China Academy of Building Research

Professor Stephen Lau from the National University of Singapore explains the routemap adopted by China towards Green Building development.

The source of the materials presented are attributed to http://www.cabr.com.cn and shows that coastal areas of China, where land values are higher and space is more constrained and economic conditions suit the adoption of green building standards.  


The costs of projects that are ‘greener’ are higher but the additional costs are falling over time as the solutions to the standards are adopted and better understood.

Globally, Europe, China and Australia are seen to be amongst the highest standards in green buildings as shown by the International Energy Efficiency Scorecard 2012. China now 4th overall globally in terms of standards in the 2014 analysis (Germany is 1st).

There is strong emphasis on air quality, particularly PM2.5 in Beijing and the point source with significant contributions coming from outside Beijing itself through coal fired energy generation and construction. This is particularly challenging in the context of growth in China – both in terms of urbanisation and energy demands.

Policies to tackle this set standards in new construction to meet carbon targets and air quality. Consideration of embodied energy in materials is now more prominent and recognising 70% of the impact is in life use.

Collaborative research undertaken between the US and China has consdiered absolute and relative targets against population, GDP and on a spatial basis. Further analysis of CO2 emissions of typical cities has been undertaken. China working to dependency on non fossil fuels which is driving interest in nuclear power in China.


The concept of a ‘Green Campus’ is developing in China. The opportunity to educate students about green building technologies is a primary driver for this with the health and energy efficiency benefits seen as secondary in both schools, colleges and universities. Learning is being taken up in Provinces and a competition to stimulate thinking around sustainable campuses is to be launched later this year led by the China Green Business Council. Active engagement with children in popular science lectures in the Provinces.

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£3 million funding to boost low carbon heating

The cynic in me isn’t surprised that this announcement comes less than 60 days before the General Election, but I am not a cynic really. It’s good to see DECC’s continued support for district heating. If there is one thing this Government can be applauded for its understanding of the importance of ‘heat’ and the opportunity for heat networks to reduce carbon emissions and provide cost-effective heat. Well done to Davey and his team in carving out £3 million of funding to boost low carbon heating.

DECC has done some useful enabling work to support the uptake of heat networks. It has established the Heat Network Development Unit (HNDU) to lead this and has produced some useful studies to demonstrate the untapped potential out there – such as the report produced in 2014 on heat opportunities from rivers.

The Government’s own Heat Strategy states that producing heat is the biggest user of energy in the UK and in most cases we burn gas in individual boilers to produce this heat. This is a wasteful method of producing heat and a large emitter of CO2, with heat being responsible for 1/3 of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. Household heat demand has risen somewhat over the past 40 years from 400 TWh/y to 450 TWh/y, despite a marked improvement in the energy efficiency of homes and a slight reduction in the severity of winters. The average internal temperature of homes has risen by 6°C since the 1970s, and this combined with growth in housing – the number of households has risen by around 40% since the 1970s – has offset energy efficiency gains in terms of total energy used to heat homes Some studies suggest these temperature increases are due to factors including the move to central heating, rather than householders actively turning up their thermostats.

Heat networks in the UK use a range of heat sources including biomass and gas boilers, combined heat and power (CHP) plants and heat from energy-from-waste plants and, where conditions suit, such as is the case of Southampton, a small amount of geothermal heat. Networks are currently estimated to provide less than 2% of the UK’s heat demand supplying 172,000 domestic buildings (predominantly social housing, tower blocks and public buildings) and a range of commercial and industrial applications (particularly where high temperature heat in the form of steam is required). Despite being of a significant size, Sheffield’s city centre district energy network is estimated to provide 3% of the entire City’s total heat needs.

By comparison, district heating is widespread in many other parts of Europe, in China, Korea, Japan, Russia, and the USA, although the level of sophistication and reliability is very diverse. While having an average market share of 10% in Europe, district heat is particularly widespread in Scandinavia (Denmark nearly 70%, Finland 49%, and Sweden around 50%). It also has a substantial share elsewhere in Europe. For instance, district heat provides around 18% of heat in Austria (and 40% of heat in Vienna). European networks are currently growing at around 2,800 km per year, about 3% of current installed length. With the right planning, economic and market conditions it is clear district energy can play a more prominent role.

Whilst this funding announcement is showing funding going to new players in the district heating community as well as some established ones (Coventry, Leicester, Manchester, for example) there is a need to put money in to those long-established networks in cities that were at the forefront in decades past (Sheffield, Nottingham, Southampton). These ‘4th generation networks’ need to be reviewed, refreshed and developed as much as those ‘greenfield’ sites where district heating is all too new.

All the schemes developed to date have been local authority led. This round of funding allocates £3m across 55 local authorities in England and Wales. I would urge DECC to look at other types of organisation who might exploit heat networks at a medium scale where the conditions are right to do so. Those organisations with a long term stake in the city or town in which they are based are well placed. For example, NHS Trusts, universities and colleges, whilst not as big as an entire city or town often have enough scale in them to warrant district heating networks. Indeed, some of them already do. My own organisation, The University of Nottingham, has two of significance as well as several smaller, interconnected systems on its campuses. Most of them follow the model of high temperature, high pressure systems and don’t allow for storage, cooling or consider CHP. 

