Energy and Sustainability forum 2020

Manchester's Civic Quarter Heat Network - Tower of Light (Tonkin Liu / Arup)

Future Cities Forum will be running a series of discussions on the topic of sustainability over 2020/2021 to include areas such as housing, energy, climate change and public realm design. The first of these debates will be held on 18th November.

The discussions will ask whether the government’s new ideas on planning will lead to housing provision which meet targets on carbon reduction, how the design of city and district heat networks will help tackle climate change, and whether Covid-19 has accelerated the implementation of better public realm, creating healthier and more sustainable city centres and retail provision?

Back in the summer the UK government announced a reform of the planning system, which could see land being divided up into three categories – ‘growth’, ‘renewal’ and ‘protected’. On land earmarked for growth, new homes, schools and hospitals will be allowed to be built automatically, with councils unable to veto. Other measures included that all new homes should be carbon neutral by 2050 and all new streets should be tree-lined.

Critics argued that this would lead to rushed poor quality housing and the new rules would diminish the influence of local authorities as well as communities being side-lined in decision making.

Alan Jones, President of RIBA told BBC News:

‘While there is no doubt the planning system needs reform, these shameful proposals do almost nothing to guarantee the delivery of affordable, well-designed and sustainable homes.’

The UK government’s new plans to make the UK a world leader in green energy (Build Back Greener) involves increasing offshore wind capacity. An investment of £160m will see the creation of around 2,000 construction jobs rapidly created and will enable the sector to support up to 60,000 jobs directly or indirectly by 2030 in ports, factories and the supply chains, manufacturing the next-generation of offshore wind turbines and delivering clean energy to the UK.

The Prime Minister wants to set a target to support up to double the capacity of renewable energy in the next Contracts for Difference auction, which will open in late 2021, providing enough clean, low cost energy to power up to 10 million homes.

Contributors to our debate will include the following:

Patrick Allcorn, Head of Local Energy, Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Patrick has led the local energy team at BEIS since October 2015, previously working in the Heat Strategy team where he developed a range of community initiatives, developing the domestic Renewable Heat Incentive. He will be talking about The Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund Demonstrator (SHDF Demonstrator) which will start the decarbonization of social housing over 2020 to 2021 and support green jobs as part of the COVID-19 economic recovery plan.

This £50 million programme announced in July 2020 will support social landlords to demonstrate innovative approaches to retrofitting social housing at scale. It will mean warmer and more energy efficient homes, a reduction in households’ energy bills, and lower carbon emissions.

The SHDF Demonstrator upscales the existing ‘Whole House Retrofit (WHR) Innovation Competition’. The SHDF Demonstrator project is an initial investment to learn lessons and catalyse innovation in retrofitting for the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, for which the manifesto committed £3.8 billion of new funding.

Last month the UK government also told homeowners in England including landlords, to apply for grants up to £5,000 to pay part of the cost of energy saving measures such as insulation. Low income families can receive 100% of the costs of work covered up to £10,000.

Peter Radford, Principal, Amber Infrastructure, will be speaking about The Mayor of London's Energy Efficiency Fund (MEEF) which is managed by the firm. MEEF is a new investment fund, established by the GLA with funding from the European Commission, which will help achieve London's ambition of being a zero carbon city by 2050.

It has been developed with Local Authorities as a core sector given their leadership in the low carbon sector and has access to £500 million of financing that can provide funding for up to 100% of the capital cost of a project.

MEEF can support energy efficiency, decentralised energy, renewable energy generation, projects including innovative technologies such as energy storage, electric vehicle infrastructure and low carbon data centres.

