Catalysts For Sustainable Neighbourhood Development: Our Model For Developers and Investors
Sophie Walker, Director, Upstream Sustainability Services, Jones Lang LaSalle, London
The other day, a friend and I were discussing our sustainability "stories". Our personal elevator pitches. What was interesting was the commonality: for both of us these stories involved moving from one neighbourhood to another neighbourhood in our childhoods, and viscerally feeling the difference. I distinctly remember my seven year old self moving from Germany to the UK, feeling shocked: "where are the trams?"; "why do I have to be driven to school?"; "where are the cycle paths?"; "where is the recycling?" For my friend, it was noticing social differences in different neighbourhoods in the same city – a lower quality of life felt through an absence of parks and a lack of beautiful architecture. Neither of us knew what "sustainability" meant at young ages but both of us sensed the impact in the neighbourhoods and cities where we lived.
The global groundswell
As we move incessantly towards urbanisation, an increasing amount of the world’s population is also feeling that impact. It is almost as if there is a collective global groundswell of understanding of the challenges of, and interest in, sustainable cities and neighbourhoods. I experience this through the increase in the number of city authorities and major developers who ask Jones Lang LaSalle about this topic. I see this through the sheer number of conferences addressing the topics of Eco Cities, SMART cities, sustainable cities and low carbon cities around the world to which I am invited.
In response to this global sensibility around the importance of sustainable cities, Jones Lang LaSalle has been exploring the factors which define a sustainable city and on a smaller scale, a sustainable neighbourhood within a city. We have been working with global developers, investors, occupiers and city authorities to develop our thinking and approach, assessing the progress made by a number of city developments and regeneration projects around the world. More recently, we have been actively exploring the drivers for low carbon investment in cities through our research partnership with the CDP Cities, as discussed in this quarter’s Global Sustainability Perspective
All of this thinking has led us to create our catalysts for sustainable neighbourhood development.
Catalysts for a sustainable neighbourhood development
These catalysts are criteria which we use with developers and city authorities to ensure that neighbourhood scale developments and redevelopments are being designed to be successful and sustainable. They are built on detailed analysis of what makes a sustainable development at a large scale – and what ensures its success from master-planning to design, construction and in to operational or legacy mode. Our model is built to ensure success over at least a 20-year time horizon, and on a development scale of up to 360 acres or 1.5 million square metres. Its preeminent aim is to make sure that the aspirations follow through in to real performance improvements.
Let me bring these alive with examples of neighbourhood scale developments which we consider are demonstrating the application of these catalysts around the world.
Catalyst 1 A vision which is memorable
For a developer, embedding sustainability clearly into the vision for the neighbourhood is vital for ensuring that design and project teams understand what they are expected to achieve. Equally important is engaging with both the local community and prospective tenants during the creation of the vision.
As an example of a strong and memorable sustainability vision, Park 20|20 outside Amsterdam bills itself as "the first full service Cradle to Cradle working environment in The Netherlands". In Park 20|20 a unique level of sustainability is created together with a human centred design approach to realise the cleanest, most inspiring and productive working environment to date."
Catalyst 2 Engagement which influences design and enables sustainable outcomes
This catalyst recognises the importance of people and the way that they behave for driving social and environmental sustainability in a development. You can design the most aesthetically stunning public realm but if you forget to consider how the social fabric of the neighbourhood will be knitted together, then the space will become sterile and unused. Similarly, you can design in the most efficient of environmental technologies but if the users do not understand how they work, it is liable to lead to an increase in carbon emissions, rather than a decrease. A project which is tackling this head on is ProjectZero/, Sonderborg, Denmark which is running an active Citizen Participation programme including ZEROfamily, where more than 100 families learned how to save energy and water, ZEROhouse to help 18.600 private house owners to energy retrofit of their homes and a 3 month free testing programme for electric vehicles.
