Sunday, 30 March 2014

Trident for a pound deal illegal

The Guardian on Saturday led its front page with story headlined Independent Scotland 'may keep pound (29 March).I am hoping that the Scottish National Party's principled opposition to the Trident nuclear WMD system will not be abandoned as part of some murky, unprincipled deal to secure currency union with the pound should Scotland vote to  go independent  in the referendum in September 
But  even if some squalid deal were attempted, it would arguably be in breach of the United Kingdom's  obligations as a co-drafter of,  and with the US and Russia a depositary state for, the 1968 nuclear nonproliferation treaty (NPT).

Article  One of the NPT reads: "Each nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly; and not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any non-nuclear-weapon State to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, or control over such weapons or explosive devices." (
Leaving Trident  nuclear armed submarines in situ at the Royal Navy dockyard at Faslane on the Clyde would  certainly be a an indirect transfer of the nuclear weapons to an (albeit newly formed) nation state recipient. Were Scotland to remain in NATO, it is open to debate how much control through NATO's joint command  Edinburgh might have over  use of such nuclear WMDs.

When the NPT was negotiated in 1966-7, in papers I uncovered at the National Archives, I found that  on 24 January 1967, a joint draft by the US/UK negotiators according to a US embassy aide-memoire, "would ban the transfer of nuclear warheads (as distinct from nuclear delivery vehicles) not only between nuclear weapons states (NWS) and non-nuclear weapons states (NNWS) but also between NWS themselves."

A secret US 'Interpretations memo', dated May 1967, subsequently stated that the NPT would thus prohibit "transfer to any recipient whatsoever 'nuclear weapons' or control over them", meaning bombs and warheads.

So, the depositary states knew exactly what they meant to prohibit under article one of their new treaty. I wonder whether the anonymous minister to whom the Guardian's chief political correspondent spoke has any idea of any of these diplomatic niceties.

But sticking to the international rules are important, as Mr Hague has been  stressing to Mr Putin over Crimea and Ukraine over the past few weeks.

Dr David Lowry is the  former director, European Proliferation Information Centre (EPIC)

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Death of Greenest Government Ever pronounced in Budget 2014

This assessment is published this week in the weekly e-bulletin for Sustainable Building
Chancellor George Osborne’s Budget 2104, presented to Parliament on Wednesday, marks the death of the “Greenest Government ever”, as he put saving energy costs for energy intensive, manufacturing industries, proposed a new garden city in Kent’s flood plain and announced paltry support of half a million pounds to assist more house construction.

Housing and planning

The Budget “Red Book”* claims that as a result of government reforms to date, planning approvals and housing starts “are at 5 year highs, and housing activity recently expanded at its fastest rate for 10 years.”

Housing supply will be assisted by £500 million Builders Finance Fund, to support SME access to finance, which ministers hope will provide loans to developers to unlock 15,000 housing units stalled due to difficulty in accessing finance.

 For people who want to build their own home, the government says it will consult on creating a new ‘Right to Build’, giving custom builders a right to a plot from councils, and a £150 million repayable fund to help provide up to 10,000 serviced plots for custom build. The government will also look to make the Help to Buy: equity loan scheme available for custom build.

Communities housing minister Kris Hopkins told Labour MP Chi Onwurah in a written answer on 19 March (Official Report, Column 601W) “ told There is growing interest in self build housing which has many advantages. It can be an affordable route to home ownership, providing home owners with the opportunity to own a bespoke and sustainably designed high quality home. It also creates significant opportunities for smaller and medium sized home builders.”

He added that “The Government supports individuals and communities who want to build their own homes. This includes identifying 12 sites for self build as part of our surplus public sector land disposal programme; making £30 million available through our Custom Build Homes fund to provide; short-term project finance for group (multi-unit) self build projects and introducing an exemption for self builders from the Community Infrastructure Levy. We will also shortly be consulting on removing small scale housing projects from having to pay costly section 106 obligations.)

The National Planning Policy Framework asks local authorities to assess the demand for people who wish to build their own homes and make provision for this in their development plans.

The government will also  establish a £150 million fund “to kick start the regeneration of large housing estates through repayable loans, helping to boost housing supply.”

The Red Book says “Bids will shortly be invited from private sector developers, working with local authorities on estates that might be able to benefit,” ands reveals that following the Autumn Statement, expressions of interest have already been made through the Greater London Authority relating to the Aylesbury Estate, Blackwall Reach and Grahame Park regeneration projects in London.

