Solar-electric cars and rental and repair hubs: The sustainability success stories of the week

Published every week, this series charts how businesses and sustainability professionals are working to achieve their ‘Mission Possible’ across the campaign’s five key pillars – energy, resources, infrastructure, mobility and business leadership.

Across the UK and across the world, leading businesses, cities, states and regions are turning environmental ambitions into action. Here, we round up five positive sustainability stories from this week.

ENERGY: Haringey to retrofit all 15,000 of its council homes for energy efficiency

It is often said that the most sustainable energy is the energy we do not use. The price crisis has focused minds on energy efficiency’s importance, with global investments up 16% year-on-year in 2022 according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Nonetheless, there is still a lot of work to do – particularly in the UK, where edie is based, given that we have the least energy-efficient building stock in Europe.

It is welcome news, then that Haringey Council is proposing a mass retrofit of all 15,000 of its council homes. The proposals will see fabric improvements made to all homes, such as external wall and loft insulation. Residents will also see improve doors and windows fitted and have gas boilers replaced with heat pumps, co-located with rooftop solar.

The London Borough is proposing a five-year programme in the first instance, to begin this year and cover 1,500 homes annually. The least energy-efficient homes will be targeted first. The Council has set aside some £100m to deliver the programme and will bid for additional funding from the UK Government’s Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund.

Haringey Council’s cabinet member for housing services Cllr Dana Carlin said: “By retrofitting all council homes, we are not only transforming the lives of families across the borough, but we are also creating new, high-skilled jobs in our community and supporting the green economy.”

RESOURCES: Portsmouth repair café sets out to also offer rental services

The first ‘repair café’ is credited to Amsterdam-based journalist Martine Postma, who opened the facility from her living room in 2009. There are now dozens of repair cafés operating across Europe, providing members of the public free repair services for all manner of items, from textiles to TVs.

This month, the team behind the Portsmouth Repair Café have announced plans to secure premises as a permanent home for operations. They are seeking a premises in the town’s Cascades shopping centre, which would also be big enough to house a ‘Library of Things’ from which people could borrow items which typically sit unused in homes for most of their lifecycles. These include DIY tools, camping gear and party supplies.

Founder Clare Seek is currently seeking donations of goods to be loaned from the Library of Things, plus donations and investments through a Crowdfunding campaign to secure the Cascades premises. She told The News, Portsmouth: “We really think it is a project that is brilliant for the city. We’re looking at more projects that ultimately help reduce waste, carbon, materials and bring people together learning new things.”

MOBILITY: Arval pre-orders 10,000 solar-electric vehicles

It’s been a busy week for electric vehicle (EV) news here at edie. We’ve covered the UK Government’s new Smart Charging Plan and an expansion of Uber’s partnership with Hertz that will bring 10,000 electric taxis to London and a further 15,000 to other European capital cities. There’s also been an update on the world’s largest trial of EVs in business fleets.

Continuing this trend, European vehicle leasing major Arval has placed a pre-order for 10,000 units of the Lightyear 2 electric car. The saloon model was first announced at CES in Las Vegas in 2021 and production is set to begin in 2025. It boasts a solar roof and hood which Lightyear claims will cut charging times by two-thirds.

Arval has placed the pre-order as it works to incorporate 700,000 electrified vehicles into its rental fleet by 2025. Lightyear has also received orders from other businesses, taking its total B2B pre-order book to some 21,000 units.

Lightyear’s chief executive and co-founder Lex Hoefsloot said: “Next to offering our solar electric cars to individual consumers, Arval plays a crucial role as a leasing company in making our technologies available for as many people as possible. We are grateful for their trust and being able to have their expertise and international footprint to roll out Lightyear 2.”

THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT: London’s tallest mass timber office block officially opens

Some 11% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions are ‘embodied carbon’ from buildings, according to the World Green Building Council. The term refers to emissions generated across the life-cycle of materials used and those generated during the construction process.

Replacing materials such as steel and concrete with mass timber is proving to be a popular option for cutting these emissions. The world’s tallest mass timber tower (25 stories of 284 feet) opened in Milwaukee in Summer 2022. This week, The Office Group and Waugh Thistleton Architects are celebrating the opening of London’s tallest mass timber office building, touting a 37% reduction in embodied carbon compared with concrete.

The Black and White Building, in Shoreditch, is 17.8m high and includes 28 offices, an events space, tow lounges, a roof terrace and and a yoga studio. It is targeting BREEAM ‘Excellent’ and LETI ‘B’ certifications for its built-in sustainability and wellbeing-related features.

“We’ve used timber in everything above ground – timber columns, beams, walls and floor slabs, the curtain walling and the solar louvres,” said The Office Group’s president Charlie Green. “We’ve significantly reduced our embodied carbon which in turn helps to reduce our ongoing operational carbon. And we’ve extended this ethos to the interior design, focusing on recycled materials and 88% of the furniture being sourced in the UK. What is wonderful, is that the clients moving into the building are driving their own sustainability agenda to the top of their decision-making criteria, and The Black and White Building is ticking that box for them.”

BUSINESS LEADERSHIP: BAM strengthens climate and nature targets under new sustainability strategy

Dutch multinational construction firm BAM unveiled a sweeping update to its sustainability strategy this week, stating: “Transparent and realistic are key words of the new sustainability strategy. The ambitious goals have been made measurable and have been translated into roadmaps to achieve them.”

Six topics are covered by the strategy: decarbonisation, circularity, climate adaptation, biodiversity, social value and health, safety and inclusion. Under several of these pillars, BAM has built on existing commitments to account for strong progress to date and to raise the bar further.

One such pillar is decarbonisation. BAM had been aiming to halve emissions across all scopes by 2030, from a 2017 baseline, as part of its 1.5C-aligned science-based targets. It has now pledged to ensure that, in 2026, Scope 1 (direct) and Scope 2 (power-related) emissions are at least 80% lower than in 2015.

The strategy also includes commitments to deliver a net-positive impact on biodiversity by 2030; to reduce construction and office waste by 75% by 2030 against 2015 levels and to apply a new climate adaptation framework to all projects.

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