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Planning for Renewables

15 January 2007

Incorporating renewable energy sources into new buildings is not only beneficial in attempting to reduce
carbon emissions but is also becoming a planning and building regulations requirement. Frank Booty
examines the options and pressures

THE MOST LIKELY CAUSE OF THE SIGNIFICANT WARMING in global surface temperatures is due to manmade emissions of greenhouse gases. About 50 per cent of UK emissions are from buildings. The Government’s recent energy review emphasised the need to reduce energy demand, increase energy efficiency and promote a far wider uptake of renewable energy sources in buildings

The key question to address at the earliest stages of design is now not whether to install renewables – but exactly which technology to install. This is not only relevant to new build but also to the planning of major refurbishments of buildings which need to consider the incorporation of renewable or low carbon, or zero carbon, technologies in the existing stock.

Planning authorities are now required to encourage renewable and other low carbon technologies while developers are required to demonstrate that their proposals meet these requirements. Article 5 of the Energy Performance in Buildings Directive(EPBD) requires all new buildings over 1,000 sq m ‘to be subject to feasibility assessments covering the inclusion of renewable energy and other systems which generate low levels of carbon dioxide emissions.’

Low or zero carbon energy (LZC) is the term applied to renewable sources of energy and also to technologies which are either significantly more efficient than traditional solutions or which emit less carbon in providing heating, cooling or power. LZC technologies include solar thermal systems, photovoltaics, district heating and cooling, combined heat and power (CHP) systems fuelled by gas or biomass, ground water cooling, ground source heat pumps, wind power and biomass boiler.

Speaking at a recent CIBSE conference on the topic of renewable energy sources, Professor Terry Wyatt of Hoare Lee said, “There is a pressing need to properly install and commission a building’s facilities. It’s now a criminal offence to hand over a building without O&M manuals and the Log Book. There’s a need to ensure the effective operation and monitoring of actual performance. Energy management must now be taken seriously.”

CIBSE has issued guidance for developers, planners, designers, building owners and FMs in the form of TM38: 2006 Renewable energy sources for buildings, which is a booklet accompanied by a software toolkit, downloadable from its website.

TM38 helps those who now find themselves invited to bring high-level engineering thinking to the ‘top table’ for the earliest stages of the strategic planning and outline design of a project. It’s about identifying feasible options to consider and evaluate in a bit more detail and of providing some sound engineering advice when some of the key early decisions are being made.

“It’s also a signpost to other sources of information on renewables,” said Wyatt. “It’s pitched at a level that should enable building engineers and managers to use it to inform, explain and justify decisions when talking to other professionals. It is not CIBSE’s answer to the London Renewables Toolkit but it will lead us to it.”

In the London Renewables Toolkit, first published in 2002, London aimed to only manage to generate a small percentage of its electricity from renewable sources by the end of this decade. It was hoped its publication would provoke discussion and generate new ideas and innovation.

Adrian Hewitt, energy and sustainability manager at the London Borough of Merton, is a pioneer and responsible for design and implementation of planning policies and low carbon energy generation and distribution in the Borough. The ‘Merton Rule’ for decentralised low carbon energy in combating climate change is being seen as representative of the power of local government and the power of planning. In October 2003, Merton’s UDP (Unitary Development Plan) policy PE13 that was adopted stated: “All new non-residential development above a threshold of 1,000 sq m will be expected to incorporate renewable energy production equipment to provide at least 10 per cent of predicted energy requirements.”

Following Merton, Croydon issued a policy – the current industry standard – that “The Council will expect all development (either new build or conversion) with a floor space of 1,000 sq m or 10 or more residential units to incorporate renewable energy production equipment to provide at least 10 per cent of the predicted energy requirements.”

The revised Merton Local Development Framework (LDF) policy states that “The council will require all development (either new build or conversion), with a floor space of 75 square metres or one or more residential units, to incorporate on-site renewable energy equipment to reduce predicted carbon dioxide emissions by at least 10 per cent” – recognising rising fossil fuel prices and the falling cost of renewable energy sources.

Other councils buying into this policy are Kirklees, with 30 per cent and North Devon. GLA is setting a 20 per cent target.