Ian Edwards, Head of Place at Gloucester City Council will be speaking about the future plans for sustainability on the high street, the future vision for Gloucester’s city centre, and investment and outdoor tourism initiatives to keep the city open for business. Ian spoke to Future Cities Forum during the summer about plans to reduce pollution in the city while investing in public realm:

'Gloucester is a very walk-able city but both the County Council and ourselves will be challenging how we can improve way-finding in the city, especially to connect the Quays to the rest of the city centre. The impact of the C-Virus on modes of travel may accelerate these plans. We are having conversations with Hartpury University (the specialist equine, agriculture and sports college), about how we link their students to the city centre by walking and cycling. It is an expanding university and one that wants to offer students a combination of city living and green spaces on the edge of Gloucester. There is a lot of student accommodation in the city for the two universities.'

Nalin Seneviratne, Director of City Centre Development at Sheffield City Council, will describe how the council will be achieving Net Zero 2030 involving green spaces and enhancing the tram network. He spoke earlier in 2020 to Future Cities Forum about the new smart city approach, that allows trees and waste bins to 'talk', telling the council when they need to be watered or emptied. The new approach is set to play a major part in tackling climate change from both CO2 emissions to mitigating current issues such as flood management, including monitoring the city's river levels more efficiently.

Nalin commented:

'Collecting and using data generated within the City to enable the continuing development of efficient and effective services, is what all local authorities need to be doing. This initiative with Amey, and their partners at Cisco, Connexin and Quantela, is a major step in the right direction. Not only are services improved, but the efficiencies also translate into action on climate change both from managing our carbon budget and mitigating our existing risk such as flood. I am looking forward to seeing the principles develop and extend into other areas of infrastructure management, such as repairs and maintenance.’

'The platform will connect essential highway maintenance services and inform operatives about the condition of street assets in real time. The aim is to avoid over-flowing bins, dying trees from lack of watering and refill grit bins in time for icy conditions.

‘It is expected to reduce pollution in the city because maintenance operatives will now make fewer journeys and avoid hot spots where air quality is poor. Residents will benefit from cleaner, safer living conditions while maintenance is being delivered in a sustainable manner.

Ben Aston, Head of Sustainability, Chapman Taylor, will be contributing to the forum to speak about the varying sectors that the architectural firm works in, giving us an insight into the sustainable features of its' designs.

Future Cities Forum notes the sustainable aspects of Chapman Taylor’s Ashford Designer Outlet Extension, UK, which opened last October as an extension to the existing Ashford retail outlet, adding 46 retail, leisure and F&B units to the eight already operating, as well as a new events space and a children’s play area. Reflecting Kent’s status as the ‘Garden of England’, a living green wall of tens of thousands of vertically stacked plants clads the centre – the largest living wall in Europe – greeting affluent long-haul tourists from Europe and beyond as well as day-out shoppers.

The living wall offers recognised benefits, such as insulation, visual amenity, SUDS and its recognition under BREEAM as a biodiversity innovation. Construction works were planned around the existing ecology of the site, water voles were relocated during construction and were brought back during post-completion works, and lighting design in the new car park and the bridge area was planned to minimize the impact on local bats. The shell & core design and delivery for the extension achieved BREEAM Very Good certification for sustainability. Renewable energy sources such as photovoltaics cut down CO2 emissions by 40%.

Rob Delius, Head of Sustainable Design, Stride Treglown works in the area of residential and mixed-use. He organises the firm's Green Week and leads initiatives such as 52 Big Ideas for Bristol and also Waters of Bath and Bristol:

'As a non-architectural project, 52 Big Ideas for Bristol has also been fun - it was our legacy for Bristol after it spent a year as European Green Capital.'

On sustainable design he also highlights the firm's project Great Bow Yard in Langport - a BREEAM rating of excellence for South West Eco homes, with 12 homes and a value of £1.7 million. The firm designed two types of low energy housing both in terrace form, one terrace featuring a sunspace-based passive solar design to utilise high thermal mass while the other using highly insulated timber frame lightweight construction. With traditional materials used in a contemporary way, the design is drawn from the local vernacular. Rob commented:

'There was a sense that we were doing something different in sustainable construction at the time, and the way our developer client actively encouraged us to challenge the design of conventional housing was hugely inspirational.'

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