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World Earth Day: How We're Investing in Thriving Cities

World Earth Day: How We're Investing in Thriving Cities

The Momentum for Change

It’s fair to say that sustainability is high on most people’s agendas right now. The heavy coverage of COP26 back in November 2021, and the ever-growing list of businesses pledging various deadlines for carbon neutrality, only serves to solidify the notion that sustainability is here to stay. And World Earth Day 2022 promises to build on that momentum by emphasising the need for governments, businesses and citizens to protect the future of our planet, our health and our livelihoods.

But what exactly is World Earth Day? And why is it important to Bruntwood?

Where it all started

The first World Earth Day took place on April 22nd 1970, but didn’t become a global movement for another 20 years. Fast forward to 1990, and 200 million people were mobilised across 141 countries, putting environmental issues firmly in the spotlight, and setting the stage for the monumental 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro

Since then, World Earth Day has gone on to become the largest secular observance on the planet, continuing the quest to alter human behaviour for the better and create effective policy change. As the devastating effects of climate change become increasingly apparent, the climate emergency spurs more and more people to action, as individuals, organisations, governments and communities. 

Sustainability has always been at the core of our activity, with retrofitted buildings forming the heart of our original business proposition. Now, as the race to net zero gathers impetus, we’re taking our role as an industry leader even more seriously, championing efforts to mitigate climate change impacts as a developer, an employer, a partner and a supporter of cities and communities.

This year, the theme of World Earth Day is ‘Invest in Our Planet’, so we’ve focused on some of the ways we’re driving change and creating thriving, sustainable cities now and for future generations.

How we’re making an impact through our developments

BASE, Manchester Science Park - At Bruntwood SciTech,we’re currently working on a number of new developments and designing several others, which gives us the opportunity to get it right from the outset or modify buildings currently underway. A good example of this is Base at Manchester Science Park, where we’re installing air quality sensors, which reduces the demand on air conditioning by only pumping fresh air in once they are alerted - akin to existing consumer products that you may have in your home such as Hive. 

Led by Development Director Peter Crowther, we’re also working to better understand our existing buildings. For example, we are looking at construction methodology and building services to identify the common trends, and make decisions on how we can retrofit our buildings, supporting our pledge to achieve net zero carbon in areas we operate by 2030.

We’re also using the NABERS protocol to measure the energy use of our buildings. It measures both ours and our customers’ energy combined (i.e. the total energy in use) and encourages both parties to work more closely together. Going forward, every new building being designed is net zero in our operational areas.

COTTON EXCHANGE, Liverpool - Meanwhile in Liverpool, Bruntwood Works has been working with Farm Urban to bring an edible living wall to the Cotton Exchange, giving a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘eat local’.

Using hydroponics as part of a vertical farming system, the edible wall produces fresh salad leaves, which customers at the building can help themselves to free of charge at any time. As well as supporting our customers’ wellbeing, the wall champions sustainable hyperlocal solutions for producing healthy, pesticide-free food for the local community. Farm Urban’s high-tech urban farms are space-saving, and serve to demonstrate the importance of the science and tech sector in sustainable innovation.

Supporting businesses to make a difference - Ripple and Unify Energy

In October 2020, Bruntwood launched Unify Energy, a fully-licensed energy supplier offering an end-to-end solution for the supply and management of energy within multi-tenanted buildings.

Unify Energy has since formed a partnership with Ripple, a clean energy ownership platform, and Bruntwood customers have had the opportunity to purchase a portion of an 8-turbine wind farm (Kirk Hill) in West Scotland. Ripple enables businesses and individuals to part-own large scale wind farms and have the low cost, green electricity generated from these supplied to their home or business; Bruntwood customers will be supplied through Unify Energy.

As a cost effective, clean and sustainable source of energy, we’re hoping investment in wind farms will be taken up more widely in the move away from fossil fuels, as the early adopters among our customer base introduce the solution to their wider networks.

Working with our communities for the good of our planet

In 2015, our partners at the Oglesby Charitable Trust (OCT) made an initial funding commitment to a new environmental project in India, also supported by Aston University, and later to become known as A2P Energy, which sought to tackle issues related to open field straw burning in India. The practice contributes to widespread problems with air quality in the Punjab which mean that simply breathing in Delhi during the winter is like smoking 50 cigarettes a day.

From objectives set by the OCT, a pyroformer was developed to convert agricultural waste into pyrolysis-oil and bio-char for use in soil improvement, as cooking fuel, and in the generation of energy. The A2P team also engineered the transformation of unwieldy straw harvests into robust concentrated pellets, which are now being used as a bio-sustainable fuel source, at scale, as well as creating feedstock and bio-char for improving soil quality and harvest. 

Today, A2P Energy is said to be the first company in India to commercialise products made out of 100% rice stubble and in 2019/2020, the actions of the organisation resulted in the avoidance of 700 acres being burnt, the conservation of 2m kgs of CO2 and the replacement of 1,190 tonnes of fossil fuel. 

A2P was also selected by the United Nations Development Programme as one of the top three companies in India working to combat Air Pollution.

Bringing our colleagues and customers with us

Of course, we recognise that, for real change to happen, everyone needs to be part of the journey; and that’s where our colleagues and customers come in.

As part of our customer effort, Manchester Science Park now uses composters to create super tasty produce for our community, fueled by refuse from our customer Aztec Farms

Taking space on the park in 2021, Aztec Farmaims to supply the people of Manchester with fresh, local and environmentally-friendly produce. Soon after becoming a Bruntwood customer, they launched their pilot vertical farm and quickly began supplying the cafes and restaurants of Manchester with the highest quality microgreens and leafy veg. The waste product of urban farms is ideal for producing the most nutritious compost, and Aztec Farms use coconut coir made from the fibres of coconuts to grow their greens, producing a rich organic waste product from each crop. 

Using our customers’ refuse in this way is an incredible way to build a healthier, happier, more sustainable city. 

At the same time, our colleagues recently made a series of ‘sustainability pledges’, promising small changes in their daily lives to make a big impact in tackling climate change.  We believe that effecting cultural shifts in this way will put us in a stronger position in the collective move to net zero. We’ll be sharing some of the pledges made in another post later today… Stay tuned to our Instagram page for more!

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