the US, and other ‘old’ markets are using their mobile devices as a secondary access channel to internet services, and consequently mobile operators are struggling to defend their walled gardens, operators in emerging markets are starting to capitalise on a unique opportunity.

With the PC and fixed-line penetration remaining low, the mobile phone penetration is soaring in emerging economies. This means that many users in these regions will have their first contact with internet services via their mobile phone, creating a unique opportunity for mobile operators to establish the mobile phone as the primary access device and themselves as the value-added service provider.

iPhone: does not support Java J2ME.

Subscribers in emerging markets are hungry for data services and, if carriers carefully choose their suppliers and price the services attractively, they can see fast take-up rates, generate substantial revenues and prevent churn by binding users to attractive mass-market services like email and instant messaging.

However, operators in emerging markets must make sure that the services they select actually can be consumed by the vast majority of their subscribers, avoid solutions which support only a small number of devices (eg require a smartphone), and ensure the services are affordable for the average user.

If operators select services that support the entire device landscape, price the services with affordable flat rates and promote the usage with SMS campaigns, we will see emerging markets lead the mobile internet revolution with millions of subscribers – replicating the success of SMS.

4. Mobile email will grow dramatically in the consumer space and messaging will diversify:

2010 will see operators diversifying revenue streams beyond what they had typically considered to be their foremost killer applications – voice and SMS. Across all markets  developed, as well as emerging – operators will package an array of mobile messaging services to accommodate the needs of diverse subscriber segments, but using a device-neutral approach.

Mobile messaging will contribute strongly to the expected data revenue growth this year. ABI Research projected that, within three years, global revenues from mobile messaging will reach $212 billion.
Mobile messaging is generally a valuable and addictive service that holds mass-market appeal with large potential and room for innovation. While operators have historically relied mainly on SMS, consumer mobile email still remains a largely untapped service with large potential.

2010 will see mass-market consumer mobile email expand significantly as operators introduce affordable push email services supporting mass-market devices. Mobile email, instant messaging and social networking are providing massive opportunities for operators to exploit and diversify their revenue streams.

5. Standards-based instant messaging will have the world nudging and buzzing:

In what could become the most exciting prospect of 2010, standards-based mobile instant messaging services are finally becoming more commonplace. Thanks to standardisation, a greater number of people will be able to access their IM accounts by simply using their current mobile phones.

Highly popular amongst teenagers, IM services will be used by 1.6 billion people by 2012 according to industry analysts. Mobile IM will emerge as an important service addition for operators who wish to offer the full spectrum of mobile messaging options.

Until now, handset compatibility has been the single greatest barrier to mobile IM. An early study by Capgemini revealed that 19% of mobile subscribers interested in accessing IM service via their mobile phones were unable to do so because their handset did not support it.

By delivering IM through existing and established technologies, such as SMS and MMS for basic handsets, as well as the industry standard IMPS for mid- to high-end handsets, compatibility will no longer be a barrier. Finally, IM will be fully accessible to all, and the world will be nudging and buzzing from their phones!

6. Social networking will generate mobile social messaging:

The unprecedented success of social networking is already well documented. Facebook, for example, has a staggering 150 million users from every continent around the world including Antarctica! Almost half of Facebook’s subscribers use the service daily in 35 different languages.

Social networking services are fast becoming important repositories of personal information. In 2010, we will see the emergence of mobile services which will synchronize these social networking services to mobile phones.

Ultimately, mobile numbers and email addresses of social networking contacts will be synchronised. There will also be improved facilities to read and update status updates and send messages to contacts, using a standard mobile phone. 2010 will see a surge in mobile social networking, and mobile operators will play a key role in delivering these services.

Instant messaging and email are also largely being embedded into social networks, so it makes perfect sense for operators to deploy mobile social messaging services which enable users to stay in touch with their friends on Facebook and Twitter.

Looking Back

As is typical of a boom, much of the decade just passed will be remembered for fashionable delusions: the artistic credibility of Damien Hirst; the idea that Land Rovers are suitable for cities; skinny jeans; the assumption that rising house prices indicate rising prosperity.