Emphasis on SE England development

 The Government will work with the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority
(GLA) to develop proposals for extending the Gospel Oak to Barking Line to Barking Riverside, and to ensure that any public investment unlocks the construction of up to 11,000 new homes, the Red Book reveals.It will also work with the GLA and the London Borough of Barnet to look at proposals for the Brent Cross regeneration scheme, “subject to value for money and affordability.”

 A New garden city?

The Budget confirmed a pre-released plan to support a new Garden City at Ebbsfleet in Nortrh Kent. Ebbsfleet has capacity for up to 15,000 new homes, based on existing brownfield land, the Red Book argues, pointing out to date, under 150 homes have been built on the largest site. The Budget announced that the Government will form a dedicated Urban Development Corporation for the area, in consultation with local MPs, councils and residents, to drive forward the creation of Ebbsfleet Garden City, and will make up to £200 million of infrastructure funding available to kick start development.

No mention is made of the sustainability of building or of green architecture SUDs and other sustainability measure, although, as I tis to be a garden city, these will by a key aspect of the development. It will represent the first new garden city since Welwyn Garden City in 1920.

The Government will also publish a prospectus, by Easter 2014, setting out how local authorities could develop their own, locally-led proposals for bringing forward new garden cities.

Reform of the planning system

The Budget announces it will review the General Permitted Development Order - based on a three-tier system to decide the appropriate level of permission -  using permitted development rights for small-scale changes, prior approval rights for development requiring consideration of specific issues, and planning permission for the largest scale development.

Building change of use

The  Budget announces ministers also plan to consult on specific change of use measures, including greater flexibilities for change to residential use, for example from warehouses and light industry structures, to allowing businesses greater flexibilities to expand facilities such as car parks and loading bays within existing boundaries, where there is little impact on local communities. It is unknown whether SUDS and permeable paving will be a requirement in such developments.

Blue energy
Extensive lobbying by the manufacturing sector have won a series of number of concessions in the Budget with package worth in total a £7bn to cut energy bills in energy intensive industries, that will put a cap on  green taxes  and  ring-fence companies from renewable energy subsidy costs, which have risen.

The carbon levy tax, the Carbon Price floor, introduced only last year by the Chancellor more than £2bn by 2018. The price floor rate was due to rise from £9.55 in April to just over £18 from 2015.

Friends of the Earth said the Budget represented a “caving in to big business lobbying on pollution tax”.

Infrastructure initiatives
The Budget announced £140m of funding to rebuild recently damaged flood defences, and in a move that will assist transport infrastructure,  also unveiled a £200m pot to repair millions potholes across Britain’s roads, experts were underwhelmed by the paucity of fresh proposals to rebuild the UK’s transport, energy and social infrastructure.

The flood protection fund complements, the Red Book argues, “the Government’s long term strategy, which in Spending Round 2013 allocated capital funding of £2.3 billion from 2015, allowing an increase in annual investment of 15% in real terms on that over the current spending period, even with the extra short-term funding allocated in this Budget.”

The government is developing a long-term plan that will direct this investment to protect the country from future flooding and will publish this in the autumn, the Red Book adds.

Business support


The Red Book says that “To further support innovative start-ups and early stage companies to invest in research and development, the government will raise the rate of the R&D tax credit payable to loss making small and medium sized companies from 11% to 14.5% from April 2014.” It adds that over the next 5 years this increase will support £1.3 billion of investment in innovation.

The Red Book also states “This Budget announces a package of reforms to

radically reduce the costs of energy policy for business – particularly in manufacturing – while improving security of supply and maintaining the government’s ambition to increase renewable generation. This package will benefit every household, business and region in the country saving a total of up to £7 billion by 2018-19. This will particularly benefit the most energy intensive manufacturers, around 80% of which are based in the North of England, Scotland and Wales.”


Tom Crotty, director of chemicals giant Ineos, said: “We have been crying out for this for some time, so it’s good to see the Government responding. The carbon floor freeze gives us some investment certainty, though not for as long as we’d like, and we’re pleased to see they’ve listened on combined heat and power plants. It’s important for the chemicals industry because we’ve all got them.”

But these measures did not finfd favour with the Renewable Energy Association, whose chief executive Nina Skorupska complained “By freezing the carbon price floor, the Chancellor is rowing back on his own policy and once again moving the goalposts for investors in green energy.”

