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Infrastructure, energy and transport forum report - part 2

Part Two of our ‘Infrastructure and transport 2022’ forum gave a focus to the issue of sustainability and tackling net zero this February.

Future Cities Forum was delighted to welcome Amber Infrastructure’s Principal Peter Radford to talk about the Mayor of London’s funding of 'green' taxis, Stephen Barratt, Partner at Roger Stirk Harbour + Partners, to speak about sustainable airport design and Tom Foxall, Regional Director at Historic England, to comment on the protection of historic landscapes and place-making around new infrastructure.

The Mayor of London’s fund MEEF is being used to encourage the ‘green’ recovery of taxis in the capital and Peter explained how it works:

‘We are putting public and private money into this scheme and combining those two sources of funding which will have a big impact. One of the projects is to fund 35 LEVC taxis in London on a pay-by-mile basis and this provides confidence for drivers to come back to the market – and it has the potential to work in other regions. It is delivered by fintech firm Zeti.

‘We are dealing with really innovative companies with these ideas, and we have to bring in funding to help those companies grow. This is we hope the first of many deals and I have the telematics available that can also report instant carbon reductions in this project which is pretty exciting.

‘I think the Mayor of London has done a lot to reduce emissions in London through hybrid and electric buses so that carbon reduction is really happening – and also with smaller scale last mile vehicles. MEEF is looking to replicate this finance mechanism with Zeti for further deals in the taxi area and in other transportation sectors.'

Colts, a London based Small Medium Enterprise ('SME'), is one of London's largest black cab fleet operators having been in operation since 1991 with over 800 vehicles. Colts rents the black cabs to individual licensed black cab drivers who meet the TfL ‘fit and proper person’ test. The current fleet is predominately diesel and Colts along with its sister company Fulham Cabs Limited ('Fulham Cabs') are looking to increase their combined electric fleet to 2,000 vehicles by 2025.

The LEVC TX is a plug-in hybrid with an electric range of 63 miles and capable of rapid charging with a small petrol engine to extend the range of the vehicle. The LEVC TX has a number of advantages over the older diesel black cabs, including reduced maintenance costs and improved fuel economy. Each cab is forecast to reduce carbon emissions by 3.9 tonnes and reduce NOx emissions by 99.5%. Overall, the 30 cabs will save 116 tonnes of CO2 per year, the equivalent of taking over 105 cars off the road.

This is MEEF's third investment in the low carbon mobility sector. Eligible projects include EV charging, alternative fuel stations and hydrogen fuel cells.

Since launching in July 2018, MEEF has made investments in EV charging, district heating, streetlighting and energy efficiency sectors creating energy savings of over 39 million Gigawatt hours (GWh). Due to the success of MEEF to date, the GLA has agreed to increase the public sector commitment in the Fund up to £30.2 million.

Inside the new East Wing / Aile East at Geneva Airport (RSH+P)

Roger Stirk Harbour + Partners has been working to deliver the East Wing of Geneva Airport over the last ten years with sustainability targets built into the project from the start. Partner Stephen Barrett explained the net zero benefits:

‘The East Wing is energy positive - that’s to say carbon negative, with seven thousand square meters of photovoltaic panels which means the building produces more electricity than it consumes. With these projects it is important to get the ‘basics’ right. The building floats above a road, with the shape, geometry, and positioning contributing to reducing its carbon footprint with the way it optimises daylight or creates shading.

‘When you work in a sector like travel, it is right that projects are subject to legitimate carbon footprint measures. You must remember that only a small percentage of the population flies, but you must make a difference on the ground with the buildings you design.

‘There is joined-up strategic thinking going on at Geneva Airport as you can imagine with the Swiss ensuring that it is well served by trains. But the important note here is that the East Wing was a planned up-grading of a system. The infrastructure was built in the 1970s and didn’t perform positively from an energy sustainability point of view. Looking forward, flying itself should become more carbon neutral, with more planes running on hydrogen.

The East Wing of Geneva Airport will rely on a holistic sustainable strategy consisting of the following elements: 7,000 meters square of photovoltaic panels on the roof, 110 geothermal piles for heating and cooling, high-performance glazed facades with solar protection guaranteeing a low dependency on artificial lighting, detailed analysis of thermal performance to eliminate cold-bridges, energy-efficient chilled ceilings throughout, LED lighting strategy with responsive control systems and low water consumption using methods such as rainwater harvesting.

