Time for the green shed

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There comes a time in every build project where a developer will think to himself or herself: “If only I could set my own building regs.” Those regulations came about to put a brake on shoddy practice. Now, saving the environment has become almost as much of a sacred cow to the government as the health and safety issues that led to the building regs.

We are entering an era of stringent standards, one in which builders will be required to account for carbon emissions and other environmental impacts of their projects. But these regulators are the first to admit that they don’t have all the answers.

There is a dearth of hard data quantifying the costs and benefits of individual environmental technologies and features that can be incorporated into the design of industrial facilities.

ProLogis wants to be able to offer its customers reasons why they should accept these environmentally-friendly measures. ProLogis has embarked on a new programme that we hope will contribute to the industry in this regard. Advantage West Midlands recently selected us to develop what will become the 64-acre ProLogis Park Sideway in Stoke-on-Trent. The former colliery is currently undergoing a clean-up. It will ultimately comprise 500,000 sq ft of industrial space and another 110,000 sq ft for small and medium-sized businesses.

AWM gave sustainability as the main criteria for the competition. We delivered a plan that proposes buildings which will reduce carbon emissions from normal standards by 32 per cent (I expect that figure to be higher in practice) and which are net producers of energy. Our plan met AWM’s aims and kept the scheme economically viable, delivering a strong return to investors.

ProLogis Park Sideway will serve as a test-bed for a wide array of environmental technologies. There will be improvements focused on the energy performance of the buildings, such as: exterior building fabrics that decrease air leakage and loss of energy; enhanced skylights that increase natural light and decrease consumption of electrical power; and high-efficiency lighting. While increased energy performance will be a mandatory requirement of the new building regulations, which are coming into effect in 2006, these improvements represent even bigger gains for our occupiers in the reduction of energy consumption.

In addition, the project will include: renewable energy systems; such as roof-mounted solar panels; heat-absorbent solar walls that virtually eliminate the need for conventional space heating; and solar thermal hot water systems. ProLogis will also be looking at the feasibility of wind turbines on the site.

Finally, the Sideway development plan will also be designed to create a comfortable working environment for employees and to integrate the property into the fabric of the local community. We will develop a comprehensive “green transport plan” that includes links to mass transit, cycle paths and pedestrian walkways. There will be shower facilities to encourage cycling to work, a free electric shuttle to key nearby locations and an Internet-based car-pooling programme. Planting onsite will help offset the development’s carbon dioxide emissions and will include Black Poplar, a species which has been identified by the Staffordshire Biodiversity Action Plan as being severely under threat. Additional features will include irrigation systems that use grey water and recycled rainwater.

Sideway will be truly unique from a sustainability standpoint and will represent a new benchmark for the industry.

Most importantly, during the build process and once the scheme is up, we will be using third-party consultants to monitor and analyse the costs and benefits of the various features. We intend to make our findings public, so they can be used to enhance future decision-making.

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