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Energy Conservation and Planning - Research Findings

DescriptionThis work was commissioned to inform the current debate on the planning implications of energy conservation.
ISBN0 7480 5147 3
Official Print Publication Date
Website Publication DateDecember 29, 1998
Development Department Research Programme Research Findings No. 18 (1996)
Energy Conservation and Planning

GAIA Planning Consultants
Howard Liddell and Drew Mackie

ISBN 0-7480-5147-3Publisher the Scottish OfficePrice £5.00
This work was commissioned by The Scottish Office in 1994 to inform the current debate on the planning implications of energy conservation by identifying those aspects of development which, through the planning system, can complement other Government measures in this field and bring forward additional conservation gains. The study was to suggest practical ways in which development patterns in terms of layout, siting and location can give greater weight to energy conservation and to advise on its practical application to individual development proposals. The report expresses the Consultants' own views.
Main findings
  • development should be located with an eye to exposure, orientation, shelter and cold air flow;
  • landscape treatment should be used with landform to maximise energy benefits;
  • there should be relaxed attitudes to mixed use where activities can sit well together and reduce the need for travel;
  • decisions to retain or replace buildings should take account of the energy already embodied in their materials and construction;
  • planning authorities should take a lead in co-ordinating local energy conservation measures and partnerships;
  • The Scottish Office should consider preparing a Planning Advice Note; these issues would carry greater weight if incorporated in National Planning Policy Guidelines.
The energy conservation issue
Although energy conservation has become an essential part of the design of buildings it has not been a main consideration of physical planning and urban design, either strategically or at local level. The study aims to redress the balance and to examine this area and to present practical guidance to planning and design practitioners.
The last 100 years has seen rapid growth in towns and cities and the accompanying development of infrastructure systems, transport and energy sources. This has resulted in pressure on local cultures, road systems and energy production leading to congestion, pollution and inefficient energy use and the attendant health problems for the public.
Evidence shows that energy sources and transport and infrastructure systems based on them have allowed this growth, that the spread of energy grids has helped determine the distribution and pattern of settlements and the growth and form of energy supply has determined the settlement form. There is further evidence of the energy industry being poised to change radically within the next decade independent of the actions of planners and politicians.
Scotland is experiencing growing energy use; it is energy rich and possesses a spread of old and new energy technologies and non-renewable and renewable sources. Within this context planning can have a key role in energy conservation measures, capitalising on the spread of these resources.
The study
This study was based on a review of work done by researchers throughout the UK and fell into two interconnected parts.
  • A broad literature search encompassing British, American and European research experience was conducted and then used to identify a number of UK based researchers who were then asked to attend workshops to identify issues. Two initial workshops were held, one in Scotland and the other in England, the results being used to link key issues with those parts of the planning system that might be able to affect them.
  • From this were developed a series of ten general actions that could be taken by planners to implement aspects of energy conservation. These were presented to a workshop of Scottish practitioners including planning officers, planning consultants and representatives of The Scottish Office Reporters Unit and The Scottish Office Environment Department. This workshop was asked to rank the ten items in order of importance and to indicate how practical the ideas might be to implement.
This report is the summation of this process. It is an overview of the way that planners and the planning system can respond to the needs of energy conservation in practical operational and strategic ways. It is increasingly apparent and feasible that the conservation of energy needs to become normal practice for the profession and cannot be regarded as the concern of a specialist few involved in single buildings, technology or transport systems.
A framework for action
Energy conservation was considered a fundamental concern which the planning system can and should influence. A matrix was drawn up which identified 7 main issues (infrastructure; transport; settlement pattern; land use and activities; site layout, built form and landscape; education and perception; health) to be considered alongside the different scales of planning (strategic planning, local planning, development control, design guidance, public consultation, implementation). It incorporated the energy theme including location of energy supply sources, prioritising energy efficiency schemes and energy conservation principles and measures in local and strategic plans.
The workshop with practitioners made it clear that there was little hope of achieving practical energy conservation actions unless there was a clear statement of policy from government which would indicate that energy conservation is a legitimate concern of planning. It should be incorporated as a material consideration in plans and policies, which will receive full backing from central government and will not be routinely overturned at appeal.
The way forward
The main broad areas in which planners can make a positive contribution towards energy conservation are summarised under 3 main headings.
The physical planning process
  • Development should be located in terms of exposure, orientation, shelter and cold air flow; it should take account of densities, building forms and materials and landscape treatment and landform to maximise energy benefits.
  • There should be relaxed attitudes to mixed use of developments where activities can sit well together and reduce the need for travel.
  • There should be encouragement of schemes to reduce private vehicle use in town centres in favour of public transport, cycling or walking.
  • Decisions to retain or replace buildings should take account of the energy already embodied in their materials and construction as well as all reusable products and materials.
Management issues
  • Planning authorities should take a lead in co-ordinating local energy conservation measures and partnerships involving communities, local businesses and agencies.
  • Creation of local centres is suggested to co-ordinate local strategies for energy sharing and conservation schemes, to disseminate information and provide expertise and encouragement to local people with a view to implementing local programmes of action.
Energy awareness
  • Greater awareness of the need for energy conservation measures and methods should be encouraged amongst planners and the community at large, through training and education schemes.
  • Generally accepted methods of energy auditing are needed for really effective strategies and if the planning system is to assess development; these then need to feed into decision making at local level, must be made clear to developers so that they are used in proposals, are recognised at appeal and are simple to use.
Implementation
The Scottish Office should consider preparing a Planning Advice Note; these issues will carry greater weight if incorporated in National Planning Policy Guidelines.
"Energy Conservation and Planning", the report summarised in this Research Finding, may be purchased price £10.00.
Cheques should be made payable to The Stationery Office Books and addressed to:
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Additional copies of this Research Finding or others produced on recently published research in the CRU Research Paper Series are available from:
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