That last belief was exceptionally silly. Since when did inflation make people richer? But soaring house prices didn't count as inflation. Literally. They were excluded from the measure that the newly independent Bank of England was supposed to watch when setting interest rates after 1997. Over the next 10 years, the average cost of a house for a first-time buyer rose by 200 per cent.

We absorbed the price shock by borrowing from the banks. Interest rates were low because, technically speaking, there was no inflation. And because most people paid their mortgages, the debt was considered low-risk, so banks could use it as collateral to borrow more from each other. As with so much of the financial system in the noughties, stupid was elegantly disguised as clever.

So Britain's credit bubble and its housing bubble were inflated in the same breath. But our response – political, economic, cultural – has not begun to reflect the intimacy of that relationship. Mostly, we have argued about Big Finance. How it went wrong, how to regulate it, where to tax it. There has been no equivalent conversation about housing. Why?

The simple reason is that too many people have too much invested in it.

It isn't just that people borrowed vast amounts to buy places to live. In the last year of the boom, 39 per cent of all consumer mortgage lending constituted equity withdrawal. The nation took its crumbling old housing stock to the big pawn shop in the City and went on an £80bn spending spree.

Not all the money was wasted. It started business ventures, funded courses, career breaks, novels. It furnished lofts, trickling cash into the pockets of builders, carpet-fitters, Ikea staff.

But there were two problems with this model. First, the collateral for all that borrowing was overvalued. So British homeowners generally owe much more now than they thought they did two years ago.

Second, the whole party excluded roughly one-third of the population, who had no chance of getting on the property ladder. They rented, in the private sector or from housing associations and councils. In England, there are currently 1.8m families on the waiting list for social housing. A standard wait in a densely populated urban centre is 10-15 years.

The queue is rife with tension and misinformation. One popular myth, promoted vigorously by the British National Party, is that immigrants and asylum seekers get preferential treatment. (Illegal sub-lets of council houses to migrants help spread this impression.)

Another common view is that the most ill-behaved tenants get rewarded with new homes. This perception often comes about when people with severe mental illness, who habitually anaesthetise themselves with drink and drugs, are classed as "vulnerable" and rehoused.

Any sensible analysis of why Britain suffers from "antisocial behaviour", and all manner of other health and educational malfunctions, starts with a simple observation: hundreds of thousands of the poorest citizens have spent the last decade in relentless, frantic, pitiless competition with one another – mediated by an opaque bureaucracy – to get a decent place to live.

So two things need to happen. Millions of new properties must be built and the price of existing homes – to buy or rent – has to come down.

In 2007, the government set a target of building 3m new homes by 2020. That now looks wildly optimistic for various reasons. First, a government pledge doesn't trump local authority planning committees. Labour councils, which might be likelier than others to accommodate Gordon Brown's ambitions and waive through new developments, are an endangered species. Second, the credit crunch screwed housebuilders almost as much as it screwed banks. Third, the Conservatives would scrap the target.

As for affordability of the existing stock, after a steep decline in 2008 prices actually rose by 5.9% in 2009. They are currently around 13 per cent lower than the 2007 peak. But a fall of 30 per cent from the top of the boom is widely considered a plausible correction to get back to pre-bubble trends. And still the bottom rung of the ladder will be out of reach for people on average incomes who can't tap into parental wealth. Owner-occupiers are becoming a hereditary caste.

In 1997, around 42 per cent of under-30s owned properties with a mortgage as compared with around 30 per cent who rented privately. By 2008, those proportions had switched to less than 30 per cent and nearly 50 per cent respectively. Very soon, more than half of all twenty-somethings will rent, with no realistic prospect of buying. Scarcely noticed by policymakers, that structural change in the housing market also signals a cultural shift for the nation. Owner-occupiers see a house as a repository of wealth, an investment vehicle and a source of retirement income. Renters don't.

And millions of people who would, in the past, have entered the owner-occupier culture are setting up permanent home in rental land. That is a perfectly nice place to live for many, although at the bottom end it can be a netherworld of rogue landlords, stolen deposits, insecure tenancy, overcrowding and lethal electrics. Low-cost, private rented accommodation is the fastest growing – and worst regulated – sector of the UK housing market. That means many of the stresses that plagued the poor even during the good years are rising like damp up the brickwork of Britain's class system. That means politicians will start to take more notice.

