The low-carbon design of buildings can also go hand in hand with features that help mitigate existing impacts of climate change, such as high temperatures and heavy rainfall. Green roofs and walls – which sequester carbon dioxide and reduce air pollution – also help insulate buildings, reduce energy demand, as well as absorb stormwater, reducing the risk of flooding. .
Improving the energy efficiency of buildings is vital. This means designing to reduce the amount of energy required to heat, cool and light them. Robust insulation plays a big role, as do airtight windows and doors, LED lighting, minimized glazing, and carefully planned orientation.
The way we obtain and use our energy depletes natural resources and emits GHGs. Heating, for example, accounts for over a third of UK GHG emissions. But the transition from burning coal and gas to renewable, low-carbon energy sources – like solar, hydropower, wind and geothermal power – has already started.
Local energy can also significantly reduce emissions. Instead of relying on gas or electricity grids, with electricity produced at stations outside London, energy is produced and supplied locally, for example through solar panels or district heating networks.
District heating – in which heat is produced in a centralized location and distributed locally through an insulated pipe system – can use fossil fuels, but increasingly uses renewable, low-carbon sources. London, at the last count in 2013, had 920 district heating networks – and more are being developed.
The transition to local energy grids often requires having energy centers in the city. The new Bunhill 2 energy center in Islington expands an existing district heating network. Created on the site of a Tube ventilation shaft, it uses residual heat from the Northern Line to permanently heat the buildings in the district. Designed by Cullinan Studio, it stands out with a coppery metal exterior with intricate patterns. Another district heating network center, the Greenwich Peninsula Low-Carbon Energy Center, is also celebrated in the cityscape, with an eye-catching geometric silver chimney tower designed by British artist Conrad Shawcross.