Catalyst 3 Leadership which thinks long-term
Positively there is an increasing number of examples of long-term thinking by leaders in city governments and in developers around the world. As examples, I would point to all the city leaders and the developers who are involved in trialling the Climate Positive Development Programme, formed by the Clinton Climate Initiative and the C40 group of cities. These worldwide cities – through specific neighbourhood developments– are aiming to demonstrate that they can grow in ways that reduce the amount of on-site CO2 emissions to below zero through efficient operations and investment in community infrastructure and onsite energy production. A participating city-scale development is Panama Pacifico, Panama:
Catalyst 4 A governance structure which works
Experience has taught me many times that it is possible to have the most innovative, exciting and aspirational sustainability vision for a neighbourhood but if you do not put in place the governance structures – during planning, design, delivery and once the neighbourhood is inhabited and tenanted – then sustainable outcomes will not be achieved. Furthermore, this governance structure must be clear to all stakeholders, enabling full engagement. One of the best approaches I have seen was taken by the London Olympics, one of the first developments in the world where an auditing body, the Commission for a Sustainable London, was involved regularly to support robust and effective sustainability delivery. On the other side of the world, in Barangaroo, Sydney, Australia, the New South Wales Government created the Barangaroo Delivery Authority to ensure project delivery in a coordinated and financially responsible manner and is very transparent about how this governance structure works.
Catalyst 5 Targets and KPIs which are meaningful
Targets and Key Performance Indicators are the backbone of any robust approach to sustainability implementation, whether it is for a local government, a corporation or a development. They should be selected to drive performance over time and potentially benchmark it against peer developments. Sonoma Mountain Village, California, USA, a $1billion redevelopment of an 81 hectare, ex industrial site, has set itself targets aligned to the One Planet Living principles including an 82% reduction in transport emissions, 65% of food for the community to come from within 300 miles and 65% reduction in use of municipal water. It reported in 2011 on how it was doing against these targets.
Catalyst 6 Transparent communication of successes and failures
The London Olympics development is a world class example of communicating progress across all development phases and as responsibility passes from different bodies. This development is also a leader in realising how important it is to share both successes and failures. For example, we know that the Olympic Delivery Authority has:
- exceeded by 17% its target to deliver 50% of materials by rail or water
- missed its target of 50% fewer carbon emissions and is instead offsetting by putting over £1m into energy efficiency for nearby homes and schools
The Learning Legacy website is a fantastic resource, with numerous case studies covering topics such as waste and resources management, biodiversity, health and inclusion, and carbon management. This high level of transparency means that the techniques, innovations and best practice can be adopted and replicated within the wider industry.
Catalyst 7 Consistent use of sustainability standards and ratings
Exemplary practice here is to take a site-wide commitment to high LEED or BREEAM Ratings on individual buildings and increasingly to use a neighbourhood rating system such as LEED for Neighbourhood Development or BREEAM Communities. 105 developments have been certified to either the pilot or 2009 version of LEED for Neighbourhood Development. Over 80% of those projects are in the US, with the remainder in Canada, China and the UK. The first major development to achieve BREEAM Communities with an Excellent Rating is Media City in Salford Quays, UK. One of the most significant neighbourhood-wide achievements here was a gas powered tri-generation plant and district network which uses water from the Manchester Ship Canal for cooling and is twice as efficient as traditional grid electricity.
Other sustainability standards are important for other development phases. In particular, as best practice, I expect the use of an integrated quality, health and safety and environmental management system by both the developer and the main contractor, ideally certified to independent standards including ISO 9001, OHSAS 18001 and ISO 14001. Use of these management systems is particularly important in emerging markets, where the local standards and expectations as set through legal codes may be lower than international best practice, and these standards can be a key tool to influence the performance of the local supply chain.
Catalyst 8 A culture of constant innovation
A fantastic example of innovation- in terms of vision, visual architecture and technology supporting this - is Gardens by the Bay in Singapore, which aims provide high-end entertainment and education, within a sustainable green infrastructure. The Gardens are being designed to enhance the image of Singapore as a 'Garden City' including two biomes representing cool dry conditions of the Mediterranean springtime and the cool moist conditions of tropical mountain regions. As Singapore has a hot humid environment, these biomes are designed to minimise energy demand to exemplar levels and are controlled with liquid desiccant systems and extraordinary "supertrees". These supertrees incorporate photo-voltaics, solar thermal panels and rainwater harvesting. Further innovations include the installation of a plant that turns horticultural residue into an active energy supply. It will displace the cost of imported utility energy and the ash streams from the biomass boiler combustion creates high grade compost and concrete aggregates. This design is moving towards a closed loop system.
For further information please contact:
Sophie Walker, Director - Energy and Sustainability Services