Playing our part in the climate change agenda

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As we plan for life after Covid-19 and take steps to bolster our economy, it is imperative that we ensure sustainability and creating greener environments are at the heart of the recovery.

Climate change was high on the agenda for many governments, the media, the business community and the general public in the months preceding the pandemic. And now, as the country begins to return to a semblance of normality in the coming months, the issue needs to again become a priority for stakeholders. That’s why we are still placing strong focus on our efforts as a business and taking steps to be more sustainable.

As a business and a contributor to the communities we operate in, we know that we have a huge part to play in implementing action on climate change that will help not only us, but our cities, to achieve their targets for a low-carbon future. Jessica Bowles, director of strategy at Bruntwood, explains what this means to us.

If you’d opened any newspaper just a few months ago, chances are that within a few pages you’ll have been greeted by a headline on the impact climate change is having on the planet. Even throughout the pandemic, we’ve still seen the stories around lower emissions, cleaner air and wildlife venturing back out of hiding. But, we still have so far to go.

Irregardless of this, the recent Covid-19 crisis has overshadowed the sustainability agenda in the last few months, but it is already becoming an important issue again as the country begins its recovery. We are seeing national and local government, investors, institutions, businesses and citizens all talking about the need for a green recovery - to ensure that what we invest in recovery is done with the long term challenges we face at the forefront of our minds.

For us, the commitment to tackling climate change, and the role that cities and businesses must play in doing this, remains as important as ever. We must see the talk turned into meaningful change. For example, we’ve signed up to the Manchester Climate Change Framework 2020-25 because we see this as one of the plans that does exactly this.

The framework is built on meeting objectives and targets underpinned by the science community including the world leading Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. As part of these, it incorporates actions for residents, schools and organisations to take to achieve change.

For those of us in the property industry this is vital. The framework outlines aims for both new and existing buildings. For the former, it states that new developments in the city shouldn’t eat into our limited carbon budgets. For the latter, it means getting our existing buildings as close to net zero carbon as possible by increasing energy efficiency and generating renewable energy on-site where possible.
As the first commercial property company to sign up to the UK Green Building Council’s Net Zero Carbon Commitment we’re already taking action to help play our part. We’re reducing our carbon footprint by increasing our ability to generate and store energy on-site, taking the strain off the country’s existing infrastructure and reducing wastage by being as energy efficient as possible.

Innovation has a vital role in any transformation of this scale and at Manchester Science Park we’re looking at how we can take buildings off-grid by using a Tesla battery to store solar power generated during the day and feeding it back into the building when the grid is under pressure. As we move towards a more decentralised energy network, we’re exploring options to build on this to ensure 30% of the energy our buildings use is generated on-site.

We’ve also made more recent changes that tie in with the framework’s wider environmental objectives. At Lowry House, we’re working with our partners including United Utilities, Salford University, Polypipe, EPG, Kistors and STRI, to install a ‘blue/green roof’ to help us understand how the city can better cope with and utilise its rainwater. Conventional green roofs use a drainage layer to provide lateral drainage and irrigation, whereas blue roof technology aims to increase both the volume of water stored and control the amount of water released. Combining these technologies can increase the overall benefits of greening roofscapes.

At the end of last year we also kickstarted a study to look at what a local energy market could look like and how it would respond to the challenges and needs of a place-based market. In turn, this will help inform the way the region generates, distributes and uses energy in order to help meet its carbon budget targets. With the research stage of the project now complete, we’ll be using the findings to look into how we take our buildings and make them prosumers - producers and consumers - of energy to reduce our demand on the grid and give surplus energy to others.

Our property and development communities continue to go from strength to strength, thanks in no small part to the stakeholders in our cities. This success will play a key role in the development of strategies to create greener, more sustainable places to live and work. City-to-city collaboration is essential as when cities choose to take action and share their knowledge, the collective impact can be huge. It is our regions’ open-mindedness to innovative solutions alongside a progressive, radical attitude will be key to tackling the pertinent questions of our age.

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