Posts Tagged ‘Climate change’

Go and put another jumper on: strategic steps to a low-carbon UK


Wool jumper

Halfway I hope... by ingermaaike2, on Flickr

Let’s start with a quick question.

The UK is currently committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by at least what percentage by 2050, relative to 1990 levels?

[Answer at the bottom]

The Department of Energy and Climate Change has a section on its website relating to a low-carbon UK and the above commitment.

There’s a fascinating calculator tool that allows you to balance the UK’s energy demand with the energy supply and monitor the resultant greenhouse emissions.

It’s a bit like playing SimCity and other ‘strategic life-simulation computer games’.


Consider what the average temperature of homes should be.

DECC reports that the mean internal temperature of UK homes during the winter months was 17.5°C in 2007 compared to 16°C in 1990 and 12°C in 1970. Historically, the temperature people choose to heat their homes at has increased over the years.

You’re offered various choices ranging from letting this growth trend continue to 20°C by 2030 through to reducing average internal temperatures to 1990 levels.

The commentary is amusingly sobering. ‘Householders can experience today’s levels of thermal comfort whilst also reducing energy demand by wearing warmer clothing or by heating the house in a smarter way.’


Or how significantly should home insulation be improved.

This time your choices range from reducing leakiness by between 25 and 50%, with varying percentages of the existing housing stock being upgraded (floor insulation / cavity wall insulation / triple glazing) and all new houses being built to Energy Saving Trust or even PassivHaus standards.

The most stringent level would half the power required to maintain a given temperature, although this would be partially offset by a growing housing stock and any failure to reverse the trend towards warmer homes.


And it goes on to cover how we heat our homes and businesses, the efficiency of our lighting and appliances, how we travel and how goods are moved around.

And then it’s on the supply side. How many nuclear power stations should there be? Or carbon capture and storage power stations? How many wind turbines? How much of the agricultural land should be devoted to growing biofuels? Should the numbers of methane-producing livestock be reduced? Have you considered harvesting marine algae?

And what level of energy security do we need? What do we need in reserve if there’s a cold snap or an incoming pipeline is closed down?

It’s actually quite difficult to do.


There are also example pathways from experts and interested parties.

Everyone broadly agrees that demand needs to be reduced by around a third, which usually encompasses electrifying domestic transport, shifting up to 50% of freight off roads to electric railways, making planes more fuel efficient and building to PassivHaus standards.

It’s on the supply side that there are disagreements. Friends of the Earth achieves the 2050 target with no new nuclear or carbon capture and storage, and a heavy emphasis on onshore wind turbines, solar energy and geothermal electricity. Whilst the Energy Technologies Institute take a broader mix of supply sources, including 13 new nuclear power stations along with wind, wave and hydroelectric sources.

Have a look – it’s thought provoking.


[80%. Which is a lot.]


Newcastle is Britain’s most sustainable city – discuss


Newcastle upon Tyne - by smlp on Flickr

Forum for the Future has, for the past three years, tracked progress on sustainability in Britain’s 20 largest cities.

The Sustainable Cities Index measures 13 indicators in three broad categories:
• Environmental impact – the city’s impact in terms of resource use and pollution
• Quality of life – what the city is like for people to live in
• Future-proofing – how well the city is preparing for a sustainable future

The 2009 winner was Newcastle. You can download the report here.

It is a statutory requirement for all local authorities to produce, in conjunction with partner organisations, a Sustainable Community Strategy (SCS).

You can download Newcastle’s current SCS (2008-2011) here.

One of the five big challenges Newcastle identifies for itself is creating opportunities from climate change. ‘The Newcastle Carbon Footprint programme builds on a previous campaign to make Newcastle one of the world’s first carbon-neutral cities by reducing carbon emissions.’

Peter Newman provides a readable introduction to carbon-neutral cities here.

Others cities with ambitions to become carbon neutral include Rizhao in China, Masdar in Abu Dhabi and Vancouver in Canada.

Raising the stakes, Norway is aiming to offset all of its carbon emissions by 2050.

