6 Sustainable Developments Driving Industry Towards Net Zero

02 Nov 2020

New sustainable developments in the built environment are happening across the globe.

In celebration of Scotland’s upcoming and monumental Countdown to COP26 event, which marks one year before Scotland hosts the UN’s Climate Change Conference, we are putting a spotlight on six green developments.

These constructions show innovation, use renewable processes, and help drive net zero carbon in construction through their sustainable vision, design and building methods.

1. Dubai’s Sustainable City

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) listed the United Arab Emirates as proportionally having the world’s largest ecological footprint in 2003. It emitted around 9 hectares of CO2 from fossil fuels per person compared to the world’s average of just over 1.

However, in 2015, a new housing development opened on Dubai’s outskirts. Dubai’s Sustainable City—their first ever net zero energy development.

Completed with a vision of sustainable, renewable and futuristic construction, the city produces more energy than it consumes. It has over 500 houses, 11 biodome greenhouses, organic farms to grow their own vegetables, and pervasive water and waste recycling systems.

It aims to be mainly car-free but also has charging stations for electric cars. Solar panels are spread across the city, placed on all houses, and supply energy to the city through an electrical grid. This produces 10 MW/h/p of solar energy.

Karim El-Jisr, founder of The Sustainable City Institute, is taking part in CSIC’s built environment session in Scotland’s Countdown to COP26 where he will reference some of its achievements and innovation.

The Sustainable City is a world-first green city development. It shows how with the proper resources, time and ambition, net negative green built environments are achievable on a massive scale—even for the world’s larger carbon emitters.


2. Scotland’s Tallest Cross Laminated Timber Building

Situated in Yoker, Scotland, this development marked a national milestone as Scotland’s first and tallest multi-story cross laminated timber (CLT) building.

The project, which CCG led and CSIC supported, used the renewable resource to build a modern, sustainable residential building on Ellerslie Road. The structure rises to 7 storeys, incorporating 42 flats with views over the River Clyde. The whole project came to an overall value of over £600,000.

CLT benefits from being durable, carbon-catching and renewable. The development used 1240m3 of CLT, equating to 757 tonnes of CO2 removed from the earth’s atmosphere. By using naturally renewable resources converted in a factory using digital approaches, the construction industry can produce energy and material-efficient buildings through enhanced levels of productivity, minimal waste and carbon sequestration. This directly responds to the declared climate emergency and correspondingly supports Scotland’s net zero carbon ambitions while still delivering high quality developments on a large economic scale.

Managed responsibly, the natural capital of Scotland can underpin its prosperity and create a built environment that positively influences the health and wellbeing of its occupants. CSIC has launched a Mass Timber Alliance working group to support the emerging development of homegrown timber and its manufacturing potential.


3. Katerra's Catalyst 

Another industry-changing CLT building is Katerra's Catalyst, which is both one of the largest North American zero-energy buildings and one of the first zero-carbon buildings certified by the International Living Future Institute.

It comes to 159,000 square foot and is also Washington’s first office building constructed from CLT.

The smart building sits as part of the city of Spokane’s ‘Eco-District’ and provides on-site renewable energy generation with solar arrays and uses Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to optimise the environment’s quality and occupants’ health.

It also uses its own locally manufactured CLT from the developers’ own factory, which they cite as creating jobs, building a sustainable supply chain, and driving innovation in their local industry. CSIC has engaged in similar innovation—owning the UK’s only CLT vacuum press for prototyping purposes to encourage the manufacture of CLT and other mass and home-grown timbers.

Catalyst held its virtual grand opening on 17th September, 2020.


4. York’s ‘Everest of Zero Carbon' Development

York has recently unveiled plans to build a gigantic eco-development of 600 homes.

Still to be undertaken, it is part of York’s plan to reach net zero carbon by 2030, which is 15 years more ambitious than Scotland’s target and 20 years more ambitious than England’s.

It promises to be a zero-carbon housing neighbourhood with zero cars. Every house will be built to Passivhaus standards—an international energy saving standard—to ensure proper insulation and reduce energy and carbon waste. Every house will have a bike shed and electric charging points; the community will have communal gardens as well as rentable bikes. This has been dubbed ‘the Everest of Zero Carbon’ if it delivers on its promises.

However, it is not only focusing on carbon saving aspects: it is also collaborating with the community to fit the design with them and deliver homes the people of York enjoy living in, making it an innovative, smart and large scale sustainable development.

Mikhail Riches, an architectural firm who designed a prize-winning Passivhaus street in Norwich, is designing the new initiative. 


5. The SNRG Courtyard

SNRG are a design-led PropTech start-up company with a mission to build zero carbon homes using modern methods and connect them to healthy, thriving communities, new models of ownership, shared renewable energy assets and eMobility solutions. They integrate innovations across housing, energy, mobility, technology and finance to create affordable, climate positive housing communities.

SNRG are aligned to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and their approach to development focuses on environmental sustainability, human health and wellbeing and equitable economic benefits. Each home is designed and built using modern methods of construction (MMC) and CLT to Passivhaus standards while also being fully electric and fossil fuel free. Arranged in a courtyard around a central communal garden, every home enjoys views and access to shared green space.

The SNRG Courtyard is an interlacing of shared spaces and private places. It will be home to a maximum of 150 people in around 100 private dwellings. The courtyard has been designed using biophilic design at its core, giving users access to nature.

Matt Stevenson, Head of Offsite Manufacture at SNRG, is speaking at Scotland’s Countdown to COP26 where he will touch on this development’s innovative green and modern ambitions.


6. One Angel Square

One Angel Square, in Manchester, is one of the UK’s largest zero-carbon, energy plus buildings. That means it not only runs at net zero carbon emissions—it also produces its own energy.

Although it was constructed from concrete and steel, One Angel Square won a former world record in 2013: a 95.1% ‘Outstanding’ Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) rating, making it the most sustainable large-scale building in the world by this standard at this time. It grows, manufactures, and uses its own rapeseed oil to provide electricity and heat for itself. With innovative and intelligent design, it also maximises passive heating from the sun and uses rainwater harvesting with waste, heat, and water recycling.

The green building’s construction cost £105 million and it employs many unique design techniques to minimize its running lifetime’s environmental impact. As well as helping combat emissions, these techniques could inspire industry to put these new high-impact ideas into use in other sustainable projects.

Going forward

These landmark projects show the powerful green and viable opportunities that the Scottish, UK and global construction industries could take advantage of. They are testaments to the built environment’s already attained successes and inspirations to the possibilities going forward.

Learn more about sustainable and low-carbon construction: join us for Scotland’s Countdown to COP26 event on November 3rd.

Register here

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