Nottingham – on yer bike!

At long last Nottingham is to get some Boris bikes. A feature of London these bikes can be hired for a short time and are intended to relieve congestion.

Nottingham is to join the trend. We now have two racks set up – with 15 to follow by the end of the year. The scheme has cost £350,000 and has been fully funded by the Department of Transport. The bikes will be free to hire if you have a Kangaroo card, but otherwise £2 for the day. They have been liveried in black and green. Lincoln Green I am hoping!

We aren’t going to get the electric charging points like the London bikes, just locks and locations where we hope the bikes will find their way back to!

It is expected to cost £50,000 each year to run.

City councillor Jane Urquhart said at the launch: “One of Nottingham’s strengths is that it is a relatively compact city, which makes getting around by bike very easy.”

I think it’s a great idea. I have always fancied using the Boris bikes in London, but wearing a suit and carrying a case precludes it for me I’m afraid. The same problem will happen in Nottingham I suspect. Although in the summer it all sounds quite tempting. I’m not sure yet whether there will be a rack of bikes near my office – I hope so!

My only worry is whether they will go walkabouts. I haven’t yet seen how the Council are going to clamp down on theft – but assuming they have a way. This initiative is good for us as a City. It’s very green and makes us look more cosmopolitan! Great news then.

Shanghai – the facts

Shanghai is a difficult place to describe. It’s big, brash and noisy – it demands that you pay attention! I have had a couple of days to reflect on what I saw this time. And what I learned.

Although a couple of weeks ago was my second trip it takes you a while to adjust and comprehend the place. But to put some things in context:

* 21 million people live in Shanghai – 1.3 billion in China as a whole.
* GDP growth in China has been 11.2% on average for the period 2006-2010 – the Government target is 7% over the next 5 years.
* China is now the Worlds second largest economy (the US is still the largest)
* The UK imports £24bn each year but only exports £7bn – the UK Government want this to equalise.
* Inflation is running at 4.9%
* By 2015 half of the Worlds building will be taking place in Shanghai.
* 400 new Cities are being built and their average size will be the size of Birmingham!
* 15 million people are moving away from the Countryside to the Cities each year – by 2020 900m people will live in Cities.
* China was the largest producer of CO2 in the World in 2020

It is quite difficult to comprehend the sheer scale of what is going on here. I find it hard to explain in words – even looking at some of the brochures I brought back don’t really explain it. We just don’t see ‘development’ like this here in the UK. I’m not sure it is happening anywhere else in the World in this manner.

So is it good?

One of the speakers at the Conference I attended was quite damning – he raised the issues of corruption – there are four or five construction companies doing all of the work. Someone is getting very rich.

Then there is the ‘green’ aspect – and you can’t help but wonder if there is lip service being paid to the issues. On more than one occasion I heard stories about the ‘green features and standards being designed in, but not bult in. The latter simply because there is so much going on it cannot be all checked.

But my real issue is that when you peel back behind the veneer some of these buildings are not actually very good. Whilst we might develop buildings for 65-80 years, I am not convinced that the stuff being thrown up is at that standard. I wonder if they will last 20-25 years! I will return to this point again I think….

How can you see renewable energy savings?

I blogged some time ago about my mate Ben Randal and his display system for showing real-time carbon use in buildings. I have the system in a couple of the buildings we manage.

But the system has moved on a stage and a new product has been launched, which looks equally good and will be installed at No.1 Nottingham Science Park shortly (when the new photo voltaic cells have been installed on the roof). It is also to be installed at The University of Derby to show staff and students the impact of their wind-turbines. It’s called telewatts and you can see a demonstration of the system here.

I think this is another great product from Ben and his team. It shows in real-time and in easy to understand animations how much energy is being generated by the building – from renewable sources. So it can read outputs from wind turbines or photo-voltaics. Or indeed other forms of renewable energy sources.

I loved Ben’s original product – as I thought it gave us a chance of changing behaviour. It made building users engage in a simple and graphical way. You will never get people to get excited about spreadsheets showing savings (with the possible exception of Accountants?). But they may take notice of really cool display information – that is based in real time.

I think this sort of initiative is going to be really important in the future. So I love the new displays too and can’t wait to see them in the buildings we manage.

Growing Old Disgracefully…lots of us!

I think this is the maxim for later life. And according to some new statistics 2 million people who are now 50 will reach the age of 100.

Thats a lot of people behaving badly!

Coupled with this is that sometime during 2011 the population of the world is expected to hit 7 billion people. In context the population in 1960 was 3 billion. By 2045, on current estimates, there will be 9 billion people sharing the planet.

So, were getting older and there’s going to be an awful lot more of us.

The question that is exercising some people is can the the human population be sustained on the planet?

I think that the answer is a guarded yes.

