Masterplanning Energy Performance

By Carrie Behar

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On Wednesday evening, Carrie Behar, Senior Sustainability Consultant at Useful Projects, took part in a Pecha Kucha event organised by the CIBSE Young Energy Performance Group (YEPG). In precisely 6 minutes and 20 seconds she presented 8 key themes which we believe need to be addressed at the masterplanning stage, to deliver good energy performance.

For those of you who missed it, the main points are summarised below:

1: Resources

Energy performance is about doing more with fewer resources. It’s about only using what we need, reducing wastage and doing our best to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Energy efficiency and reductions in energy demand also help improve national energy security, by reducing our reliance on other countries’ resources.

For example, the New Student Centre at UCL, designed by Nicholas Hare Architects, takes a pared back approach to material use. It has been designed without any unnecessary fixtures and finishes so that the main construction materials will be left exposed. This approach also provides exposed thermal mass, which can be mobilised as part of the heating and cooling strategy to balance peaks and troughs in external temperatures and reduce energy consumption.

2: Environment

Secondly, energy performance is about creating healthy and comfortable environments for people to live and work in. To do this, energy consumption needs to be considered at the outset of the masterplanning stage, when the greatest potential for impact exists. Important considerations in terms of masterplanning for good energy performance are making use of massing to allow for daylighting and, where possible, natural ventilation and to optimise the layouts to enable internal spaces to benefit from solar radiation whilst avoiding excessive overheating.

Our sister company, Expedition, are carrying out a piece of analysis for the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC), who are responsible for the delivery of a new neighbourhood in West London. This is the UK’s largest regeneration project, centred around the interchange between HS2 and Crossrail, and will comprise over 25,000 new homes in a high density urban environment. Expedition have developed an analysis framework that can be used to explore the provision of multiple environmental criteria at the masterplanning stage, namely daylight, indoor and outdoor sunlight, energy efficiency and wind. The framework adopts an evaluation approach based on 3D parametric design tools, which can be used to rapidly explore the trade-offs between these potentially conflicting criteria.

3: Connectivity

We also need to find ways to enable people to move around within and between neighbourhoods in the most sustainable way possible. This includes using more efficient modes of transport, getting people out of cars and providing better cycling and pedestrian infrastructure to increase uptake of low energy transport options.

Useful Projects have worked with Network Rail and HS2 to help define a vision, goals and objectives for the planned Euston Station Redevelopment, to deliver sustainable outcomes. A key part of our role has been to work with the senior management team to consider the wider opportunities that Euston can bring to deliver social, economic and environmental benefit over the long term.

4: Economy

Good energy performance will reduce the cost of operating our buildings, in terms of cooling, heating and lighting. Energy efficiency becomes more financially viable when a whole life cost approach is used; this takes a long-term view when designing for energy performance – considering operation and maintenance costs as part of the investment decision, rather than focusing on CAPEX alone.

We are currently working on the design of a masterplan for over 500 low cost and affordable homes for older people and veterans, in Seaton Carew, near Hartlepool. The aspiration is to create an exemplar sustainable development, with the aims of providing high quality housing for vulnerable members of society, creating a vibrant community and minimising whole life environmental impacts. The homes will be super energy efficient and provide affordable warmth to a group of people who are at risk of fuel poverty.

5: Place

New and upgraded infrastructure is required to keep our cities running smoothly over the coming decades, as population grows and demographics change. Rather than hide our utilities under the ground or on the urban peripheries, wouldn’t it be great if we could celebrate them the way the Victorians did?

The London 2012 Olympics Energy Centre and Substation were part of the largest decentralised energy scheme to be built in the UK. Designed by John McAslan + Partners, they provide evidence that utility buildings can also be beautifully designed pieces of architecture and fun places to hang around.

6: Governance

So how do we make sure all these great things happen? The fundamental conditions for the success of any development are strong leadership, effective collaborative arrangements, and solid governance structures. Setting a vision is an important start but it is also necessary to establish clear policies, targets and performance indicators, to drive innovation and to help deliver the ambition in practice.

Useful Projects helped the landowner and international property company Grosvenor to develop the Living cities framework, based on the principles of One Planet Living, to support a systems approach to delivering sustainable development. Hosted on an online platform, the framework demonstrates the complexity of delivering multiple, often competing, objectives and the links that exist between different goals.

7: Community

We’ve all heard of the performance gap – that is the difference between predicted and actual energy consumption in buildings. But how do we make sure buildings perform well in practice – and not just on paper? It’s important to work with building users to help them get the most out of buildings and operate them efficiently and effectively and to measure and benchmark operational energy consumption in occupied buildings. We’ve recently moved into a new workspace in the Clove Building  and have been following the Soft Landings Framework to help smooth the transition into a new working environment. We are also setting up a monitoring process and will be conducting a Post Occupancy Evaluation after a year of occupation to help fine tune the building systems and to enhance the wellbeing of our staff.

8: Resilience

Why do we do all this? Sustainability is about meeting our current needs without preventing future generations from meeting their own needs. To achieve this, our neighbourhoods and cities need to be resilient to the effects of climate change, resilient to economic shocks and able to adapt and thrive as the world around them changes. But have done so much damage to our environment that we now need to create places that go beyond even net zero? We’ve been working with our sister companies Thomas.Matthews and Useful Studio on an idea for a Restorative Neighbourhood, a carbon positive development that will give back more than it uses. The Restorative Neighbourhood will create more energy than it consumes, restore biodiversity and improve the health and wellbeing of its residents and visitors.

To conclude and summarise, we believe that true energy performance is only possible if the industry takes a holistic approach to design, that considers energy consumption within the context of wider sustainable development challenges. This approach considers the end user experience from the very outset, seeks to do more with less, explores strategies to enhance and improve the natural environment and finds innovative ways encourage reuse and minimise waste, both during construction and over the lifetime of the building.

You can view the slides from the event here.


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