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The pros and cons of on-site renewables

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BCO event highlights challenges of using on-site renewables in central London offices

The BCO’s Environmental Sustainability Group (ESG) held an event attend by the following architecture firms Hawkins Brown, JM Architects, Eric Parry Architects, Wilmotte Architects, Glen Howell Architects, Squire and Partners, ACME, Formation Architects, CGL Architects & Designers, Make Architects, Tate and Hindle Design, EPR Architects and Sheppard Robson

The event discuss the findings of Sturgis Carbon Profiling’s On-Site Renewables report published in September. The current report is a follow up to a previous BCO report (2007) which examined the Greater London Assembly’s target for achieving emissions reductions through on-site renewables from 10 to 20 per cent of a building’s regulated energy demand.

On-site Renewables

On-site Renewables Report

Speakers included:

Sturgis Associates’ Gareth Roberts outlined the report’s main findings. Onsite renewables are not meeting expectations for energy production and subsequently CO2 reductions. The scale of implementation is often a problem because micro-generation on individual sites is usually not cost effective. The GLA’s original targets of 10 to 20 per cent are unrealistic and often detrimental to the low carbon objectives of a project.

Offering a planners’ perspective, the GLA’s Celeste Giusti explained that when the legislation was first introduced, planners often did not understand the complexity of carbon issues. Rapidly evolving technologies meant that data which was not easily interpreted or comparable across different projects. Therefore the 10 to 20 per cent onsite renewables target often became a tick box exercise, losing sight of overall reduction of CO2. Policy has now changed to allow for a more holistic and collaborative approach. Planners are also developing greater understanding of different approaches to this issue.

7 More London

7 More London, Riverside: Fosters + Partners

Chris Richmond of PricewaterhouseCoopers presented Fosters + Partners 7 More London, completed in 2010 and certified BREEAM Outstanding. The building’s combined cooling heating & power (CCHP) trigeneration plant has resulted in 55 per cent less CO2 emissions than that required by 2006 Part L2 Building Regulations.

7 more London

7 More London, Riverside: Fosters + Partners

It was pointed out that not all developments have the scale and budget of 7 More London. Micro-generation onsite is often not viable or appropriate in urban areas.. Retrofitting energy savings measures into existing urban fabric causes major infrastructure issues, and it is difficult to get local authorities to work together. Planning policy needs to address the whole rather than individual projects. A possible solution could introduce a monetary contribution to Section 106 for green infrastructure such as decentralised energy centres. The greatest savings can be made at pre-planning stage.

Sturgis Associates advocates more attention to embodied carbon as a way forward to achieve significant reductions. Operational savings provided by renewables require long paybacks, and in sixty years the way we live is likely to have changed significantly.

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