high quality design is crucial say’s the UK’s National Infrastructure Commission

stadsbalkon-groningen-station-forcourt-and-bike-shelter_kcap

Has there has been a shift in thinking about infrastructure planning and provision in the UK – one that recognises that ‘ad hoc’ approaches allows regions and communities to get left behind?

The Government states it is committed to the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) launched this spring and has published a charter (12.10.16). the NIC’s role is to advise government to support growth, improve competitiveness and improve people’s quality of life. The Commission will carry out a National Infrastructure Assessment once every parliament, commission studies on pressing challenges and monitor progress.

It’s encouraging to see that earlier in September Commissioner Sadie Morgan (co- founding director of dRMM Architects) visited design studio Publica to identify four principles for integrating infrastructure planning with high quality design. They identified that good design is essential and cities can use infrastructure effectively to become ‘more liveable, sustainable, productive and resilient places’ by;

  • Increasing capacity for future generations
  • Creating liveable neighbourhoods (and cities)
  • Supporting and promoting density and diversity
  • Animating the ground plane and creating a sense of civic identity

At the event professor Sadie Morgan said: “As the National Infrastructure Commission seeks to transform the way we plan and deliver major infrastructure projects in this country, harnessing high quality design will be absolutely crucial.” It could be that the choice of Commissioners that includes expertise in; culture, transport, design, technology, regeneration and economics also sets the scene for infrastructure to be considered more holistically in future.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/charter-for-the-national-infrastructure-commission

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/national-infrastructure-commission-visits-publica-urban-design-team

Image: Stadsbalkon, Cylcle Park and Station Forecourt, Groningen – KCAP, NL


 

 

blue infrastructure a design opportunity

There is plenty of sound advice and exemplary design available to guide designers and developers when integrating sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS) and make this an opportunity to add to the character of a place.Integration of SuDS

The excellent diagram (above) from Planning for SuDS – making it happen published by CIRA in 2010 shows the range of ways SuDS can be integrated in the more formal or urban edges of a scheme by being integrated in paving, tree pits, rain gardens and roofs or running alongside streets in rills, bioretention strips or infiltration trenches. It shows how SuDS can provide contrasting spaces such as filter strips, naturalised swales, wildlife and wetland areas. Advice about the appropriate assembly of components is continued in more detail in the document with illustrations of the best components to use for high, medium and low density development and descriptions of how to embed SuDS in Design Codes or Retrofit into existing streets and spaces.

The authors of Planning for SuDS identify the “need to embrace water management as an opportunity” and advise design teams to consider the benefits and opportunities early on. A good scheme will be compatible with the landscape and integrated with the overall design strategy providing multiple benefits, for example, drainage and public open space or car parking. As well as managing flood risk benefits could include improved; water quality, amenity and biodiversity, water resources and recreation and education for communities. The benefits to developers in integrating SuDS are the reduction of maintenance costs associated with heavily engineered drainage and a possible increase the value of nearby homes.

Some important design principles are that sustainable urban drainage (SUDS) should mimic natural drainage, control water at its source and use sequence of components to manage flows of water and improve water quality. They note that: SUDS mimic natural drainage patterns by:

  • storing runoff and releasing it slowly (attenuation)
  • allowing water to soak into the ground (infiltration)
  • filtering out pollutants
  • allowing sediments to settle out by controlling the flow of the water
  • creating attractive environments for people and wildlife.

Focusing on SUDS strategies for urban design projects the most illuminating case studies featuring in this and other more recent guidance are:

  • Upton, Northamptonshire – which set out a design code for two street types integrating SUDS, one with SUDS at the centre and another with SUDS to one side with a footpath to the inside.
  • Cambourne Pool Redruth Surface Water Management Plan (SWMP) – where a design approach has been developed across an area with the strategic integration of swales or leats to open up new areas for development.
  • Malmo, Sweden and Reiselfeld, Feiburg, Germany are widely cited as good examples because of the bold way they integrate SuDS bringing water and wildlife features close to homes. The indefatigable Essex County Council have produced a design guide illustrated by these examples from Malmo and Reiselfeld and expanding on the advice in ‘making it happen’ with Essex focused case studies.