But the way in which we live and consume will need to change. If we are going to live to 100, we are unlikely to be able to make sufficient money in our (short) working lives to live on for a 35 year retirement (Assuming we get jobs aged 24/5 and retire at 65). 40 years of work to pay for 35 years of retirement doesn’t add up.

It’s no wonder the Government have scrapped the ‘default retirement age’.

We aren’t going to be able to consume in the same way either – particularly in our use of fossil fuels. We will need to kerb our carbon emissions to avoid mass global warming. Our insatiable appetite for consumer goods will challenge our natural resources.

But the reason I don’t see armageddon is that we have been pretty good at adapting – that’s what we humans do best. The population of the world in 1930 was 2 billion and scholarly folk at that time were concerned about population growth.

But the key word is adaptation – we need to radically think about our impact on the world we live in. Unfortunately we need to do this soon – as this stuff is all likely to happen in our lifetimes…

The impact of HS2 on Nottingham…

I blogged last week about the talk I gave at the Institute of Civil Engineers and Institute of Directors. I had been asked to give a view about the impact a new High Speed Two train line might have on the East Midlands. I interpreted this a bit narrower to Nottingham – because I think this is where the stop should be. My logic is that if the had asked someone from my Derby or Leicester office they would have had a different view!

Japan have had HST since 1964!

My start point was really to put Nottingham in its place! Yes we are at the centre of the UK and are regarded (by me at least) as being at the heart of the Midlands. But we are still very reliant in business terms on London. We have some great statistics – although these are becoming a little ‘so what’?

15 million people in a 50 mile radius.

I think Leicester and Derby (and a few others) can claim the same.

Our connectivity to London is important and at the moment the fastest journey time by train is 1:43. The car is supposed to be 2:29 – but I have my doubts!

We are still a great City – but we have competition from Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham – predominantly due to their larger populations – especially in their ‘Greater’ areas. (Of course we are not supposed to refer to Greater Nottingham according to Councillor Kay Cutts).

I looked at the reasons why people would come to Nottingham – and concluded we had a good (but not great) property offer, a fantastic workforce, good communication and travel solutions. But we are struggling to keep pace in travel terms – the evidence in London is that traffic has now reached the dizzy heights of 10mph average speed – the same as 100 years ago!

Travel has an opportunity to contribute hugely to carbon reduction. As an example a train journey from London to Paris uses 91% less carbon when compared to flying – and there’s little difference in the time.

I was asked to comment on values – and my view is that it can only help. There was some evidence that over and above the market shift house prices around Nottingham tram stops increased by around 10% after the opening of the Nottingham Tram. The electrification of the East Coast Main Line 25 years ago had a significant impact on values in Peterborough.

My conclusion was that a new Train station on the new HS2 line could do nothing but good for Nottingham. It would raise our profile. It would probably kick-start some stalled development. It is a more ‘green’ way of travelling and our kids and their kids will be much more savvy to this than we are!

All in all – it would, in my view, be great for Nottingham.

A big “green” impact

It goes without saying that the green agenda is massive. And no more so than in my particular industry – which it is clear can make a huge impact.

Last week I had a brief tour of the eco-houses at Nottingham University.

These have been built over a period of time and are now at ‘zero-carbon’ standard. One of the houses is Code 6 which represents the highest current standard that we can build to. But my real interest was in the E-On House which was built to replicate a 1930′s house – complete with brick walls, tiled roof and single glazed windows. It is a real-life experiment and phase one is complete – where a family lived in the house for a year. Phase two is now to carry out works to the house to retro-fit ‘green technologies’ to get to a zero-carbon standard. Another family will move in and they too will be monitored. This is to measure the effectiveness of the new technologies.

Housing accounts for around 30% of the UK’s carbon emissions each year so this is a massive potential market.

There are 21.5m homes in England according to the latest English Housing Survey published last week. And we are building new stock at between 100,000 and 150,000 units a year (depending on the state of the market). So even if all new housing were at ‘zero-carbon’ it’s not difficult to see that we are only scratching the surface of the carbon output!

The work being done at the University is therefore critical to finding how best we can improve the ‘older’ housing stock. Some of the measures are simple (fitting better insulation to lofts?) and others are more complex and costly (installing photo-voltaic cells).

Whichever route we go down – these changes could make a significant difference – and fundamentally save money….

Very clever lights

One of my tenants at Nottingham Science Park is LED in Light – a leading edge developer of LED light technology. LED lights have just started to appear in the trade press.

An LED light - photo courtesy of Gophi

It is amazing to think that light accounts for nearly 20% of the worlds energy. So any savings we can make have the potential to make a real difference in energy use across the globe.

