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“Energy for life”

“Global collaboration for a global problem”

“What we do matters”

These were some of the refreshing sentiments coming from Lumiere Developments’ launch event of the Beacon that I attended last week.

With a BREEAM Outstanding rating, South East London’s Crystal was an apt location for the Beacon’s ambitious target of being the ‘world’s most sustainable residential tower’.

A really interesting group attended the event including members of the Lumiere team behind the Beacon, people involved in the design, assessors and other stakeholders who are collaborating to realise this exciting project based in Hemel Hempstead.

The event included a summary of the Beacon’s key features, that were categorised within three key pillars that make up the development; sustainability, luxury living and affordability.

The team highlighted some of the features they will use to realise this vision, which look to include an impressive combination of sustainable design features and technologies including: ground source heat pumps, automatic car parking, ultra-low energy appliances, electric car sharing, vertical axis wind turbines, LED lighting, triple and quadruple glazing, internal arboretum, heat recovery, electric car and bike sharing, and what they claim will be the world’s highest density solar farm, incorporated into the structure of the building.lumiere-presents2

Energy efficiency and saving on running costs are often what motivate developers to build ‘sustainably’. It’s the aspect of sustainability the most people can relate to because of the relatively short-term, tangible benefits, added value and clear financial common sense; not to mention its role in reducing Carbon as part of UK commitments like 57% reduction of emissions by 2030 (against 1990 levels). This is a good thing and something that should certainly be embraced. Industry has the design solutions and the technology to make this happen. Energy efficiency and carbon reduction were clear from the Beacon’s focus; with their aim of preventing the dilemma between ‘heat or eat’; ‘This shouldn’t be a choice, it should be a right’.

What I think was refreshing and quite inspiring about Ambi and Sam from Lumiere’s presentation was the emphasis on the many facets that contribute to a sustainable built environment.

impacts-of-climate-change2Quite rightly, Sam highlighted what many people find difficult about tackling effects of climate change; ‘it’s all happening 40 years down the line’…as a parent, he made it clear that his motivation, is to leave a legacy to be proud of.

However he recognised that doing the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing, may be a tough sell to many, particularly where it involves additional investment in the short-term.

As an environmentalist and like many of my colleagues working in the environmental sector, making choices that are consistent with living sustainably, is imbedded in our world-view and motivates many of the choices we make.

But for those who do not have this view, this may not be enough and they need more tangible benefits to justify investing time and money into living and building more sustainably. Sam put it well by saying that if the projected long-term effects of climate change aren’t enough motivation, look at the impacts people are having right now which people across the world are directly suffering from;

  • Premature deaths associated with poor air quality
  • Destruction and social conflict created by extreme weather from flooding, storms and droughts
  • The rapid increase of endangered and extinct species
  • Diminishing natural resources and a growing human population

 

As Sam put it ‘Sustainability is about human life not just climate change’ and ‘what we do, matters’. Hearing the presentation helped to explain where Beacon’s drive for pushing the boundaries comes from. By definition though, the ambitious and innovative approach being taken to ‘make the world’s most sustainable residential tower’ is not something that can be done every day.

Perhaps understandably, many people may ask ‘how does this help us create more affordable housing in a time of housing crisis?’ True sustainability needs to be applicable to everyone.

Projects like this contribute to sustainability for everyone by creating excitement with consumers and industry, showcasing established technology, pushing the boundaries and acting as a spearhead to filter down into standard practice. The principles behind projects like this and the commitment to sustainability for human life are aspects that other projects can and should build upon, even if not to the same extent. And this is already happening, many other developments out there are committed to these principles and are making real positive change with the knowledge and solutions already available.

Unsurprisingly, the Beacon is amongst the first of those intending to certify against the Home Quality Mark; BRE’s new certification scheme for new homes that go above and beyond minimum standards, for developers to demonstrate they are committed to producing sustainable and quality homes.

As part of the HQM team, it is great to see projects like this pushing the boundaries and taking the challenge of building more sustainably. The Beacon’s proposed 272 apartments look to contribute to the 9000 homes already registered with HQM, which represent a range of development types including affordable, social housing projects, small projects showcasing different approaches, as well as larger-scale projects.

The variety of projects represents HQM’s intended scope of recognising any home that is going above and beyond minimum standards, from one star (better) all the way up to five stars (outstanding); the message is that any star is a real achievement.

This variety of projects registered with HQM is exactly what the scheme needs during its beta stage, to ensure that the standard is fine-tuned to reflect a range of scenarios so that it realises its aim of providing consumers with unbiased information about the new homes they are looking to rent and buy.

With exciting and ambitious projects like the Beacon amongst HQM’s early adopters I look forward to seeing how they get on going forward. Exciting times ahead!

Richard Cobb
About the Author
Richard Cobb - Housing professional in the BREEAM Homes and Communities team; developers of the the Home Quality Mark (HQM). Involved with answering technical queries, scheme development, developing and delivering assessor training, and maintaining other schemes including BREEAM Communities and Code for Sustainable Homes.

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