Dickie, S, McKay, G, Ions, L, Shaffer, P –  Planning for SuDS – making it happen, CIRIA, 2010 http://www.eastcambs.gov.uk/sites/default/files/C687%20Planning%20for%20suds.pdf.pdf

Upton Design Codes V2, Northampton Borough Council, 2005

http://www.northampton.gov.uk/site/scripts/download_info.php?downloadID=332

Nicholls, D, Cornwall County Council – Surface Water Drainage and Green Infrastructure

Sustainable Drainage Systems, Essex County Council, 2014

https://www.essex.gov.uk/Environment%20Planning/Environment/local-environment/flooding/View-It/Documents/suds_design_guide.pdf

See also ongoing archive of case studies at Susdrain:

http://www.susdrain.org/case-studies/


 

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how to make the most of trees and wider contemporary green infrastructure solutions

TDAG

It might seem obvious to say that: “having trees in development should be the normal and expected thing to happen” but too often a lack of commitment on behalf of whole delivery teams means that trees are lost from proposals one by one. Its good to see eight local authorities grasp the nettle and be proactive about integrated approaches to including trees in street design. The 8Cs (Derby and Derbyshire, Leicester and Leicestershire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire and more recently Blackpool Council and Cheshire East) are planning to deliver a new design guide that builds on MfS and MfS2.

With the support of the Tree Design Action Group (TDAG) they held a workshop earlier this year to look at how the guide could promote and support the integration of trees and wider contemporary green infrastructure solutions. They explored the key principles of: collaborative design, priortizing walking and cycling, supporting innovation and delivering welcoming, inclusive, resilient and safe places. To make sure including street trees in projects does become the norm 8Cs and TDAG recommended that:

  • Design choices for trees should be context sensitive, identifying the right tree species,
  • When weighing up benefits value the whole life benefit of the tree. Trees have immediate and wider value. Can use i-tree to assess.
  • Realise the opportunity to impact on air quality, reduce flooding, sequester carbon and prevent overheating in urban areas.
  • Place trees intelligently and consider integration with footways and carriageway, parking and vehicle speed management, utilities and microclimates.
  • Technically – seek space efficient integration with utilities, protect trees, ensure adequately nourished and watered and minimize maintenance.
  • Take a joined up approaches when advising developers.

The knowledge base to support integrated approaches is developing internationally with some excellent advice being published by TDAG. Their publication: Trees in Hard Landscapes, A Guide for Delivery, TDAG 2014 includes 30 Case Studies from the UK, Europe, the USA and Canada and some excellent diagrams and sections offering technical design solutions and notes on appropriate species selection.

http://www.tdag.org.uk


 

 

energy city ‘demonstratorium’ – Frederikhavn – Denmark

“Energy City Frederikshavn has the main responsibility for creating growth in the field of “energy” by creating a ’demonstratorium’ for the testing of sustainable climate and energy technologies in the scale 1:1.” Frederikhavn is a coastal town with a population of 23,295 with a plan to become zero carbon by 2030. The town and district already used 20% renewable energy in 2006. The annual energy demand per person was around 0.025 MWh/p/yr and about 30% energy use is attributed to transport.

The following technologies will be used: solar heating, wind power, using waste heat from the wastewater treatment, geothermal heating and storage, biogas to transport in the natural gas system, methanol to vehicles and electric cars, bio diesel and bio gasoline. The project is led by the local authority and has a secretariat a fund a steering committee and a set of working groups. It employs seven people and has an annual fund of about £330,000/year.

One exemplar project was a new heat pump at the wastewater treatment plant in Frederikshavn that was connected to the collective district heating system. The heat pump uses cheap, surplus electricity from offshore windmills nearby Frederikshavn and heat from the sewage plant to supply heat for a district-heating network in Frederikshavn, corresponding to approx. 400 households. The heat pump is one of the first of its kind in Denmark.

www.energycity.dk


 

city scale transition – Sydney

Form of Energy Use, Kinesis for the City of Sydney

The City of Sydney has prepared a Decentralised Energy Masterplan towards their aim of becoming 100% zero carbon by 2030.  The plan makes a careful analysis of how energy is currently used in the city and maps land use together with gas and electricity use to identify the most intense areas of carbon emissions. These areas are then zoned for the introduction of low carbon infrastructure. In Sydney this means bringing Trigeneration closer to areas of demand. Rather than generating power remotely using coal Trigeneration generates electricity locally from gas, reducing energy lost in transmission and using the waste heat produced productively for heating or cooling.