How long will it be before London becomes a truly green city?
If the Mayor of London gets his way, according to the draft London Environmental Strategy, we’re just 33 years away. The draft Strategy sets out aspirations for London to reach zero emissions from all transport and all buildings by the year 2050.
The document is currently available for public consultation and sets out targets to significantly improve air quality in the city, improve the green infrastructure, put more focus on reducing energy use, combat climate change, cut landfill and improve levels of ambient noise.
If you would like to provide feedback on the proposals, you have until 17th November to have your say. Following the consultation, the Strategy will be amended and finalised, probably in Spring 2018. When the final Strategy is published, it will lock London on a course of sustainability that will shape the way we live for decades to come.
The first big landmark for developers isn’t far away at all. The proposal is to make sure all new buildings – both homes and non-residential – are designed and constructed to achieve a zero carbon standard.
Under the current London Plan, only major residential developments are required to reach this target. Rather than reaching a true zero carbon standard through on-site technologies, developers are only required to meet a 35% reduction on site (compared to the Part L Target Emission Rate). Any remaining emissions from the houses is accounted for by the developer making carbon offset payments. Whether a similar process will be used in 2019, and whether smaller developments will have relaxed targets remains to be seen.
The consultation also proposes that carbon emissions from construction activities and embodied energy (the energy used to produce construction materials) are taken in account when working towards Zero Carbon. This poses big questions in terms of cost implications and how this will be assessed to ensure consistency from site to site.
Since becoming Mayor, Sadiq Khan has placed a big emphasis on reducing air pollution in the capital. This focus shines through in the consultation and will have big implications for the construction industry. The Mayor is proposing that Combined Heat and Power (CHP) systems will be restricted in areas where legal air quality limits have been breached. Given that CHP is a mainstay in meeting the current carbon targets, restricting its use will force developers to pursue other low carbon heating options or simply pay a bigger carbon offset contribution.
The increased focus on air quality will also likely drive developers to use Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery to avoid opening windows in poor air quality areas.
It’s not just carbon emissions and air quality that are being put under the spotlight. The consultation is also looking at how we can better use green roofs and walls to support biodiversity, include more rainwater harvesting systems and sustainable drainage, include more walking and cycle routes in new developments and plant more trees in the city. Acoustic design is also a focus area, with more guidance on how to design out acoustic issues, placing more emphasis on the developer, rather than those who produce noise generating activity.
The focus on the city’s District Heating Networks (DHN) is still there with a proposal to create a District Heating Network Delivery Body in partnership with Boroughs and developers. The goal of the new group would be to coordinate the design and construction of large scale networks that span multiple developments or provide heat to existing buildings. This ties in with the current target that by 2030, 15% of all London’s energy will be supplied from renewable energy and district heating schemes
If the consultation is approved as it stands, and these plans are brought to life, we will have a city that is sustainable, greener, cleaner and quieter by 2050. But this will require a big shift in design and technology, to ensure that the capital can meet these ambitious targets.
For many, the big ambitions of this consultation will sound too good to be true and it’s important to note the consultation is little more than a shopping-list at this stage. Additional policies will need to be released to show the meat on the bones. There are many questions that need to be answered to fully understand the implications of the Mayors intentions.
The public consultation closes on November 17th. Have your say at https://www.london.gov.uk/WHAT-WE-DO/environment/environment-publications/draft-london-environment-strategy-have-your-say