Article | June 16, 2021
The global pandemic has affected fundamental aspects of everyone’s daily lives, from the way we work and learn to how we shop and socialize. The need for social distancing has brought about a number of changes to the public spaces used by all, such as one-way systems and temporary hand-sanitizing facilities. However, these measures are short-term fixes, often shoehorned into spaces that were not designed with social distancing in mind. The challenge for architects and designers as we move into a post-COVID future is to design for these new requirements in innovative and creative ways that still enable a sense of togetherness while maintaining physical distance – the new post-COVID architecture. These are three ways architecture might change as a result of the pandemic.
Article | July 13, 2021
The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) in its latest Fiscal Risks Report has forecast the cost to the UK public finances from climate change (physical risks) and the transition to net-zero (transition risks) across a range of different scenarios.
Describing the challenge, the OBR states:
There are many other policy challenges to overcome, so the path to net zero can be expected to involve many policy levers on top of carbon taxes and emissions trading schemes, including bans and other regulations, and public subsidies and investment. These will all have economic and fiscal implications of one sort or another – either directly (via taxes and spending) or indirectly (via wider economic outcomes).
Taking early action to achieve net zero would add 21% of GDP to public sector net debt by 2050, a smaller amount than that added by the Covid-19 pandemic. This amount comes from increased spending on net-zero investment, the loss of tax revenues (such as fuel duty), revenues from tax on carbon and other costs such as increased debt interest payments.
Article | August 4, 2021
In amongst the chatter about how we can 'do' infrastructure better, there's now a growing consensus that we need to improve the way we design our interventions - 'design' in the broader sense of the word, rather than the narrow sense we tend to use as engineers.
My front-end principles for better infrastructure
Over the course of my career, the following front-end principles have served well to ensure we think through, before we rush in where angels fear to tread.
Be clear about the purpose and the expected outcomes, and engage communities in decision-making through an effective communication strategy.
Prioritise the user, aiming to offer services that are modern, effective and affordable.
Seek to improve people's quality of life and support the transition to a more sustainable future, while also facilitating the functioning of the economy, enhancing productivity and accommodating growth (to the extent possible, given other competing objectives).
Extract greatest value from existing infrastructure through timely maintenance, repurposing, renewal and upgrading. Seek to remove constraints and bottlenecks.
Aim to make best use of data, automation, innovation and technology (including for future asset management), recognising the complexity and risks this may introduce.
Recognise, analyse, mitigate and manage technical, environmental and climate risks, and complete any surveys necessary to support this.
Improve governance, with robust, timely and transparent decision-making, supported by strong evidence-based planning, clear prioritisation, and best practice technical design and delivery.
Seek an appropriate funding balance between 'user pays' and general taxation which incentivises behaviours in the best long-term social, economic and environmental interests.
Complete well-evidenced business cases and risk assessments of proposed initiatives before embarking on projects, including financing proposals. Aim to allocate the risks identified to those best able to carry them.
Facilitate collaboration between the government and business to promote delivery of the broader social, economic and environmental benefits.
Clearly, there are many other issues to consider as a project develops, and the above principles may seem obvious to some, and a counsel of perfection to others, but it's surprising how many are overlooked in the rush to build.
Article | May 15, 2021
The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) has revealed the long list of sites under consideration for development of the UK’s prototype fusion energy plant.An open call for sites to host the Spherical Tokomak for Energy Production (Step) facility was opened last year and compliance check of those nominated has led to publication of the long list.
According to the UKAEA, moving fusion from research and development to design and delivery is an important part of the UK’s ambition to be a world leader in sustainable, low-carbon energy. Fusion has the potential to provide an abundant source of low-carbon energy by copying the processes that power the sun and stars. UKAEA has said that this new technology will play an important role alongside established renewable technologies such as wind and solar.Step programme director Paul Methven said: “STEP is about building on the amazing science done over decades in fusion and translating that into a real prototype power plant that paves the way for this fantastic new energy source.