Kate Parsons, Environment Officer (renewable energy) at Huddersfield-based Kirklees Environment Unit, says, “Kirklees has an internal Council policy adopted in April 2006 of 30 per cent renewable energy sources being incorporated into the design of new Council developments procured by 2010/11. This is being implemented in stages i.e. 5 per cent per year from now until 2010/11.” (see table left) Hewitt observed that the attitude of the developers is that they’re getting ahead of the game. There have been 150 applications to date in Croydon, Merton, London and other local authorities in the UK. These renewable targets cover low rise residential, medium rise residential, high rise residential, light industrial units, hotel, shopping arcade, DIY superstore, supermarket, offices, police station, secondary school, doctors’ surgery, sports hall and a football stadium.

“The baseline comprises the Building Research Establishment’s ECON and CIBSE TM38 guides,” says Hewitt. “Key points to pick out include the predominance of solar thermal and photovoltaics (PV) for residential purposes, Faber Maunsell’s Big Yellow Box project, and English Partnerships’ £60,000 house. In the large developments, the ethos tends to be to trust the M&E company, whereas in smaller developments, systems are validated by EEACs – Energy Efficiency Advice Centres. The number of authorities that have a 10 per cent policy in their UDPs, or are about to, is 90 (of 450 planning authorities in the UK.”

Positive approach
In June 2006 in written ministerial statements - Communities and Local Government PPS22 (Planning Policy Statement) - Yvette Cooper, Minister for Housing and Planning, said, “It is essential that all planning authorities follow this example and take account fully of the positive approach to renewables set out in PPS22 at the earliest opportunity in their plan making. In particular the Government will expect all planning authorities to include policies in their development plans that require a percentage of the energy in new developments to come from on-site renewables, where it is viable.”

Cooper’s words were backed up with a powerful analysis of the years ahead. The value of renewable energy installed in 2005-06 was £35m. In 2010 this figure is expected to be £1.5bn, which covers all the equipment needed in the average authority per annum including turbines, PV kWp and solar thermal panels. Cooper’s computations expect jobs to be created in planning, building services, architecture, marketing, R&D, legal, etc. Developing the theme, Hewitt expects the next big thing to be district heat and power (DHP) fuelled by methane and bio-gas. “You only have to consider the landfill allowance trading schemes, now £200/ton over the allowance. By 2012, we’ll be several million pounds a year over,” she said.

Supplementary planning documents (SPDs) on a site brief for Wimbledon greyhound stadium have seen Council requirements move from “expecting the developer to explore the feasibility of incorporating renewable energy infrastructure and CHP technology” through to “requiring a CHP system to be incorporated as an integral part of any redevelopment proposal” to “requiring the developer to link to an existing DHP network if feasible.” According to Hewitt, the best approach to ensuring renewables are incorporated into new developments is through the planning system and local initiatives. “Building Regs are inflexible and only give the minimum,” he said. “There are long amendment timeframes which can’t adjust to changing requirements.”

Planning policies and local initiatives also create pride and recognition at a local level, give community ownership, enthuse the next generation of planners, foster healthy competition between Boroughs and preserve imagination and initiative at a local level. “You can’t explore the frontier from behind a central government policy desk,” said Hewitt. “The centre should recognise and support replicable ideas.”

As examples, Hewitt cites Merton’s 10 per cent policy, the Woking DHP scheme, Edinburgh University’s trigeneration scheme, Solar Century, BedZed, B&Q, Gazeleys and Unst hydrogen island – and GLA’s 20 per cent and Kirklees 30 per cent.

Decentralised energy is the future, said Hewitt. “There’ll be a local DHP scheme with premises equipped with turbines, solar thermal, solar PV, heat pumps and micro CHP. There’ll be a lot of design and retrofit work involved. The future of energy will resemble the culture of cars, mobile phones and computers. People will want ownership and cost control over energy in a similar way to these other areas.”

In mobilising to combat climate change, Hewitt advocates listening to General George C Marshall and Marshal Georgi Zhukov: “To mobilise we must develop a technique and methods so simple that the citizen of good common sense can readily grasp the idea.” And that is what it will all boil down to.

● Frank Booty is a freelance writer

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