In the recent round of HEFCE/Salix Revolving Green Fund projects awarded interest free loans there were a good number of CHP schemes and a smaller number of district heating schemes put forward. I believe there would have been more had these organisations had sufficient revenue to develop shovel-ready projects for capital investment. Like the public sector, universities are often capital rich and revenue poor. That means that complex, integrated and multi-faceted feasibility studies can often become un-affordable – even if the capital is available for it to be delivered in time. I would like to see HNDU looking to other large organisations and helping them in the way that they have helped local authorities. If they could do it in partnership with the funding council and with their established partners, Salix Finance, even better. 

 

 

Three Commissions – One Outcome?

I wrote a recent blog about the use of commissions in helping cities form and develop visions, strategies, policy. Often this has been in response to two key factors:
– addressing the perception that policy is not co-designed with the citizens of the city the officials are representing; and
– the lack of policy and strategy capacity within local authorities who have prioritised investment in front line services at the cost of those teams who look further ahead beyond the current financial horizon of ‘end-of-year’.

I promote this as the City of Sheffield – my home city – promotes its latest activity of the Fairness Commission (http://www.ourfaircity.co.uk/ and follow on twitter via https://twitter.com/FairSheffield) – challenging individuals and organisations to demonstrate their commitment to a fair and equal society.

https://aardvarknoseface.wordpress.com/2014/08/13/sustainable-cities-commissions/

This sits alongside two further activities – the City’s Green Commission (https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/your-city-council/policy–performance/green-commission.html) and the city’s economic commission.

To take such an approach is noble, open and engaging when undertaken well. The challenge will be to identify the ‘sweet spots’ where the outcomes of the three commissions land on the same priorities and actions – but, even more importantly to reconcile the conflicts between ambitions where they occur. This is where a maturity of elected members comes in to play. These decisions are the crucial ones. Is priority given to local environmental quality, health or economy? Does the city prioritise global environmental impact over local economic growth? These decisions remain difficult but those decision takers should use the commissions they have brought together to ensure they have an expert input to a robust argument informing their recommendations and decisions.

Only when you get in to these difficult spaces and conversations do you add real value. It would be a pity of the commissions are cosmetic and only airbrush over the issues for this generation and give the future generations of Sheffield no chance at all.

My suggestion is, at the end of this commissioning process, a symposium for the city is convened to draw together and debate both the opportunities that have been identified and where conflicts need to be reconciled. It should be Chaired by an independent member to whom the Chairs of the three commissions report their findings. It would prove to be an effective way of re-engaging with the wider stakeholders – not just those who have been involved in the process of the individual commissions. Only then can a clearer vision for the city be set out with confidence.

My hope is the city doesn’t fudge this and try and be all things to all people. It needs to differentiate itself. It can only do that through a process of prioritisation with an outcome that makes it a distinctly different place that people can identify with. Otherwise it will be simply re-providing every other city of half a million people in western Europe. And it is better than that.

Don’t boycott the Green League?

The following quote is taken from a blog written by Piers Telemacaque, NUS Vice-President (Society & Citizenship)on Sept 2nd 2014:

“You don’t need me to tell you how important it is that students have their voices heard on sustainability. That’s why People & Planet is such a vital student network for ethical and environmental activism, and why NUS is a proud supporter of their work – especially the Green League. The Green League offers us an independent assessment of sustainability in universities across the UK. We know that this is a critical issue for students, which is why they look at the Green League to get transparency on their institution’s ethical and environmental credentials. It allows the sector to see which institutions are taking sustainability seriously and, more importantly, spot those that aren’t. And it’s not just students who want to know this, but the wider public too. That’s why it’s so essential.  Read the full blog here: Piers Telemacque – Don’t boycott the Green League.”

The measured plea from Piers Telemacque NUS Vice-President (Society & Citizenship) is not to be ignored and it is hard to agree with what he says. However, there does need to be proper engagement between those who design the Green League and those who participate. The feedback the Higher Education sector has given People & Planet should be listened to and acted upon. As Director of Sustainability at The University of Nottingham I can confirm we ARE participating in this years Green League, but we hope for greater levels of collaboration between all parties and support the comments made by The EAUC and AUDE.

The Number One Thing We Could Do to Improve City Life – CityLab

At this year’s Aspen Ideas Festival, a group of journalists, professors, and non-profit leaders were asked to predict the future of livable, walkable cities. “If I could have one wish for people who live in cities,” says Conservational International’s M. Sanjayan, “it’s that we find ways to connect back to nature, to remind [people] that nature isn’t out there—outside the cities—but right in their homes where they live.” 

Read the full piece at: The Number One Thing We Could Do to Improve City Life, According to Geoffrey West, M. Sanjayan, Jennifer Pahlka, and More – CityLab.