Low carbon infrastructure – the civil engineering perspective

energy infrastructure

Rugeley Power Station - jayneandd on Flickr

State of the Nation: Low Carbon Infrastructure is a succinct – 16 pages – policy paper published by the Institution of Civil Engineers in November 2009. It’s available as a PDF download.

Main recommendations

1. ‘Government must create an environment in which the lifecycle carbon impact of infrastructure assets and networks is key to decision-making.’

2. ‘Infrastructure owners and clients should focus on implementing efficiency and demand management measures and create clear plans for rolling out proven low carbon technologies.’

3. ‘Engineers and other built environment professionals must develop a systems approach to managing carbon impact across the UK’s interdependent energy, transport, waste and water networks.’

ESI references:

From ICs to LEDs – the winners

Carbon Trust Low Carbon Innovation Awards 2009

Carbon Trust - Low Carbon Innovation Awards 2009

Carbon Trust Low Carbon Innovation Awards 2009
Technology Innovation | Buildings category

CamSemi won this year’s award for their work on intelligent power management integrated circuits and their potential to cut energy consumption within buildings.

‘The company’s current two major product families – C2470 and C2160 – were both highlighted for significantly improving the efficiency of power supplies and as a result, helping manage the rapidly growing electricity demand within buildings from phone systems and mobile phones, IT products, audio and video equipment.’

Runners up included Novacem, who were recognised for their ‘green’ cement systems. ‘Our cement uniquely combines the sustainability of timber and the recyclability of metal with the technical properties and high thermal mass of concrete. Its use therefore minimises CO2 emissions during building construction, operation and disposal.’

And Luminanz for their ultra efficient lighting technology which ‘exploits patents for using light wave guides and air gaps to convert point source light from LEDs into acceptable light output for all forms of lighting and signage.’

ESI references:

Water, water, everywhere – the impact of rising sea levels on coastal cities

Rising water levels - Studio Lindfors

Aqualta - Studio Lindfors

Studio Lindfors, in a piece tagged ‘speculative’, tries to visualise the impact of rising sea levels on coastal cities.

New York and Tokyo are seen ‘adapting to, rather than resisting, rising waters.’

It’s also worth looking at Water in Chicago – 2106 – a sustainable future on our sister blog.

King Abdullah International Gardens: a giant oasis in the desert


KAIG: set for completion in 2011 (Barton Willmore)

Barton Willmore has designed this spectacular botanical garden, set in 160 hectares of arid desert landscape in the Saudi central region, to the south west of Riyadh.
The ambitious team, led by Nick Sweet and advised by experts from the Eden Project and the Natural History Museum, sees the project as a chance “to educate, to entice, to excite and to entertain, and whilst doing so, to pass on a message about who we are, where we have come from, where we may be going, and the choices that may still be available to us.”

The Butterfly Garden (image: Barton Willmore)

  • KAIG will record 400 million years of botanical history by creating a paleobotanic timeline, with authentic interpretations of ecosystems that existed on this site in past epochs.
  • The crescent-shaped main building will enclose seven controlled environments.
  • Visitors – up to 45,000 per day – will be taken on a journey through landscapes from the Devonian, Carboniferous, Jurassic, Cretaceous, Cenzoic and Pilocene eras.
  • There will also be scientific gardens, a Water Garden and a Wadi Garden (wadi is Arabic for dry riverbed or valley).
  • Finally, the Garden of Choices explores the consequences of the decisions we make regarding the environment.
  • The Paleobotanic Building (image: Barton Willmore)

  • The carbon-neutral scheme will harvest stone, rainwater and solar power to sustain its development and operation.
  • A comprehensive seed-bank, protected from germination by the dry desert climate, will aid future research and project developments.
  • The project website contains a wealth of images and information: masterplan, strategic contexts, a database of botanical garden precedents, fly-by animation, perspective sketches, and extensive details of each individual garden.
  • Followers of the project’s blog are looking forward to keeping track of the 3-year building process via site webcams and Google Earth.

    An external view (image: Barton Willmore)

    ESI references: