Brexit is the ultimate test of government’s environmental commitment

The outcome of the EU referendum has divided opinion, but within the sustainability sector there appears to be real concern that the absence of legislation from Brussels could have long-term impacts on the local and global environment.

Of course, the uncertainty that exists now only adds risk to investment decisions, provides excuses to not implement and will, naturally, mean that investors will put their cash where they have greater certainty of cash value and policy. This limbo position won’t help the market for investment in renewables. Our own government has flip-flopped enough with energy policy for decades – now, with uncertainty surrounding trade deals and energy this will likely add cost to supplies and infrastructure investment.

Read more here.

Budapest cool: history and hipsters join forces, resulting in one fantastic, evolving city

Great piece on a great city – thanks Jen – hope you don’t mind me re-blogging!

The Urban Observer

In 2005 I moved to Budapest, to study in the Masters of Environmental Science, Policy and Management (MESPOM) programme at Central European University (CEU). More than 10 years on, MESPOM was one of the best decisions of my life. Studying with 50 students from 35+ countries meant that every lecture followed in international reflection. I learned as much from my fellow students as I did from the coursework and my professors – and certainly my adopted city Budapest.

Budapest (population 1.75 million) is the Hungarian capital. It sits at the centre of Europe, divided by the mighty Danube River. It is a mesmerizing city, a beautiful city, a historic city, a complicated city, a changing city. So many memories took place in this beautiful historic complicated place that I hold close with a smile…

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In May 2016 I returned to Budapest for CEU’s Department of Environmental Science and…

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Smart District Heating in Sweden

A new district heating network in Sweden is based on a digital control system that allows for what its developers call virtual energy storage in buildings.

A control system manages the heat network, co-ordinating production and distribution with consumption through real-time analysis. Stored heat can be redistributed across the network, reducing peak load.

‘Through intelligent property controls the energy reserve can be put to better use in other parts of the network, thus reducing so-called peak load without affecting the indoor climate,’ the developers said. ‘This evens out the load on the grid over a 24-hour period, so the boilers do not need to work as hard and the flow through the district-heating pipes is more uniform.’

Bristol Steps up to District Heating

I wrote in March 2014 that cities were entering a new age of Victoriana, where cities, bereft of Government spending and failed by national energy policy, are returning to their roles of municipal leadership and investing in the infrastructure they need to serve not only voters in homes but those businesses that generate the ever important business rates. It’s great then to read that Bristol has committed £5m of capital expenditure to create a new district heating scheme in the city utilising biomass as the low carbon fuel of choice and, alongside other forward thinking cities such as Nottingham (Robin Hood Energy, etc) are genuinely delivering this vision.

The money is one thing. Well done to Bristol for committing £5m when budgets are tight and austerity means competing for budgets within frontline services is every more ferocious. But the really neat part of this is the way in which the Council’s Planning Authority has used its policies to drive demand for the heat network and de-risk the project.

Under current planning laws, all new building developments in Bristol within a designated “heat priority area” are required to connect to a heat network or be “district heating ready” unless technically unviable. Therefore, the new network scheme is also expected to significantly improve the green credentials of new developments in the city.

Of course, new build projects in 2017 and beyond, even without code for sustainable homes and a more proactive building regulations for commercial build will be low demand in terms of heat so the business case still has to stack up. But achieving the city’s carbon targets is serious for the Mayor and he’ll need a 4th generation heat network to deliver it.

Over two years ago I wrote about 4th Generation Heat Networks – setting out what a 4th Generation, 21st Century, heat network should achieve. It should seek to achieve a number of improvements on existing networks, including:

  1. Greater resilience, through heat storage, back-up and optimisation;
  2. Lower carbon heat, through the adoption of lower carbon fuel sources, such as geothermal heat, biomass, biogas, solar;
  3. Choice and product differentiation, offered through multiple heat providers inputting to a singular (independent possibly) network over which consumers buy their heat. Products could be differentiated by temperature (return temperatures are lower than those temperatures leaving central plant), carbon intensity (fuels of varying intensities of heat can command different prices and values shaped by carbon markets and carbon targets).

The (new) Mayor of Bristol has approved the expenditure on the back of the city’s status of 2015’s Green Capital. He approved the city’s first major step towards becoming carbon neutral by 2050, giving the go-ahead for £5m in capital funding to build a low-carbon district heating network to serve the city.

The first phase of the heat network, which was approved earlier this week, will supply low-carbon heat to buildings throughout Bristol via a network of underground pipes connected to a number of energy centres, including biomass boilers and gas combined heat and power plants. Over time the city plans to phase out the use of natural gas in favour of renewable alternatives.

One of my campaign promises was to put Bristol on course to run entirely on renewable energy by 2050,” Mayor Rees said in a statement. “Without a city-wide heat network this target will not be possible, particularly in a city with a historic centre, where solar and wind technologies are not always an option for technical or financial reasons.

This is a major infrastructure project that will connect parts of the city over a number of years and which will deliver substantial benefits to the environment, residents and businesses in Bristol,” Mayor Rees added. “In the meantime, we are already delivering low carbon, stable and fairly priced heat to council tenants, many of whom are currently living in fuel poverty, which is a cause that’s very close to my heart.”

 

Three big challenges for smart cities and how to solve them

Ayona Datta has written a human-centric case for smart cities for The Conversation. Read it – it’s a great summary, with solutions, on how three big challenges can be overcome.

The notion of the “smart city” has been gaining attention around the world. Also called the “wired”, “networked” or “ubiquitous” city, the “smart city” is the latest in a long line of catch-phrases, referring to the development of technology-based urban systems for driving efficient city management and economic growth. Read more here.image

Shambala – Leading sustainability light on the UK festival circuit

Great blog Seth. The opportunity to promote sustainable practices through mass participation events such as music and arts festivals is not to be underestimated.

Seth Kirby

With the UK festival season now in full swing I wanted to delve deeper and reflect on what really makes a festival sustainable. Using the example of Shambala Festival (25-28 August) I’m going to identify some key areas that require attention for festivals, in order to greater understand how other festivals can lower their impacts or even become carbon neutral.

In 2014, I produced a guide to the top sustainable festivals in the UK and a number of festivals including Shambala Festival were featured throughout. What makes Shambala so different is that it is committed to being as environmentally sustainable as it can. These key achievements really do portray it as an exemplar in its field, and how festivals should be run with regards to their impact on the local community and environment:

  • In the last five years they have reduced the onsite carbon footprint of the festival by 81%;

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Green Roofs Improve Energy Efficiency and Livability

Green Living Guy

Installing a green roof offers property owners a fantastic opportunity to decrease their energy costs while also increasing environmental efficiency. While converting to a green roof isn’t precisely inexpensive, this improvement could easily pay for itself in just a few years. Plus, studies have shown that green roofs help people breathe easier by reducing air pollutants as well as provide a community gathering place. Understanding these benefits of having a green roof may just convince you to replace your traditional roof with something newer and more innovative.

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Image via: Rooflines

Green roofs are particularly popular in urban places where high-rise buildings dominate the skyline. However, they are also increasingly showing up in residential neighborhoods as more people understand the value of a green roof. Unlike a traditional roof that merely provides protection from the elements, a green roof transforms this previously unusable space into something that improves the energy efficiency…

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Universities as Drivers of Econmic Prosperity – The Israeli Experience

I recently had the opportunity to visit Israel for the first time and to experience the very different culture, climate, geography and politics in the country. I was there speaking on behalf of The University of Nottingham at the invitation of the Green Campus network active in Israel to speak at their conference at Ben-Gurion University of the Nagev.

BeerSheba, a mystical sounding desert city that has developed massively in the past decade or so. My knowledge of this city was limited prior to the visit but what became clear to me very quickly was the strategic importance placed on it by Israel’s first leader, David Ben-Gurion.

“Only through a united effort by the State … by a people ready fora great voluntary effort, by a youth bold in spirit and inspired by creative heroism, by scientists liberated by the bonds of conventional thought and capable of probing deep into the special problems of this country … we can succeed in carrying out the great and fateful taskof developing the South and the Negev.”

Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion

Ben-Gurion University

As the largest city in the Negev desert of southern Israel it is often referred to as the “Capital of the Negev” and is the centre of the fourth most populous metropolitan area in Israel with a population of over 200,000 people. It’s around a 90 minute drive from Tel Aviv which, by Israeli standards; is some distance in a small country of less than 8 million living in around 40% of the land space.

Whilst development of Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem has come about because of their geography (port cities) and their religious and historical importance, Beersheba has needed more deliberate investment. The Blueprint Nagev project includes the Beersheba River Walk, a 900-acre (3.6 km2) riverfront district with green spaces, hiking trails, a 3,000-seat sports hall, a 15-acre boating lake filled with recycled waste water, promenades, restaurants, cafés, galleries, boat rentals, a 12,000-seat amphitheater, playgrounds, and a bridge along the route of the city’s Mekorot water pipes. The plans include building new homes overlooking the park and neighborhood. Four new shopping malls are planned. The first, Kanyon Beersheba, will be a 115,000-square meter ecologically planned mall with pools for collecting rainwater and lighting generated by solar panels on the roof. It will be situated next to an 8,000-meter park with bicycle paths. Another mall will be a farmer’s market, the first ever in Israel. It will be an enclosed, circular complex with 400 spaces for vendors, and it will be surrounded by parks and greenery.

