Low carbon cities the only way ahead

A leading energy and environmental project consultancy has said that low carbon cities are the only answer for a sustainable future.

SKM says that future developments in the UK must consider district energy in the face of a mounting energy crisis.

SKM specialists in sustainable building and design, Frank Mills and Rebecca Warren, have cited MediaCityUK as an example of sustainable regeneration on a large scale.

SKM acted as sustainability advisor to Peel Holdings, the developers, providing an independent review of the development’s energy and sustainability strategy. SKM also provided the lead designer role for the tri-generation system on the site.

The consultancy believes that the UK as a whole is not working to the same standards and that developers need to work to BREEAM guidelines and include district energy in the master plan to create environmentally sound communities.

It calls for a holistic approach to building planning and design which addresses affordability, transport and energy consumption.

Rebecca Warren said: “For decades the development of many cities has been reactive – responding to cheap energy and rapid growth with sprawling suburbs.

“But a more proactive approach which combines high density living with open spaces accessible to all, rapid and affordable public-transit systems, local food production and waste treatment is being recognised as the route to successful urban development.

“As we descend into a post peak world, remaining reserves will become more precious. Developed countries, with their dwindling indigenous reserves, will be increasingly dependent on energy imports plunging people into fuel poverty.

“The only logical conclusion has to be that we must prepare for the inevitable move away from fossil fuels. A low carbon future is not only the best way forward, but, the only way.”

Wide-scale district energy, the consultancy says, delivers cost savings and a reduction in energy use and believes that government incentives for connection are needed to drive the potential forward.

But, Warren warns, careful consideration is needed before district energy becomes widespread, such as how the system would be integrated with the existing infrastructure.

She said: “Existing buildings with poor fabric performance have a much greater heat requirement. However providing a heat network to them and linking into their, potentially aging systems creates potential problems.

“Clear demarcation of responsibility is needed as well as government incentives for connection.”

Alison Brown

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