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Manchester will rise to the zero-carbon challenge

Emily Booth
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To meet its ambitious targets will require a huge retrofit programme, but the city has always embraced innovation and progress, says Emily Booth

I studied in Manchester for a time and whenever I go back, the city always wows me with its pace of change – and how it embraces change. New towers and homes and bars spring up like dandelions. There is palpable energy and focus.

A walk out of Piccadilly station used to be a particularly bleak affair, with pedestrians hemmed in by whooshing traffic. You could see the heart of the city, just over the road, but you couldn’t get into it easily. The Manchester Curve pedestrian footbridge opened up the vista and those first few urban impressions are so much more welcoming now.

BDP’s  work at the  Manchester Business School is part of the city’s rich tradition of evolution and change

Before it was reborn as a smart hotel, the building now occupied by the Principal Manchester (formerly the Palace Hotel) was abandoned for a time – I remember rusting gates left open, weeds growing through the floor and the tremendous echo in its grand tiled portico. It was a thrill to hold our first AJ Specification Awards there this year, and marvel at Victorian ambition and the glazed grace of those ceramics.

The long route of Oxford Road has always been a slog, and for me the ugly red footbridge spanning it, announcing the University of Manchester, was a reminder of where you were on that seemingly endless street. Personally, I liked that bridge – probably because it was familiar and gave punctuation to the place – but the Precinct Centre itself was a desolate rabbit warren and sorely needed an overhaul. BDP’s substantial work at the Alliance Manchester Business School is much more people-friendly and is part of the city’s rich tradition of evolution and change.

Precinct centre bridge mikey

Precinct centre bridge mikey

Source: Mikey

I’m not surprised that this remarkable city of innovation and progress is aiming to make the entire region zero carbon by 2038 – and wants all new development to be zero carbon within 10 years. It’s already got a Zero Carbon Framework, a council-driven eco-housing agenda, the City of Trees initiative and a proposed clean air zone. 

There might well need to be a huge retrofit programme targeting every existing home in Manchester to help achieve these ambitions. But Manchester relishes and rises to a challenge. And I, for one, am rooting for it. 

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