In recent years, some $10.5 million has been invested in renovating Beersheba’s Old City, preserving historical buildings and upgrading infrastructure. The Turkish Quarter is also being redeveloped with newly cobbled streets, widened sidewalks, and the restoration of Turkish homes into areas for dining and shopping.

Today, the city is undergoing a major construction boom, which includes both development of urban design elements, such as water fountains and bridges, and environmental development such as playgrounds and parks.

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Ben-Gurion University Library – its first building

A considerable part of the city’s regeneration plan rests on the university named after Ben-Gurion himself. Ben-Gurion University of the Negev aspires to be among the best inter-disciplinary research universities in the world, a leader in scientific innovation, inter-disciplinary research and applied sciences – all of which impact daily life. It is committed to social and environmental responsibility and is working to develop the Negev, Israel and the world. As one of Israel’s leading research universities it has around 20,000 students and 4,000 faculty members in the Faculties of Engineering Sciences; Health Sciences; Natural Sciences; the Pinchas Sapir Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences; the Guilford Glazer Faculty of Business and Management; the Joyce and Irving Goldman School of Medicine; the Kreitman School of Advanced Graduate Studies; and the Albert Katz International School for Desert Studies. More than 100,000 alumni play important roles in all areas of research and development, industry, health care, the economy, society, culture and education in Israel.

What struck me was the pace of development and the important regeneration benefits the university brought to otherwise deprived areas of the city. Whilst there was high-end development in the bio-tech disciplines, there was also massive infrastructure projects such as the relocation of the rail station to serve both the University and the forthcoming technology park on the other side of the rail line.

But the university isn’t all about buildings – it’s put people in its local community at heart – and is a University with a conscience, where high standards of research are integrated with community involvement. The Community Action Department bring BGU into the heart of disadvantaged neighborhoods while outreach programs make higher education accessible to all the residents of the region. I heard, for myself, about a great project where students of the university can live rent free in one of 70 university-owned properties across the city if they commit to give 8 hours a week of their time to community projects. These included dance classes, homework work support and community cooking. Alongside that, BGU is committed (like Technion University) to allowing its students to train guide dogs across campus and it’s not unusual to see them in lecture theatres, cafes or across the campus. Alongside this, more fundamentally, there are now over 500 Bedouin students – over half women – at BGU thanks to outreach and retention programs spearheaded by the Center for Bedouin Studies and Development.

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Satellite Image of Haifa

Leaving the desert and heading west along an increasingly green corridor towards the coast, via Tel Aviv, towards Haifa I came to the Technion University which sits amongst the northern reaches of the Carmel mountain. It’s an extensive campus with some impressive civil engineering and architecture to make a coherent and accessible campus across the terracing of the mountain. It’s certainly impressive and in any other city might be considered a real attraction but, then, it sits not far from the hugely impressive Baha’i Gardens overlooking the sea with immaculate, tended gardens with an army of devoted volunteers. On the slopes of Mount Carmel it’s certainly an impressive view towards the coast. Coach loads of tourists, from all over the world by the looks of it, gather to take in the art form of gardening to a new height.

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Haifa – The Port.

The Technion University vies for the status of Israel’s oldest/ first university with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Whilst these things matter to universities they are less important to guests and there is certainly much more to enjoy than age alone. The Technion University certainly knows how to greet its guests with a specially created visitor centre telling the history of the University, its notable academics (including Nobel Prize winners), and the University’s role in creating and building Israel.

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Guide Dog Homage

The Hebrew University, home to extensive correspondence from, and to, Albert Einstein, who was a frequent visitor, contributes to its city in a different way. Unlike Haifa and Beersheba, Jerusalem would still be its own city if its universities left. It’s not, in any way, a university town. But not because it’s universities are insignificant. Quite the opposite in fact – but what happens beyond the security fences and turnstiles feels a million miles from the hubbub and rush of the city. The HU has created a wonderful green lung in the city providing space for biodiversity, urban cooling, run-off suppression and spaces that people can enjoy. Its sheer mass of numbers, around 24,000 staff and students, create demand for services and pressure on infrastructure. It was great, then, to see investment in a light rail (tram) extension that will connect the city centre, its two main teaching campuses for science/engineering and humanities, and the Government Quarter.

Having visited all three universities in the space of just under 4 days, it would be easy to make assumptions, but I saw three universities who saw social, economic and environmental contributions to their local, regional and national communities as important and central to their mission. Whilst there are many questions still to be answered in Israel, there are some shining examples of good practice too.

 

Drought? What drought? The perils of water denial — ideas.ted.com

Most disasters come with heart-breaking visuals — innocent victims, burned wreckage. Our looming water disaster is invisible. Will anyone notice before it’s too late? Last week in Fresno, California, in the middle of areas hardest hit by the state’s five-year drought, Donald Trump voiced the opinion that “there is no drought.” Instead, he blamed the whole problem on the…

via Drought? What drought? The perils of water denial — ideas.ted.com