Science investment
£19m support was announced to support research, demonstration and deployment of  the so-called wonder  material graphene, whose early research has centered on Manchester University. It has attracted academic and commercial  interest for its high-performance electrical, thermal and mechanical properties.

Mr Osborne said: “So we will establish new centres for Graphene – a great British discovery that we should break the habit of a lifetime with and commercially develop in Britain.”

The funding for research graphene will go through the Catapult network, the UK’s elite technology and innovation centres.

Political reaction

Labour leader, Ed Miliband responding to the Chancellor’s speech, said bluntly: “We needed a Budget today that would have made the long-term changes that our economy needs, in housing, banking and energy.”

Labour MP  Derek Twigg, commented: The Chancellor mentioned support for the energy-intensive manufacturing industry. To date, this has been a major failure. I have been lobbied rigorously by companies in my constituency about the Government’s failure, and I have also lobbied the Government regularly.”

Ian Swales, Liberal democrat MP for heavy-industrial heartland, Redcar, observed: “ I am pleased about the measures on energy-intensive industries. My constituency has not only a steel industry, but a large chemical complex. The employers will welcome those moves. I also welcome the moves on combined heat and power plants, which are relevant to my constituency. All those measures will help Britain to be more competitive and they are certainly needed.)

He was challenged by Green MP Caroline Lucas who said: “The Lib Dems used to pride themselves on their green policies, so I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman is equally happy that the Government are hell-bent on getting every last drop of oil out of the ground, as the Chancellor said?” Mr Swales menacing responded:”I am disappointed that, having given way to {her],  she took quite a lot of my time. I will see her outside the Chamber with the answers to those questions.”

Former Conservative trade and industry secretary, John Redwood said “I am pleased that the Chancellor made some moves on energy. …The first thing we need to do to have such a recovery is to ignore the advice of the Green MP, and to go for cheap energy.”

Another Conservative MP, David Mowat, representing the industrial area of south Warrington, said “Some 900,000 people work in energy-intensive industries in our country, and I sometimes think they are forgotten in our dialogue about energy prices. It is worth understanding that what the Chancellor has done is remove the straitjacket on costs, which would have put a great deal of those jobs at risk. ..I am surprised that a number of Opposition Members are not more exercised about this issue in general, given that they represent parts of the north-east, where there is heavy chemical manufacturing, and there are a lot of energy-intensive industries and a lot of jobs, because we cannot rebalance our economy back towards manufacturing if we have differentially high energy prices in this country.”

Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, writing in the Independent on Thursday suggested Mr Osborne's has simply returned us “to a worse model of 2006,” described the chancellor’s new policy on carbon taxes as “retrograde”, and called instead for carbon taxes to pay for the provision of energy efficiency measures to lift nine out of 10 households out of fuel poverty, create up to 200,000 jobs, and cut carbon emissions.

Carbon price floor: reform
This Tax Information and Impact Note explains the capping of the Carbon Price Support rate to £18 per tonne of carbon dioxide (t/CO2) from 2016-17 to 2019-20.


PDF, 39.7KB, 4 pages


The Carbon Price Support (CPS) rates of Climate Change Levy (CCL) apply to fossil fuels used in electricity generation that are taxed under the CCL regime (gas, solid fuels and liquefied petroleum gas). The CPS rates of fuel duty apply to oils and biofuels used in electricity generation.

The UK-only element of the carbon price floor will be capped at £18 per tonne of carbon dioxide (t/CO2) from 2016-17 to 2019-20. This will have the effect of freezing the CPS rates for each of the individual taxable commodities across this period at around 2015-16 levels.

Business Premises Renovation Allowance

This Tax Information and Impact Note explains the type of expenditure that qualifies for relief under Business Premises Renovation Allowance.


PDF, 36KB, 3 pages


Legislation will be introduced in Finance Bill 2014 to amend Part 3A of CAA 2001 to clarify the scope of the expenditure that qualifies for Business Premises Renovation Allowance.

National Infrastructure Plan: finance update

An infrastructure finance update was published alongside Budget 2014.


Ref: ISBN 978-1-909790-88-9, PU1656 PDF, 277KB, 24 pages


This update provides further information on how the economic infrastructure investment planned over the coming years is expected to be financed – defining the nature and extent of the potential investment opportunity to 2020.

Progress report on the Spending Review 2010 commitment to reduce the burden of regulation on housebuilders.