Meanwhile, house prices are also rising, up for the fourth consecutive month in December. Good news? All it really teaches us is that there are too few homes to satisfy all the people who want one. The idea that markets contain wisdom on a level more profound than that is another fashionable delusion best left in the decade now behind us.

Shop Around for Best Boiler Scrappage Schemes

boiler.bmpResidential property owners hoping to improve their home's energy efficiency by taking part in the boiler scrappage scheme have been advised to shop around to get the best deal.

Comparison service uSwitch.com welcomed the decision by British Gas to match the government's £400 contribution towards scrapping inefficient G-rated boilers, but it said consumers should still get quotes from a number of sources, including independent plumbers.

The website also reminded home owners to ensure they only use plumbers who are members of the Gas Safe Register, or Corgi in Northern Ireland.

According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the boiler scrappage scheme will support the jobs of around 130,000 installers across the country.

Furthermore, replacing 125,000 G-rated models should cut CO2 emissions by approximately 140,000 tones a year.

Commenting on the scrappage scheme, uSwitch.com energy expert Tom Lyon said heating and hot water account for around 60 per cent of the typical household energy bill, so it makes "absolute sense to focus energy efficiency efforts here, where people have the most to gain".

Best Property Opportunities

The top investment choices for the UK investor for 2010 have been published.

"Like any other investment, putting your money into property involves a balance between risk and reward," said Louise Reynolds, Director, Property Venture.

"Whilst we have witnessed property prices overseas coming down in many countries and areas, we know, not all countries have been affected to the same degree, or all the areas within a country. With some major economies around the world struggling to shake off the recession, investors might be wondering where to find an attractive overseas property market, or whether such a thing still exists at all.

"Poland, Spain, Morocco, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Montenegro all offer attractive options but the diverse nature of each country and specific regions have their own pitfalls, if not researched properly.

"The fear of the unknown overseas market is enough to put many buyers off, the prospect of buying overseas without understanding the culture, language or idiosyncrasies of the country is a daunting challenge. There is no doubt that being well-informed, means buyers are well-armed BUT drawing on the expertise of an overseas property consultant can make the process far more effective, by advising buyers of the pitfalls upfront, so that there are no unnecessary surprises."

Hot Spots for the UK Investor


* Achieved positive economic growth in the second quarter of 2009, with Gross Domestic Product (GDP) rising to 1.4% year-on-year in quarter two.

* Has become a serious alternative to outsourcing skilled labour, competing with the likes of India.

* Has attracted major blue chip firms to invest in the country, including P&G-Gillette, Microsoft, Dell, Ikea, Siemens Bosch, Coca Cola, Daewoo, Unilever.

* Enjoys significant inward investment through lower standard of living and geographically proves to be an important location, as a major distribution point at the heart of Europe.

* Has received substantial EU funding to invest in the infrastructure of the country, building a major network of roads, linking Northern Poland with the South via the A1 (Gdansk to Katowice, towards Vienna) and East with West via the A2 (linking Berlin, via Posnan to Moscow, via Warsaw).

* Poland’s GDP is predicted to grow by 2-3% in 2010 (IMF, lower forecast, BZWBK higher forecast)


* Easily accessible from the UK, and matches investors’ expectations with a steady economy and healthy property market.

* Government-led reforms have strengthened the country’s economic position and allowed it to sail through the global financial crisis relatively unscathed.

* The government’s strategy is to steer the economy away from its dependence on agriculture, to create jobs and find new engines of growth.

* Investment in infrastructure, property and tourism has diversified the economy, while policies to control prices have restricted inflation.

* Foreign direct investment has escalated, encouraging Moroccans to buy into their own market – an estimated 80% of remittances from expatriate Moroccan workers now goes into property.

* British buyers, have the added advantage of a favourable exchange rate into Moroccan Dirhams, giving sterling real buying power.


