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What tech developments are shaping the sustainability landscape?

Tech innovation is at the forefront of our development approach here at Woodbourne Group. To drive sustainability in our projects we use pioneering technology to achieve the type of legacy that we want to leave behind.

Through our Woodbourne Ventures initiative we champion the tech innovators and the burgeoning entrepreneurs looking to make their mark and unleash the potential that tech gives us.

In the race to create a more sustainable future and to develop a circular economy, much is dependent on the development of new technologies.

There are a range of existing technologies and new ones in the development stage which are likely to be key to delivering practical solutions. Cities, regions and nations are already embracing some of these technologies to deliver more sustainable services and help build coherent local economies that work for people and the planet.

Let’s explore some of these developments.

 

Electric public transport 

There are now over 160 electric and hybrid vehicle models available to individual vehicle owners, and that number is growing. As well as private vehicles, public transportation is increasingly shifting towards electric alternatives.

China has been leading the way with over 300,000 electric buses in services across the country. This example has not gone unnoticed, with European cities moving towards electric buses and electric transportation systems.

Electric buses have higher upfront costs due to their battery prices, but their total cost of ownership is lower than diesel buses. They also have considerable public health benefits in the removal of dangerous particulates from urban atmospheres.

 

Energy storage 

While the UK produces a growing amount of wind and solar energy both in large-scale generation sites and through micro-generation, it isn’t always generated when people need it most.

The new age of electric vehicles has driven an expansion in the market for lithium and cobalt batteries which, in turn, has driven down the price. This has expanded the market for batteries overall. With prices for batteries dropping rapidly they are increasingly being used as energy storage solutions for industry and utilities.

Alongside short-term energy storage, companies are developing longer-term storage solutions that can store energy for weeks and months. For example, Antora Energy is building a low-cost thermal battery for grid-scale energy storage. And Lightsource, which is backed by BP, is adding storage to solar developments.

 

Smart buildings

Energy consumption in both residential and commercial buildings accounts for 20% of global consumption. In developed countries, this figure rises considerably, and reducing their energy consumption will be key to achieving ambitious carbon reduction targets. Smart building technologies are one tool through which this be achieved. These enable the efficient and economical use of resources.

Smart buildings may be developed with a range of existing and emerging technologies or they might be retrofitted in a way that allows for their future integration. This includes tools such as AI, the Internet of Things, and augmented reality, all of which can be used to control and optimise a building’s performance. High-tech innovators are now developing smart building products for use in their own buildings which can be sold into the market.

 

Vertical farms and gardens

In the past, there has been a clear divide between the urban and the rural. The city was where business and commerce took place, and the countryside was where food was grown.

Reducing the distance between the field and the plate, while helping cities become more self-sufficient in their food production, is a key element in creating sustainable urban spaces, but it can be challenging.

One solution is vertical farms and gardens, that grow crops in vertical layers, in energy-efficient buildings and outdoors. These are connected to technologies that monitor the health and development of crops, using tools such as intelligent water misting systems, that allow for more efficient use of resources.

 

Redesigning existing tools and technologies

As well as replacing resource inefficient technologies with more sustainable solutions, and optimising technologies to make them more efficient, the way we use existing technologies can be redesigned.

Using AI and other advanced digital technologies, the resource intensive way in which assets are used can be completely reimagined and reinvented. For instance, cars and other vehicles could move from individual ownership to shared, multi-user ownership facilitated by apps and digital sharing technologies.

The same could be applied to buildings, taking a co-working approach to a corporate or institutional level. Smart technologies and principles are being applied across many areas of life to help reimagine how assets can be more efficiently used.

 

Carbon storage and capture

Carbon storage and capture is often talked about but is still in its relative infancy. CCS involves the capture of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from industrial processes such as production, or from power generation. This carbon is then transported from where it was produced and stored in deep underground geological formations. In some instances this might be below the sea floor.

Although seen as a last resort when it comes to dealing with emissions, carbon storage and capture could help buy us time while we develop a more sustainable way of living and working over the coming decades.

 

Our desire to meet the sustainability challenge

There is a new era of innovation and digital technology opening up a vast range of exciting solutions that are set to make our lives, towns and cities more sustainable. We must embrace these to give our planet the best chance of survival.

Woodbourne Group is showing what this means in practice with the development of Curzon Wharf, Birmingham. This will be the world’s first mixed-use net zero carbon ready development in a key quarter of Birmingham.

This waterside ecosystem will be just a short walk from the HS2 Curzon Street Station and will combine new residential, retail, office, R&D and life science space.

The development will incorporate the latest sustainable technology as well as lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic. To help support better mental health and community well-being, the development will also provide ample amenity and public space.

Our mission is to radically improve the sustainability of the built environment, by transforming the way it is planned, designed, constructed, maintained, and operated using the latest technology.

The sustainability landscape is evolving, and at Woodbourne Group, we are determined to evolve with it and, at the same time, encourage a new breed of entrepreneurs through our Woodbourne Ventures initiative to move the agenda in the right direction.

 

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