Ref: ISBN 9781409841821 PDF, 272KB, 10 pages

If you use assistive technology and need a version of this document in a more accessible format please email quoting your address, telephone number along with the title of the publication ("Spending Review 2010: housebuilder deregulation commitment: table").


In the Spending Review of 2010, the government made a commitment to reduce the burden of regulation on housebuilders. This report is an update on progress in delivering that commitment.


Monday, 24 March 2014

UK, the unintended nuclear proliferator

UK, the unintended nuclear proliferator

With the bi-annual Global Nuclear summit opening in the Hague today, ministers do not see their policies as promoting nuclear proliferation, and probably would be vociferous in rejecting this grave charge. But proliferators they are, just as ministers in the predecessor Labour Government were. It is part of the problem that under-informed ministers do not recognise the impact of their promotional policies. But they urgently need to do so.

Perhaps ministers are suffering from acute cognitive dissonance when pursuing their twin-track policies of nuclear promotion and nuclear controls. What do I mean by this?

“Social psychologists refer to cognitive dissonance as the presence of incongruent relations among cognitions (thought and understanding) that frequently results in excessive mental stress and discomfort. Ultimately, individuals who hold two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas and/or values frequently experience cognitive dissonance.”

This is a very dangerous condition for senior decision-makers when dealing with a technology that carries the twin dread-threat of a major accident and malevolent misuse by determined terrorists.

At the beginning of January at Lancaster House, the foreign Office conference venue in London, The Home Office, supported by the Atomic Weapons Establishment, Ministry of Defence and Foreign and Commonwealth Office, hosted major international gathering of concerned parties to the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, which the UK co-chairs.

In a speech opening the conference, Home Office minister James Brokenshaw, responsible for co-ordinating UK counter terrorism policy, focused on nuclear forensics can help us to tackle nuclear terrorism (“ How nuclear forensics can help us to tackle nuclear terrorism, “


He stressed that “The impact of a terrorist attack involving chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear materials would be potentially catastrophic our focus is to ensure that the UK remains a hard target for any terrorist with ambitions to use these materials against us, emphasising “  the UK’s national security is the first priority of this government.”


But the correct question at this point should be: is it really?

Mr Brokenshaw went on the claim that he thought “in framing the debate, it’s important to look at this in the wider context.” And went on to assert, without supplying any supportive evidence: “To bring this into the direct focus of nuclear terrorism, fortunately and thanks to combined efforts the likelihood of terrorists obtaining a functioning radiological or nuclear device to attack the UK is low.”

He did concede “But that doesn’t mean the risk isn’t real. It is important that we take this risk seriously and continue to ensure the UK is a hard target. .” going on to state: “The International Atomic Energy Agency’s Incident Tracking Database records incidents of radiological and nuclear materials being found outside of regulatory control – and between 1993 and 2012, the IAEA’s Trafficking Database recorded 419 incidents of unauthorised possession and criminal activity relating to radiological or nuclear material.
And the availability of nuclear material could increase as more nations adopt nuclear energy.”

He further stressed:” As we approach the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, (being attended by President Obama), we will continue to work with global partners to catalyse action on securing sensitive nuclear information.

The UK attaches great importance to the global effort around protecting sensitive nuclear information. We know that the acquisition of nuclear knowledge and know-how is as important to a would-be nuclear terrorist as the acquisition of the nuclear or radiological material itself.”

Asserting that “the importance of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism remains a key part of our fight against nuclear terrorism, he pointe dout that since joining in 2006, its mission has been “to strengthen global capacity to prevent, detect and respond to nuclear terrorism by conducting multilateral activities that strengthen the plans, policies, procedures and interoperability of partner nations.”
Today the Global Initiative is a partnership of 85 nations and four official observers - the EU, IAEA, Interpol and UNODC.

He also recalled that last year, the UK hosted the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism Symposium on the Enhanced Detection of Special Nuclear Material also at Lancaster House, which  gathered around 70 international experts from 20 partner nations and three observer organisations.

Building upon the knowledge and capabilities of the Atomic Weapons Establishment we have created a dedicated nuclear forensics analytical capability that allows the UK to investigate criminal acts involving nuclear materials.

Noting that conventional Forensics Analysis Capability can recover fingerprints, fibres, DNA and other traditional trace forensics markers from material that have been contaminated with radiological, nuclear or explosive materials, he said that the British
detection facility – opened in May 2012 – is state-of-the-art technically, and operationally a “meticulous process that enables subject matter experts to draw inferences about nuclear and radiological material.”

