Green Sky... Thinking Blog

Open-City's Blog highlighting current sustainability news, development and thinking.


Review of Clever Energy: People Power @ Cullinan Studio

Thursday evening’s packed event at Cullinan Studio brought together expertise from the fields of ground source energy, anaerobic digestion and community solar. Three inspirational guest speakers revealed the magnitude of underused and undervalued assets in our neighbourhoods. Through case studies they showed how small scale clean energy projects can transform our attitudes to changes needed at a far bigger scale.

Mark Hewitt of ICAX transported us 500 years and 5,000 miles to the Rai Pravina Mahal, in Madhya Pradesh where a sunken room designed for poetry performance is passively cooled by its connection to well-shaded ground. Long since abandoned it still delivers a 10oC cooling effect during the extreme summer heat. Back in the present - and the more temperate UK - he showed how the same building physics could be applied with a 21st century twist. At Suffolk One Sixth Form College his team has converted a turning zone for school buses into a 1,800 sqm “asphalt solar collector”. 14km of pipes below the road surface transport the heat collected into a seasonal thermal store that is connected to ground source heat pumps. Sophisticated control systems optimise their operation to maximise the thermal output to achieve payback periods of 5 to 6 years. Students engage with the system through displays that show how the building is being heated or cooled at any point in time.

Changes to regulations in Scotland and Wales already signal the end of food waste going to land fill. Existing large-scale anaerobic digestion plants extract this valuable resource from local communities using collection systems that also generate significant ‘waste miles’. Rokiah Yaman introduced showed us how LEAP AD are piloting a different solution at the local scale. Using small scale anaerobic digestion systems they are creating community closed loop recycling systems for food waste. Through three projects in London they connect residents, schools and businesses with the growing of food and its nutrient cycle, the generation and conservation of energy from biomethane, whilst creating sustainable local employment. She described the transformative power of technology that people could easily engage with directly on their doorstep, supporting larger scale technologies through education.

Agamemnon Otero from Repowering London inspired with the potential for local renewable energy schemes to generate energy within communities. Repowering’s model - pioneered at Brixton Energy Solar  – empowers communities by placing ownership of renewable energy systems in the hands of the people they serve, with skilled management support steering local teams as they build capacity to successfully deliver challenging projects.
Otero argues that when we think of urban solar, it’s time to recognise that our housing estates are incredible assets. He estimates there is 3.5 GW of solar power that could be generated from their roofs, but sees the energy of the people who are sheltered by those same roofs as the greater potential. The financial returns are impressive, and these are controlled by the community and re-invested or shared as they choose – but it’s the social returns that are off the scale. Young people emerging from 25 week internships with new technical, financial, and social skills that are giving them access to employment or the drive to return to higher education. Participants have been seeing a 40% reduction in their energy bills, and that’s not something that can be attributed to Repowering’s initiatives on draught proofing, supplier switching, or renewable energy generation alone. In large part Otero believes it’s down to a change in the relationship between residents and the power that they generate and then consume.

The next time we're proposing a renewable energy system for a project we’ll be thinking about its impacts from a completely new and far richer perspective.

Edward Garrod – Head of Integrated Design @ Elementa Consulting


The Green Debate 'London: Design for healthy living'

On Tuesday 16 September 2014 Open-City held its first-ever Green Debate to launch the Greener City strand of Open House London 2014.

Tackling the challenge of health in urban space the debate was chaired by Dan Hill, Executive Director, Future Cities, with panelists:

  • Dr Yvonne Doyle, Regional Director, London, Public Health England
  • Paul Heather, Managing Director for Skanska
  • Dan Epstein, Director, Useful Simple Projects
  • Marie Murray, Manager, Dalston Eastern Curve Garden
  • Ben Plowden, Director, Planning, Surface Transport, Transport for London

Open Debate “8 Million and growing… Is London grinding to a halt?”

On Monday 15 September 2014 the Institution of Civil Engineers hosted Open-City’s second annual ‘Open Debate’ to give citizen and professional alike a voice of how the city can and ought to be built.

The challenge of increased population growth and its knock-on effect on London's transport infrastructure (currently operating at or near capacity) took centre stage. Read more here.

Spotlight of 2014 - Thinking Green 20 x 20 Film

New in 2014 Open-City's quickfire 20seconds-20slides event invited young creative thinkers to consider city-wide solutions that consider sustainability in it's most holistic form. For full event review visit SKIN Gallery page. SKIN Gallery were partners and events hosts of the event and the filming was kindly produced by Speech Bubble Marketing.

Oliver Wainwright - The Guardian  

Tim Stoner - Space Syntax

Kirsten Henson - KLH Sustainability

Jay Gort - Gort Scott Architects

Nicolas Henninger - EXYZT  

Doina Petrescu - R-Urban

Jan Kattein - Jan Kattein Architects


Clever Energy: People Power

Cullinan Studio's event presentation for Green Sky Thinking Week 2014.

Is London Building a Sterile City?

Watch Open-City's first-ever Open Debate. Debating London’s liveability on housing, affordability, sustainability, and public realm. Chaired by Razia Iqbal, BBC Correspondent, with panelists Stephen Howlett (CEO Peabody Housing), Leo Hollis (author, 'Cities Are Good For You'), Bob Allies (Partner, Allies and Morrison), Sue Illman (President, Landscape Institute).

Extending Green Sky Thinking's discussion on London's liveability and sustainability, Open-City hosted its first-ever Open Debate, chaired by Razia Iqbal, BBC Correspondent, with panelists Stephen Howlett (CEO Peabody Housing), Leo Hollis (author, 'Cities Are Good For You'), Bob Allies (Partner, Allies and Morrison), Sue Illman (President, Landscape Institute). Debating issues of housing, affordability, transport, water resilience, and public realm place-making.

The debate offered a unique opportunity to transfer the discussions held by professionals during Green Sky Thinking Week, May 2013, to the wider general public. Increasing a cross-sector and inter-disciplinary dialogue and offering a voice to all citizens on how we build a furture sustainable London.

Watch the Debate and listen to Talking Head interviews of Balfour Beatty, HTA Architects & Peabody Estates and others.

'Principles Before Policies: Why Sustainability Requires Excellence, not Compliance'

Thought Piece by Richard Francis, Director, Environment & Sustainability, Gardiner & Theobald.

'Leading a Greener City'

Read about the Greater London Authority's discussion with leading industry experts ongovernmental policy and stratgy and it's impact on the market-place.