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Sussex Exchange Innovation Centre, Enviro21, Queensway

Greening Business

Will Hastings & St Leonards become a model for combining the mitigation of climate change with encouraging economic growth and development? A significant challenge being faced head on by a new international partnership called Answers to the Carbon Economy (ACE). This collaborative research and development project held its launch conference in St Leonards on Thursday 31 May as Richard Hull reports.

Climate change is arguably the single most significant and important issue for every single one of us on this increasingly fragile planet. As one of the speakers at this conference remarked, when the current recession finally eases we will once again have to address a number of thorny problems with more fundamental and long term effects. There are perhaps strong arguments that climate change can only be fully and comprehensively tackled by dramatically scaling back all economic growth in the long term. In the short term of the next few decades, however, it seems inevitable that reducing our dependence upon the ‘carbon economy’ of fossil fuels and non-renewable resources, and shifting towards the low carbon economy that must necessarily precede any zero-carbon economy, requires balancing what may seem the incompatible bed-fellows of encouraging economic growth and reducing our emissions of CO2 and other green house gases (GHGs).

Local authorities in the UK currently have no obligation or requirement to take action on climate change, as recently reported by the independent Committee on Climate Change, and because taking such actions often means additional costs we are unlikely to see many authorities properly addressing climate change. More specifically, as another conference speaker remarked, there is little if any requirement that new buildings be designed as ‘green’ or even low-carbon, meaning that local authorities are overseeing an increase in, for instance new school buildings which are exacerbating rather than decreasing our carbon-reliance. Hastings Borough Council has been focussing on these issues since 2004 and has been involved since 2009 in another EU-funded climate change project, Future Cities, together with city authorities from four other European countries. The council also has a history of acquiring grant funding from the European Commission with projects dating back since 2000 so they were well placed to respond to the initial request from the ACE project’s developers several years ago.

Enviro21 Business Park, Queensway South

Initiated by the West Flanders Inter-municipal association WVI, the two-year ACE project is focused specifically on developing low carbon solutions for businesses at three levels:- commercial buildings; business to business relationships and collaborations; and developing green business parks. For improving the design of buildings – the most cost-effective way to reduce CO2 emissions – the conference heard from architects RH Partnerships about the methods used in designing the Sussex Exchange innovation centre (on the Enviro21 business park on Queensway) which showcases a number of low carbon techniques such as biomass power. In addition delegates discussed issues in ‘retro-fitting’ existing buildings to improve their carbon footprint, and HBC has a number of such projects amongst its large portfolio of industrial and commercial properties.

One of the ACE project partners is Ecopal, an association based on the Synth area around Dunkirk which consists mainly of business and industrial parks with about 160 businesses over 420 acres. Ecopal’s expertise is in Industrial Ecology, enabling groups of firms to work together to improve their sustainability, for instance arranging for the waste products from one firm to become an input or supply for another firm.

There were a number of presentations and discussions addressing the greening of business and industrial parks and the conference heard about several initiatives such as the use of wind turbines to power business parks in the city of Ghent, in Belgium, another of the project partners.

For further information see the ACE project website.

Photos courtesy of RH Partnership.

 

Posted 12:25 Wednesday, Jun 6, 2012 In: Green Times

Also in: Green Times

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