Stressing that that nuclear forensics is just one part of a multifaceted picture, he  asserted that  expertise in this area must be embedded and integrated into existing law enforcement and operational systems, “to provide a seamless end to end capability for managing nuclear security incidents.”

Explaining that nuclear security requires “coordinated effort from across government,” including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office leading the counter proliferation work overseas and  the Department for Energy and Climate Change, whose mission includes ensuring that a “robust security architecture exists at our civil nuclear sites.”

The Home Office also has a significant role in combatting nuclear terrorism, through its border detection system that prevents terrorists from trying to move material in the first place and catches them if they do: this is Cyclamen, which aims to detect “the illicit importation of radioactive or nuclear materials by terrorists or criminals,” and operates across the UK, 24 hours a day.

It forms a key part of our work to protect the UK and is a feature of CONTEST.
Cyclamen uses a combination of fixed and mobile equipment to screen vehicles, containers, freight and pedestrians for the presence of radioactive and nuclear material at UK points of entry.

The UK’s “enhanced detection programme” is a collaboration between the Home Office, Ministry of Defence and Cabinet Office and has a number of workstreams led by the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) that Mr Brokenshaw asserted “is making a real contribution to our plans for smarter and more capable mobile detection systems, so we can ensure that resilience.”


The problem is while the Home Office pursues various ways to minimise the dangers from, and impact of failures in nuclear security, both DECC and BIS are promoting respectively the indigenous development of a new nuclear programme and attendant plutonium-based nuclear fuel cycle, and the export of  nuclear  explosive materials in new nuclear fuels.


 In doing so they are following a strategy initiated by the predecessor Labour Government, which in  the summer of 2009 published a document which, while claiming to “lay out a credible road map to further disarmament”, also proposed increasing the civilian nuclear trade across the world. (Cabinet Office  [2009]. Road to 2010: Addressing the Nuclear Question in the Twenty First Century


A year ago, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills ( BIS)  published a suite of documents  supporting the expansion of civil nuclear power in the UK and the nuclear export trade abroad. One key document  was:  Nuclear Energy Research and Development Roadmap: Future Pathways (


This 128 -page document clearly stated in its introduction:

 The potential growth of the nuclear sector in the UK will not be driven by technology alone. A complex mix of Government policy, relative cost of nuclear power, market decisions and public opinion will influence the rate and direction of growth in the decades to come. It is this level of unpredictability that obliges Government to keep a wide range of technological options open for the future and therefore to maintain an agile and flexible Research and Development (R&D) capability.”


It states somewhat incredibly:


“This document assesses the needs and opportunities for nuclear energy R&D in the UK in the context of new build of nuclear generation capacity to levels required in a range of scenarios that Government considers plausible. It sets out future R&D pathways that encompass the full range of technologies and capabilities considered capable of delivering a nuclear contribution to electricity generation capacity of up to 75 gigawatts (GW) by around the middle of the 21st century.” (emphasis added) This scenario, it states, models 75 GW of nuclear power electricity generating capacity by the year 2050 and is equivalent to approximately seven times the current level of installed nuclear power capacity. (emphasis added)

 The perfect pro-proliferation model for would-be proliferators.

In early January, the respected Washington DC-based Nuclear Threat Initiative ( published its latest annual report. The NTI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a mission to strengthen global security by reducing the risk of use and preventing the spread of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and to work to build the trust, transparency, and security that are preconditions to the ultimate fulfillment of the Non-Proliferation Treaty’s goals and ambitions.

NTI published a table in its new report that ought to set the alarm bells ringing in DECC and across Whitehall, in its placing the UK bottom in terms of its nuclear materials  security provisions of the 25 countries NTI identified as having the nuclear materials and technologies capable of  making nuclear nuclear WMDs.

That should worry ministers. Instead, they are on a fix to promote proliferation. That way insanity and disaster lies.
David Lowry is a  former director, European Proliferation Information Centre (EPIC)

Monday, 17 March 2014

Getting the "f" out of refuse, and other sustainable living ideas

I wrote this letter to London's daily paper, the Evening Standard, on 6 March. they have declined to publish it.
I was disappointed - and mystified -  why London’s only daily newspaper  as failed to cover the important and exciting Ecobuild 2014 exhibition, specialist seminars and conference that has  attracted  fifty thousand  visitors to the ExCel Centre in Docklands this week, especially as the Evening Standard carries its always  interesting weekly Homes & Property section every Wednesday.
The top 30 clients attending last year's Ecobuild represented a project value of  £27 billion, massively important to London’s economy.

