Greater Manchester Green City Region. Creating a greener, greater city region differently

Q&A: Professor Hisham Elkadi, GM Low Carbon Hub Board

As one of the newer members of the Low Carbon Hub board, can you outline your specific areas of interest and your role within the wider team?

I am currently the Dean of Architecture and the Built Environment at the University of Salford. My main interest is in the area of ecologies of cities, examining the role of ecology in shaping the future of cities.

I’m particularly interested in the impact of climate change on the design and construction of smart cities.

I have also led regeneration projects in different parts of the World. My latest project, VISION2, which involves the regeneration of Geelong for example, has received major federal government funding and attracts high media profile in Victoria, Australia.

How does your role as Head of the School of the Built Environment at the University of Salford influence your work in the hub?

My role at the University of Salford extends beyond my Dean position. I worked closely with the rest of the senior team in shaping the future agenda of our Industrial Collaboration Zones and I chair the Health ICZ board.

Many of the projects across the University are environmentally focused and help to influence the societal and ecological challenges such as Housing and energy efficiency in the built environment, and mitigate against climate change adversaries.

Research and assessment are, and should be, integral parts of any credible environmental or climate change strategy. These roles provide me with a wide spectrum of knowledge and understanding and enable me to make constructive contributions in the board meetings. The University of Salford also has a number of strategic projects that are currently taking key position in the Hub agenda.

In your opinion, what is the importance of the low carbon agenda for Greater Manchester/what are your hopes/aspirations for the low carbon sector?

The Low Carbon Hub is key to the structure of Greater Manchester authority, helping to encourage and influence the environmental dimensions of large projects across the region. It also acts as a catalyst to spin ideas around green economy and hence influence policies of different GM constituencies.

The Greater Manchester Climate Change and Low Emissions Implementation Plan proposes an aim to reduce carbon emissions in GM by 48% by 2020. How achieveable do you feel this is? And how might we achieve this, specifically in terms of our relationship with the built environment?

This is certainly an ambitious plan but can well be achieved through the number of measures and the diversity of projects that are currently considered by the board. 

It is essential that these projects, whether they concern construction, energy or transport, be seen in an integrated way in order to achieve the required impact.

These projects should also be seen as steps in a longer journey. Effective leadership from the Council as well as the industrial partners will determine the scale of success in the next few years.

The Built environment plays an important role in achieving the target. Almost 50% of the energy consumption in GM is related to the built environment. The retrofit, energy efficiency, and switch to renewable energy programmes are major parts of shaping the sustainable smart future of Greater Manchester.

Domestic and public sector building retrofits have been a priority for the hub. How successful do you think measures have been and how would you like to see the issue progressed in the future?

There has certainly been some success in retrofit projects in Greater Manchester, for example in Pendleton. Such projects need to be carefully assessed to maximize future direction. There are currently many research efforts in the area of retrofit. We would like to see a less risk averse construction industry that will work with research centres to trial and implement sustainable tailored retrofit projects in GM.

The peculiarity of climatic conditions combined with social behaviour in the GM region requires more innovative solutions. We have been working hard at the University, using our Energy House, to innovate and test energy efficient solutions to retrofit projects. We are hoping that through the development of Energy House 2, we will be able to expand on this expertise to serve wider communities in GM and beyond.

How do you think we can sustainably accommodate the increased need for housing in Greater Manchester?

The construction industry is facing many challenges that impact on any housing strategy. There is a need for a step change in the industry and effective leadership is key to such transformation.

I welcome the recent efforts to shift towards off-site construction. We must work harder to achieve more innovative solutions to our housing problems and should also encourage brown site development. There are a large number of ‘marginal’ places in GM that should be utilised for this and in order to do so, we must look carefully at our current policies and practices.

I believe that we must protect our green belts. We need to look further and wider for new ideas. The new disruptive technologies will have major impacts on our current urban environment; what would happen to parking lots, petrol stations, and other transport arteries in the era of driverless vehicles? How would the planned drone taxis change the culture of transport in cities? What would the new modes of transport bring?

We need to carefully study the future directions of demographics combined with the future technology trends for a truly accurate assessment. The assumption that the next 20 years of housing can be based on the current and past trends is quite erroneous.

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