All the evidence shows that climate change as become one of the greatest challenges of our time; this is both globally and nationally. The earth has warmed up by about 0.7C in the last 100 years and man made emissions of CO2 are the principle cause of this rise in temperature. We are now seeing extreme events such as storms, sea level rise, droughts and increased levels of precipitation. Climate change is becoming the largest long-term threat to our prosperity and well-being as the worlds resources are depleted and hence become more expensive. With global temperature rises of up to 4C being predicted over the next 100 years if emissions continue at their present rate, we will see sea levels carry on rising and habitable land mass will decrease thus the built environment will need to look closely at it urban design.
Due to increasing population it is not possible to cut our CO2 emissions by stopping construction; because of the increasing social and economic pressure for development, particularly new housing. The Governments is presently targeting new build of both residential and commercial properties with the aim of making them carbon neutral by 2019. A Government proposal to increase the amount of affordable housing in the UK could see 3.3 million new homes built in England by 2016. With over 50% of the UK's carbon emissions being generated by the Built environment and associated industries we need to consider do we need these homes and if so how are we going to construct them. But with this accounting for less than two percent of development it will not achieve the required reductions. The need to address climate change is forcing us to look at the development and the construction process this is not only for proposed new build but also urban regeneration projects.
Development and regeneration should include;
- Site identification and remediation
- Development option
- Business case planning
- Concept & Detailed design
- Energy efficiency and sustainability
- Project management
Property development can have positive economic effects but it has to be part of a more global approach which embodies concerns for people living in deprived areas and for the underlying condition of the local economy. In recent years the governments' urban policy has come to rely increasingly on private-sector property development to provide the driving force in urban regeneration. Property development will contribute to urban economic regeneration: through the direct employment effects of construction industry and related activities; by accommodating the expansion of local & national firms; by attracting inward investment into a regions; by revitalising run-down neighbourhoods their by enriching the community; and by acting as a catalyst for economic restructuring. It is imperative that the consequents of climate change are reduced to achieve this aim the reduction of carbon emissions must become engrained in the Regeneration and Development process if we are determined to tackle the issue of climate change. When a neighborhood is to be regenerated the reduction of CO2 needs to become core element with in the regions master plan. This affects everyone, making policies setting out visions for places and decisions about matters ranging from the location of major new transportation systems or energy facilities and employment development,through to the development of new shops, schools, dwellings or parks needed by local communities.This can be achieved by introduction of new technologies in both new build and refurbishment of existing stock, but this will also require investment in high quality public transport system and the utilization of green technology to reverse the current trend. The reliance on the car must also be reduced; this could be achieved if the location of local services such as schools, shops and GP surgeries become centralized with in communities.
In 2005 the Stern review addressed the economics of climate change; the built environment must now demonstrate how it intends to address the issues raised in the review. The Government is able to bring direct pressure on new build developers using legislation in the form of Building Regulations. In 2008 the government introduced Planning Policy Statement (PPS) on climate change as a supplement to the PPS 1 (Creating Sustainable Communities) which pushed the recycling of brown field sites. While enforcing the same standards on the refurbishment of existing stock, with in a regeneration project is proving much more difficult. When areas are to be regenerated they must be properly designed, so that they can support a low carbon and sustainable lifestyle which can help to off set the negative cause of climate change.
The BREEAM system has introduced minimum requirements for energy and water consumption and compulsory post construction certification, addressing how the design operates in practice. This ensures the industry continues to develop by offering additional credit for innovative projects. The use of regulation is intended indirectly to reduce emissions, notably planning law which requires Environmental Statements to accompany planning schemes for all significant urban developments. In April 2006 a revision of the Building Regulations Part L1/L2 imposed, amongst other things, maximum CO2 emissions for new buildings and this encourages the use of low or zero carbon systems within all new developments. It is hope that by using regulations in this way it will be possible to force the developer to build greener buildings. In October 2008 the introduction of Energy Performance Certificates (EPC), which as been designed to help improve the energy efficiency of building, this allows the end user to understand how energy efficient a building is. All buildings require a certificate when they are built, sold or rented this allow comparisons to be draw between buildings by applying a standard of performance. The Energy demand is also affected by the efficiency of the building its self, for example the level of insulation of the building fabric.
While present construction methods see the value of a high thermal mass, which is usually achieved by using large amounts of concrete in the construction process scientists suggest that this may contribute as much as 10% of our GHG emissions. This is not only down to the mixture of materials but also down to the large amount of embodied energy, due to transportation and production methods. It is important that we adopt a new strategy to the development process which is all encompassing sustainability. It is now a statutory requirement for new homes to be rated against the Code for Sustainable Homes, which measures new homes against nine categories of sustainable design and forms the basis for future building regulations in relation to CO2 emissions from and energy use in homes.
The Government aim is to facilitate business activities which help reduce overall CO2 emissions and thus stimulate opportunities for imaginative low carbon forms of development. Making the existing housing stock more energy efficient requires a change in behaviour and planning life-cycle maintenance programmes. Although demand for new housing puts the industry under pressure to build. It is time to look at new and alternative technology in the form of green buildings; this should take the shape of renewable and sustainable approach to both development and regeneration. The design and construction industries are devising viable and imaginative methods for combating climate change, notably through the integration of renewable energy systems. Projects such as BedZED in South London and Solar City in Sandwell in the West Midlands show what can be achieved. Government schemes such as Building School for the Future (BSF) can also be used to stimulate regeneration projects, improve education opportunity and social pride while introducing modern methods of construction.
With utility cost becoming more and more expensive developers will have to look towards green technology, which as mainly Solar panels and Photovoltaic (PV), but maybe we should be looking at renewable on a larger scale maybe geothermal ground source heat pumps (GSHP) or wind turbines. With regards to transportation systems Electrification seem to offer an alternative to diesel power for the mass transit system, Trams and electric buses should be adopted.
I think from a UK perspective the importance of the planning process in shaping the environment is critical. The planning system in the UK is an intricate set of laws dating back over 150 years that is designed so that decisions are made in the best interests of the public, including those affected by developments. However, the planning system can only deliver sustainable, progressive and positive development if members of the public participate in it. There is still uncertainty about how we address climate change but it is certain, we are going to have to face up to the fact that our climate is changing. The summer of 2007 has already seen the impact of a changing climate with some of the worst flooding seen in the UK in over 100 yrs and the winter of 2009 as seen the most prolonged sub zero temperatures in thirty years. The government's targets, set out in its housing green paper, are to increase house building by some 80,000 additional new homes a year until 2020. Yet the refurbishment of existing buildings could offset the need to build new ones, which would reduce the amount of building materials and construction waste produced. Although technology does exist to address the issue of climate change, it as not been established that the incentives are in place to encourage urban designers to consider introducing this technology to regeneration projects. The imbalance of cost between new build and refurbishment in achieving environmental standards needs to be address so that developers and occupiers benefit equally. Due to cost implications urban regeneration is far less attractive to developers than new build. The government may need to look at the financial constraints inflicted on developers for instance the reduced Vat on new build. The government should be encouraging (maybe through tax relief) developers, owners and landlords to increase insulation levels, air tightness and overall fabric quality. This would not only address the issue quality development but would also be where most benefit could be seen (in carbon emission reductions) and at the same time increase the quality of housing for the less well off, create jobs and bolster manufacturing in this country. The government should also be looking to reduce the bureaucracy and red tape that hinders the use of environmental technologies such as micro CHP and Photovoltaic's at a domestic level.