This year I heard many challenging presentations and saw dozens of product demonstrations on making buildings and communities more resilient to wilder weather, such as flooding and longer heat waves.
There were also splendid presentations on reusing building materials and household objects like tables, cupboards and white goods. Richard Featherstone of London Reuse Ltd showed how his company is working with Wandsworth borough and others across London in the capital's Re-use Network to reduce the waste going to landfill, refurbishing and repairing goods that otherwise would be thrown away, to make them availableat affordable cost to London’s hard pressed, low income families.

As he said: we have to get the  ”f” out of refuse!

Richard Featherstone- Master of Waste!

Richard Featherstone, Development Manager at London Re-use, has been named as one of the Masters of Waste in Resource magazine’s Hot 100 list.

Richard jumped to 29th this year from 96th last year, which he attributes to the work of London Re-use during the years in pushing furniture re-use from fringe to a core activity.

“It is good to see re-use experts represented in the UK hot 100” he insisted. “We, at London Re-use, are working towards re-use becoming mainstream in waste management rather than an optional extra. In the next two years we are going to see the increasing importance of saving re-usable household products from the waste stream to supply the growing social need in the event of a shrinking Social Fund.

“I’m holding firm to LRN’s vision of London as a city where re-use is easy, popular and normal. A city which maximises the economic, environmental and community benefits of re-use with an unrivalled infrastructure which becomes an international model for re-use.” Featherstone added.

In Resource magazine Featherstone, life president of the Furniture Re-use Network, is credited: “For his outstanding commitment and dedication to re-use. Richard has been, and still is, a pioneer of re-use in London and deserves recognition.”

One of of the most fascinating presentations came from the Urban Water Research Group at Imperial College. Its leader, Professor Maksimovic, unveiled  his vision of the Blue-Green Dream for re-engineering London, to minimize the impact of future flooding with  an innovative and integrated use of vegetation (tree cover for shade and to absorb rainfall, water system management, including all London’s rivers, and land, along with smarter landscape architecture and building planning.
He made the point that we have to stop paving or concreting over gardens for ca-parking, as London is losing the equivalent of 25 Hyde Parks every ten years - a staggering loss of green space and building up urban flooding  problems.

Climate-KIC project: How to build cooler, healthier and cheaper cities



Learn more about the Blue Green Dream project, which brings together urban planners, landscape architects and water experts to build better cities, bring down costs and make urban areas more attractive

Around the globe, climate change is starting to have a major impact on city life through rising temperatures, an increase in the risk of floods and droughts and a drop in property values. To find out how urban planners, landscape architects and water experts can work together to sustainably bring down city temperatures, fight water shortages, protect homes and businesses from damage by flooding – and increase biodiversity and save money in the process – Climate-KIC has launched the Blue Green Dream project.“Green roofs used to be really popular – but it turns out that many of them are now fire hazards due to dehydration,” says Čedo Maksimović, head of the Blue Green Dream project on behalf of Climate-KIC. According to Maksimović, the capture, storage and reuse of rainwater can keep green roofs hydrated, reduce urban flooding and function as natural air-conditioning through evaporation.

The Blue Green Dream project highlights the multiple benefits that could be gained, such as air quality, noise dampening, public health and aesthetic improvements by better integrating water (Blue) and vegetated (Green) infrastructures. “We want people to see trees and plants as more than just something pretty to look at, and cities as sources of water not just consumers of water,” said Maksimović, who is Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Imperial College London, where he heads the Urban Water Research Group.

Natural cooling

 Čedo Maksimović, head of the Blue Green Dream project on behalf of Climate-KIC

Maksimović points to the natural cooling effect of trees and other vegetation in particular as a potential revolution in urban planning, which would see smart irrigation channels distribute rainwater to trees in order to stimulate evaporation and reduce flooding. “Most city trees get fed exactly enough water to survive – if that. By changing that we estimate we can bring down local temperatures by as much as three degrees Celsius,” Maksimović said.

No small feat if you take into account that high urban temperatures can claim unnecessary lives. On a hot summer’s day, the temperature in a city like London can be six degrees higher than its rural surroundings, Maksimović pointed out, stressing that up to 50.000 Europeans are estimated to have died in the 2003 heat wave – a situation where every degree counts.

