October 6, 2008

City Should Power Own Revolution


THE bold new city blueprint drawn up by prizewinning designers Jerde is awash with green.

Designs revealed by the Coventry Telegraph show a New York-style city centre park, private gardens and a ream of tiered green spaces on shop roofs.

The Los Angeles-based architects say the grass roofs will help to soak up rainwater, attract wildlife and bring down the temperature of the concrete jungle.

But sustainability, they claim, is a bigger issue than simply investing in green technologies.

Jerde's Stuart Berriman said: "Social and environmental aspects are as much about sustainability as environmental.

"If the economics don't work and in 20 years you've got to pull it all down, that's not sustainable.

"What's happened here is city centre living is very ghettoised and high-rise has become stigmatised.

"By bringing a mix of people into the centre you get people extending their time in the city beyond 5pm.

People take ownership and stewardship of it."

But he agrees that a low-carbon Coventry will also need new technologies, such as an electric or hydrogenpowered city centre shuttle and buildings made with smart glass, allowing in the sun's light while blocking hot infra-red rays.

At Warwick University's Low Carbon City conference later this month, Tony McNally wants to explore how those technologies can be designed and manufactured in Coventry.

Tony, managing director of Coventrybased Climate Change Solutions, said: "We've got to inspire a younger generation to see the future not in leaving Coventry but having a sustainable city with employment and a better environment.

This is a city that rose from the ashes. We've got resources and capability and innovation."

And Tony isn't put off by doubters who think the plans are pie- in-the-sky.

He said: "You always get people saying it won't work and that's when you know you're on to a good thing. It's the cry that down the ages has sought to frustrate and undermine regeneration.

"But all of these technologies - hydrogen, wind, geothermal and solar - already exist."

Here, Tony talks us through the systems that could make Coventry a lowcarbon smart city.


INSTEAD of using the National Grid's power stations, that waste much of the heat they create by sending steam pouring out of cooling towers, Tony wants Coventry to have its own combined heat and power (CHP) plant that uses the heat by-product to supplylocal homes.

He said: "A power station loses nearly 50 per cent of the oil or gas in converting it into energy. So the consumer is paying not only for the 50 per cent of energy they're using but for the 50 per cent they're not using.

"Instead, we could have combined heat and power, or tri- generation - combined heat, power and cooling.

Warwick University already has it.

"(Power company) E.On has an obligation that 10 per cent of its energy comes from renewable sources by 2010 and 20 per cent by 2020. To satisfy that, it could make an investment in a city centre just as easily as in a wind farm in the Outer Hebrides."


GAS guzzlers on the city's streets would gradually be replaced by electric and hydrogen vehicles, from Coventry's specialist designers Modec and Microcab.

While it might sound like something out of a sci-fi film, Tony reckons the vehicles of the future will be self-driving, working in the same way as cruise control by sensing objects around them.

He said: "As a smart city we would have buses, trains and cars moving from A to B without human interaction.

Smart cars have to have a driver at the moment for health and safety reasons, but at the critical times of take-off and landing most planes go on to autopilot.

"We've got people who used to work in car factories and in aerospace producing all sorts of gizmos. And we've also got the universities."


COVENTRY'S lampposts could carry elegant vertical turbines, designed for use in the city, while its high-rise towers could generate solar energy, while even the canal could play a part.

Tony said: "This is the most costly thing right now, but the price of renewables is coming down globally.

"Every lamppost in Coventry should have a vertical wind turbine on it.

"Under the eaves of buildings, microturbines could capture the turbulence that comes up from a combination of the wind and the heat generated at a lower level.

"All the glass you see in the buildings on the city plans could be a generator of energy. And we have an endless supply of energy below our feet coming from the bowels of the Earth.

"Every one of our buildings could be supplied by geothermal technology.

Coventry firm Geothermal International is a market leader.

"We can capture the rain on our roofs and stop flooding, but we can also put in pipes so that when the storm water comes down it hits a mini-turbine, generating energy.

"Severn Trent has the technology to put in microturbines, so the flow of the River Sherbourne can do the same. Every lock on the canal could have a microturbine."

(c) 2008 Coventry Evening Telegraph. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.