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.




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