LED lighting has come on a long way and I saw a working lamp last week – for the first time. The output was incredible from such a tiny diode. The advantages are immediately obvious – an 80% reduction in energy required to emit the same light. A ten year (estimated) life. They also run cool. And they are infinitely dimmable from 0%-100%.

They are also tiny – from approx. 5mm across – so they can be fitted into very small spaces.

Perhaps it is still early days and we still need some long-term data, but these alternative light sources look to be a positive story. They tend to dim over time rather than burn out like other bulbs.

They are a little expensive at the moment – as is often the case with new technology. Other forms of lighting in large areas may still have the edge in terms of coverage. But I can see from the example I saw that in smaller spaces – corridors and the like, these units might well be able to contribute to energy saving. That they can also be coloured and dimmed adds a range of features that could make them ‘killer apps‘.

It is really good to see a locally based company at the forefront of this technology!

The World Cup is not green?

The obvious answer is that the FIFA cup is actually 18ct Gold. Like in the Spandau Ballet song. But It wasn’t originally – the Jules Rimet cup was Gold plated.

But I digress – the world cup most definitely isn’t green. According to research done by the Norwegian Embassy and the South African Government – the amount of of CO2 emitted during the competition will be a staggering 2,753,251 tones of CO2. That’s about the same as a million cars in a year! Or six times the amount emitted during the last World Cup in Germany!

The make up is travel prediominantly – for both participants and spectators. But you also need to add in the accommodation energy use, the stadia construction and subsequent stadia energy use.

As The Guardian put it – the amount is the equivalent of 6,000 space shuttle flights or 20 hamburgers for every man, woman and child in the UK.

Perhaps the 2018 (and ideally the 2014) event need to have a much keener eye on the green credentials? Certainly the England bid has a green agenda – as has been widely publicised.

Although we can introduce ‘green’ buildings and stadia, transport will still be a major issue. Local, public transport is all well and good, but for fans who travel all over the world to see their team, it’s difficult to see how this element can be mitigated!

Unlike the Spandau Ballet song – we’re not indestructible…

[I realise I have gone all green and this will worry some people. Don't worry - normal service will be resumed shortly...]

Education wins!

I spent an evening last week as a guest of Lisa Pilkington of the Estates Gazette at the RICS east midlands dinner at The Belfry Hotel in Nottingham.

The Roundhouse in Derby

This was essentially an awards ceremony – celebrating great buildings in the region. The event was hosted by Lucy Kite and she announced winners:

The Building Conservation Award – Stoke Rochford Hall (refurbished after damage by fire)
Community Benefit Award – The Leicester Grammar School
Regeneration Award – The Roundhouse at Derby College
The Sustainability Award – The Branston Food Factory

These were the sector winners – but one goes forward to the national finals – and this was The Roundhouse.

It is a great building – which comprises a refurbished circular building (the clue was in the name) and a new teaching block. The original building was a rail shed built in 1839 – home to steam engines at one time. The scheme cost £43m – and was one that managed to get ahead of the LSC funding debacle. It is dedicated to vocational and Btec courses such as ICT, Construction, Engineering, Hair & Beauty, Art & Design & Catering & Hospitality. As part of the Hair & Beauty faculty, the Roundhouse incorporates the fully featured Sensi hairdressing salon.

It was a deserved winner.

It is good to see a Further Education College winning an award and having a really good campus. It is a pity so many colleges missed out. This was the second education building which had award winning status as I blogged about yesterday! I am sure NTU will be on the prize podium next year….

Deja Vu part 2!

I blogged last year about my return to Nottingham Trent University to have a look around the Arkwright and Newton buildings – they were reaching the final stage of their refurbishment.

The newly created space at NTU

This week I went to one of the official opening evenings.

The £92m scheme is now complete – and it looks amazing. Hopkins Architects have done a great job in retaining the essence of two architecturally important buildings whilst connecting them with a modern piece of architecture. This really is the centrepiece of the University and the facilities are second to none. This is both in terms of teaching space, but also the newly created Nottingham Conference Centre.

It was interesting to hear some of the historical context of the buildings – D H Lawrence studied at the University College Nottingham (as Arkwright was then known). My old lecturer Paul Collins went dewey eyed when he remembered the old urinals – and the fact that David Herbert had once peed in the very same place. I wasn’t sure where it was headed, but he held it together I think – just. I think the Collins facial hair may have permeated his brain. Or he was being sponsored by Flomax

I was also amused about some of the opposition when the scheme was put before the statutory consultees. One organisation were concerned about the loss of the rows of lockers in Newton building. I miss them too – I used to lean up against them …

But the real story (apart from the quality of the space) was the green roof – 30,000 sq ft of it. This has helped the University achieve the no.1 spot in the Green League of Universities in England and Wales.

It is a great regeneration project – which deserves all the accolades it will surely get. It’s a great advert for Nottingham – on the world stage.