Maksimović said redeveloping urban areas to be cooler, greener and safer could not only save lives and costs, but also increase property values.

Sainsbury’s funds PhD postion

The Blue Green Dream project combines the strengths of a number of Climate-KIC partners, including Imperial College London, Corporation for London and the Institute of Sustainability in the UK, Delft Technical University, Deltares, Alterra, Bosch Slabbers and Arcadis in the Netherlands, TU Berlin in Germany and École des Ponts ParisTech and Veolia Environnement in France.

The latest partner to come on board is UK supermarket giant Sainsbury’s, which has decided to fund a €120.000 PhD position on the project. UK based AECOM and ICCI Ltd, as well as the Ingenieurgesellschaft Prof. Dr. Sieker GmbH in Germany are also contributing direct support to the project.

The Blue Green Dream project, which kicked-off last summer, has set up demonstration and research sites in a number of European cities. “It is important to demonstrate that these technologies work, and to document the impact so we have a clear picture of how much energy – and costs – can be saved,” Maksimović says.

Demonstration sites

The roof of the former Tempelhof Airport’s main building in Berlin – famous for having the third biggest single roof in the world, knows Maksimović  – is currently being transformed to capture and reuse rainwater. Local Climate-KIC researchers, attached to the Technical University in Berlin and the Sieker Ingenieurgesellschaft, will demonstrate how much energy can be recovered from Berlin’s wastewater sewer, and how much water can be saved.Tempelhof

A section of the old Rotterdam harbour in the Netherlands is currently being redeveloped into a residential area, with a Climate-KIC team based at Delft Technical University working with urban planners to maximise the reuse of rainwater, excess heat and natural cooling.

In Paris, Climate-KIC scientists from the ParisTech university group have redeveloped a number of “Blue green” roofs, Maksimović explains, to demonstrate and research the water capture and reuse capability of roofs that otherwise dump free rain water straight into the city’s sewer.

In the UK, Climate-KIC researchers based at Imperial College London work with Sainsbury’s to decrease noise pollution from large delivery trucks and look into the use of green walls and plants to reduce the amount of noise reaching nearby residential properties.

UK Climate-KIC researchers are also involved in talks about the redevelopment of the Aberfeldy New Village social housing project, located in East London. The researchers are looking into reusing excess heat produced by servers and cooling units in a nearby data centre. “Companies like Sainsbury’s have a lot of heat producing cooling equipment such as fridges and freezers,” said Maksimović, “they are keen to find out how they can bring down costs by reusing that heat.”

Become involved

While Climate-KIC has provided the project with a €3 million grant, additional funding is expected to be generated through collaboration with businesses and governments. The project is initially scheduled to for four years, but might be extended, and spun-out as a consulting programme, providing training material and expertise to corporations and local governments trying to bring down their energy costs.

New research and demonstration sites are currently planned around the world, with final stage negotiations under way with Singapore’s government about the use of the Gardens by the Bay site – an energy self-sufficient Gardens by the Bayshow-garden currently primarily in use as outdoor recreation space – as a research site for Climate-KIC scientists.

Government officials in the UK have also expressed interest, with London facing major EU fines for the poor water quality of the river Thames due to frequent sewer overflows. “A quick solution would be to immediately start integrating blue green solutions across the city to take the pressure off the sewer and drainage systems,” said Maksimović, pointing out that similar solutions have already been implemented in cities like Philadelphia, Portland and Melbourne. “From a city wide perspective, blue green solutions are unavoidable,” he said, referring to the on-going discussion about a “super sewer” under the Thames.

Want to become involved in the Blue Green Dream project as an organisation, business, planner or researcher? Contact Professor Čedo Maksimović at or call +44 (0) 20 7594 6013 or visit the project website at


Climate-KIC is a world class European network, consisting of dynamic companies, the best academic institutions and the public sector. Integrating education, entrepreneurship and innovation, Climate-KIC produces a creative transformation of knowledge and ideas into economically viable products and services that help to mitigate climate change.

As one of the EU’s three Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) designated in 2010 by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), it is Climate-KIC’s core purpose is to create opportunities for innovators to address climate change and shape the world’s next economy.

By Peter Koekoek, Climate-KIC Communications Team

Evening Standard readers should know about such positive sustainable projects. Unfortunately, it editor is not interested.