* Official statistics from the Ministry for Housing show National average prices have fallen 8% over 12 months, from €1780 m2 to €1634.7 m2 today (Sep 09 v 08).

* Around 1.6 million apartments and houses are on the market, (over 300,000 under construction and a further 1.1 million with planning permission that must legally be built within two years).

* Of these properties the ratio of holiday homes to resident worker homes vary, but as much 50% of the total of unsold stock, could be for the holiday home market.

* At current levels of demand it could take until 2016 for the property market to recover.

* Property price declines have been more accentuated on the coast, however, inland prices have held up.


* After impressive growth between 2005 and 2007, the property market started to level off at the end of 2008 and fall in 2009. GDP growth in Bulgaria is expected to slow in the next year.

* New buildings and sales of flats have been affected by the financial limitations imposed by banks.

* Lower loan to values are being offered, which has affected demand and most of the buyers came from the countries hardest hit by the crisis, such as the UK and Ireland.


* The Montenegrin economy has achieved impressive results over the past several years.

* Ambitious reforms, substantial capital inflows, dynamic developments in the banking sector, position Montenegro as one of the fastest growing European countries.

* Average annual GDP growth in the last four years was around 8%.

* Montenegro fell into recession in the first half of 2009 when the economy shrank by 3.5%.

* The global economic crisis has affected the two largest exporters in the country, KAP (Aluminum smelter, Russian-owned KAP, is the country’s largest exporter, with 40% of industrial production) and Nikšicka Željezara (Steel mill).

* The Prime Minister, Djukanovic believes Montenegro will enter the European Union by 2014 amid signs the EU is overcoming expansion fatigue, after 2004 integration of Eastern European countries.

* The Government has ambitions for a number of government tenders in forthcoming months, including tender for the development of Montenegro’s longest beach in Ulcinj.

* Tourism revenues account for a quarter of GDP. But tourist numbers declined in summer 2009 amid a collapse of the Russian economy, which for a long time represented a key Montenegrin target market.


* Cyprus has weathered the worldwide economic recession considerably better than Europe, despite some recent sluggishness.

* The president of the Republic has been in talks with the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community over the past year and the negotiations seem to be at a critical point. There is the prospect that the political problems of the island might be solved, although this will not happen overnight.

* Cyprus is part of the euro area, and therefore the euro is likely to be the common currency of the unified Cyprus as soon as a peaceful solution is negotiated.

* The Greek Cypriot government is pushing ahead with its plans to upgrade tourism facilities in the southern part of the island.

* Cyprus property market remains reasonably robust. Although growth – unsurprisingly – slowed in 2008, the market is broadly-based and therefore well-placed to cope with the global economic crisis.

* There is a healthy domestic property market and, while Western Europeans may be thinking twice about overseas property investment, an influx of buyers from other countries such as Kazakhstan and Russia means that the Cypriot property market has not been hit as hard as some others.


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Draughty Home Better Than Eco

When it comes to sustainable living, the city beats the country hands down: a family in a house in a new eco-village in Street, Somerset, which has solar power, rainwater collection and a sophisticated warm-air recycling system, has a bigger carbon footprint than a similar family living in a Victorian terrace house in Battersea.


Mobile Information

Data services will play an even more important role in 2010, supported by an enlarged mobile messaging landscape that, in addition to SMS, will also encompass mobile email, mobile social networking, and instant messaging (IM).


Looking Back

As is typical of a boom, much of the decade just passed will be remembered for fashionable delusions: the artistic credibility of Damien Hirst; the idea that Land Rovers are suitable for cities; skinny jeans; the assumption that rising house prices indicate rising prosperity.


Boiler Scrappage Schemes

Residential property owners hoping to improve their home's energy efficiency by taking part in the boiler scrappage scheme have been advised to shop around to get the best deal.


Best Property Opportunities

The top investment choices for the UK investor for 2010 have been published


If you use Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin to write about your business but struggle with updating so many different accounts then TweetDeck could be for you.



Streetwise Maps

Companies who need Ordnance Survey Maps for planning are experiencing savings of 40% by switching from the likes of Promap to www.streetwise-maps.comwhere the cheapest downloads costs just £8+vat.


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