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How innovative urban design is shaping low carbon sustainable development

Low carbon sustainable development is a subject close to our hearts here at Woodbourne Group. Through the development projects we get involved with and initiatives such as Woodbourne Ventures, we strive to play our part in meeting the climate challenges that the world faces.

The UK government has set a target to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 60% by 2050. However, recent scientific evidence suggests that this target will need to be raised to 80% if we’re to avoid the catastrophic impacts of climate change. Low-carbon sustainable development is essential if the UK and other developed countries if we are to meet ambitious Net-Zero targets.

By 2050, 68% of the global population will live in cities. In Europe, three out of four of us already live in urban areas, therefore, Ensuring people have sustainable, attractive and healthy environments in which to live and work is now a key priority for forward-looking developers. Woodbourne Group has embraced this  challenge at the innovative Curzon Wharf scheme .

In this article we look at how innovative urban design is shaping low carbon sustainable development and explore how Curzon Wharf will provide a blueprint for future projects.

 

Harnessing Decentralised Energy

Nearly half of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions come from buildings, and a quarter of these from our homes. This figure represents both a challenge and an opportunity when it comes to achieving Net-Zero. Retrofitting the UK’s ‘leaky’ and fuel-inefficient existing housing stock with alternatives to carbon-based heating and ensuring sufficient insulation will be challenging but achievable.

250 homes in the Cornish village of Stithians became the first in the country to be heated by a large-scale communal ground-source heating system, which works by utilising a series of pipes which are filled with a refrigerant that extracts the heat from the ground. This is then passed through a compressor to increase the heat. Kensa, the firm that installed the system, claim it will reduce the carbon footprint of each home by at least 70%. This type of decentralised energy generation has the potential to not only lower the community’s carbon footprint but can also reduce bills and provide greater energy security.

With new developments, decentralised energy projects can be embedded from the beginning. At Curzon Wharf, the design has driven down energy demand through a high-quality, optimised thermal envelope in line with Passivhaus principles. This has made it possible for fossil fuels to be eliminated from the site, with heat pumps meeting all heat demands. This energy is further offset through photovoltaics which convert sunlight into energy.

 

Integrated Urban Design

Integrated design underpins the creation of sustainable, livable communities. It aims to identify and solve problems holistically and sustainably. A key aspect of integrated urban design is access to active and sustainable transportation options, reducing the necessity for private cars. Good urban design can make walking and cycling easier, and be linked to an efficient, reliable and affordable public transport system. The creation of safe and attractive, off-road, pedestrian and cycle paths encourages greater use. Mixed-use developments enable residents to live, work and access amenities, within walking distance.

Curzon Wharf’s location provides easy access to Birmingham city centre, and the development will feature a comprehensive sustainable transportation infrastructure. The overall design creates clear routes for cycles, desired lines for pedestrians and a series of hierarchical interconnected vehicle-free spaces. As well as pedestrian and cycle routes, the development is also well-connected to the city’s public transport infrastructure, making it an accessible as well as attractive place to live and work.

 

Green Spaces

We now understand more about the important role of green spaces in urban areas. They provide a range of environmental, social, and economic benefits that help to create more livable, resilient, and sustainable cities. Trees and other plants absorb carbon dioxide and pollutants from the air, helping to reduce air pollution and improve air quality. Green spaces can also help to reduce the risks caused by stormwater runoff, helping to make communities more resilient in the face of extreme weather patterns.

Towns and cities also experience a heat island effect as a result of human activity. The heat generated by people, transport, shops and industry get trapped in narrow roads and concrete structures. It is then unable to escape the atmosphere, with the result being that the temperature in urban areas is 3-4°C higher than in the surrounding countryside.

Green spaces help to counteract this effect. Whether it’s urban parks, gardens, green walls and roofs or street trees incorporated into urban design, plants cool the atmosphere creating green oases in the heart of the city. Green spaces make it easier for people to enjoy an active lifestyle, creating opportunities to exercise and relax. Placing green spaces in urban design has positive psychological benefits for people who live and work in the area.

At Curzon Wharf, we have incorporated a range of attractive and functional green features, such as sky terraces, winter gardens, nature playgrounds and tree-lined piazzas.  A biophilic design will create a landscape that flows from the inside to the outside,  supporting biodiversity and creating space for residents to enjoy optimal urban health. The green elements at Curzon Wharf will be a part of a green tapestry across the city, in accordance with the principles of Birmingham City Council’s ‘Our Future City Plan.’

 

Sustainable Materials

The use of sustainable building materials, such as recycled materials, can reduce the environmental impact of new construction and form a key aspect of low-carbon sustainable development. It can help to reduce the environmental impact of construction and promote a more circular economy. Practices such as passive solar design, which maximises natural light and heat, and green roofs, which help to regulate temperature and reduce rainwater runoff, can be incorporated into building design to further enhance sustainability.

Curzon Wharf will make use of sustainable materials wherever possible, helping to reduce the overall carbon footprint of the development.

 

Places for the future

While the challenges of embracing low-carbon development are considerable, it gives us an opportunity to re-imagine urban environments. Well-designed, sustainable development in the heart of the city has the potential to not only reduce the UK’s carbon footprint but can also support healthier, happier and more sustainable lives.

At Woodbourne Group, we’re proud to be at the forefront of this seismic change in how we think about urban environments. We also encourage a new generation of entrepreneurs through our Woodbourne Ventures initiative to tackle these challenges.

At Curzon Wharf, we’re creating places for people and the planet, and a blueprint for the future.

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