The RBI-T Allie Est design was selected from an OJEU competition launched in 2010 and was based on key principles including quality of the passenger space with an emphasis on natural daylight, a model for lasting development and modular construction.

The material palette has been selected for its durability, low maintenance and to provide a calm, consistent background to passenger movement. Transparent, fire-rated glazed partitions are generally used to separate passenger flows thus maximising natural daylight and assisting wayfinding.

The final contract has encompassed the building's steel superstructure, cladding and entire fit-out and Aile Est officially opened to the public in December. One key concept of the East Wing design was to minimise internal structural elements to ensure great transparency and offer passengers a breath-taking view of the Jura mountains.

Stephen Barrett added, that in sustainable terms, new innovation is moving to meet the health needs of cities:

‘RSH+P’s Roads of the Future project in Paris has shown the benefits of electrification and autonomous vehicles, which can offer quality of life and wellbeing factors. We know that air pollution kills more people in France than smoking. We have to address climate change and we need to build more robust and adaptable building with more resilience. We also need more energy sources and the current crisis in Ukraine shows us that.’

The creation of sustainable places around new infrastructure was also a topic that was discussed in the forum and at this event, Tom Foxall, Director, Historic England, who is well versed in the threats around the development of HS2 and the OxCam Arc, talked about the importance of creating a sense of place that is rooted in history:

‘As well as this, when thinking about the OxCam Arc and the new living spaces that will be created from that development, places around new infrastructure have to be attractive places to live. As with station design, it is so dangerous to avoid these considerations and only think about the infrastructure itself.’

'Historic England’s landscape-scale work allows us to develop its understanding of the historic environment and its relationship with people today on a broader scale. It helps the organisation to engage most effectively with large-scale management of land such as farming and forestry. In doing so, Historic England supports the implementation of the European Landscape Convention (The Florence Convention). HE’s landscape strategy drives interdisciplinary working within Historic England and with a wide range of partners both within and beyond the heritage sector.

'The aims of the landscape work include ensuring landscape is addressed in its corporate strategy, understanding the pressures for change on the historic landscape and how to respond to them, researching the landscape context of historic assets and developing appropriate guidance, training and educational resources.'

As our discussions came to an end, Stephen Dance, Head of the Commercial Advisor Team at the Infrastructure & Projects Authority had some observations to make on the role of the IPA in the future:

‘You have lots of levelling up statements around now, and then the Treasury saying there is less money around because of the pandemic, so we have a particular funding situation we need to recognise. Does central government understand buses, they would say yes, but the question has to be asked, what is the right way to drive connectivity in city areas? I remember a long discussion that I was involved in around Crossrail 2 and the amount that was going to be spent, when someone asked why we were going to spend £20 billion on a project that needed train drivers rather than self-driving vehicles and it was a very good question.

‘I think cities are better placed to find those transport solutions themselves. One way of learning lessons is from each other and there must be a way of combining to combine all those lessons. The existing mayors around the country are doing just that, but it has to improve.

‘On the question of deliverability, how do we define a role on delivery of projects that provides regional benefit using central funding and local funding for last mile infrastructure? I think we need a single guiding mind to realise the benefits and work out a specification, finding a governance system to do all that. The key thing is the right sense of governance for UK plc and for levelling up.

‘There will be different ways of measuring benefits for different authorities, some will measure by regeneration and land value increase outcomes, some by journey times. There are lots of different ways and then being quite rigorous on cost benefit that goes with it. What it boils down to is that there will have to be trade-offs. It is about how we make decisions that need to be taken not just centrally and not from one region over another – and this is being worked through as we speak.

‘That is why private capital is really important. The government is not a good property developer or property investor, but it’s there to create the right environment. Canary Wharf is a good example. There were going to be two storey red brick buildings covering the whole of the Wharf until the development corporation was created. The development didn’t drive benefits to local communities, but we have learned from this since then. I suppose I am most proud of the work I did on East Quayside in Tyneside which is a real example of enabling infrastructure being put in place.


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