StART building on Zero Waste.
StART (St Anns Redevelopment Trust) is a Community Land Trust formed of a team of local people who promote health and wellbeing, creating greener neighbourhoods and who aim to deliver truly affordable homes. StART aims to tackle the local housing crisis by creating new, genuinely affordable homes in Haringay on the former St Ann's hospital site.
Barnet Enfield and Haringey Mental Health Trust, the owner of the site, have put forward a redevelopment proposal to sell two thirds of the St Ann's Hospital site in Haringey for private housing. Under current outlines and planning permissions, only 14% of that housing would be affordable. StART formed in response to these plans and has been working over the last three years on an alternative. StART’s plan envisions; housing at social rent levels, making a positive health contribution to residents and neighbours to honour the health legacy of the site, maintaining links with the hospital, as well as ambitious sustainability goals for the development.
The historic buildings and landscaped gardens are a perfect setting for a creation of a unique new neighbourhood in Haringey. ‘Our vision is to build a physically and socially sustainable community integrated with the beautiful natural environment of the site’. To make the neighbourhood greener, mature trees and public spaces such as the Peace garden and Warwick Gardens will be retained and enhanced. In addition, new squares will be formed around the Water Tower and Works building. The strip of woodland parallel with the railway, will be also preserved and maintained.
The newly built homes will be composed within the already existing Victorian buildings. In response to concerns voiced by some local residents, StART is taking a few things into special consideration, for example:
- Retaining mature trees to provide greater natural screening
- The tallest buildings to stand in the centre of the site, to prevent overshadowing of the neighbours. The height of the more centrally located buildings, to be maximum 3 storeys high.
- Flat roofs to provide space for rooftop gardens and solar panels.
To meet the diversity of housing needed, there will be a mixture of housing available. Those include:
- - apartments (5-7 storeys with communal courtyards)
- - family houses (3-4 storeys with private gardens or roof terraces)
- - communal living (4 storey with rooms for maximum 6 people in communal dwellings)
- - shared and supported housing (2-3 storey mews)
- - plus some non-residential premises.
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In fact such great attention has been paid to the design of the affordable homes proposed by StART, towards the design of the building and whole estate, that The Futurist probed deeper to see what was behind this deep design ethic. We uncovered a story the very passionate and dedicated members of the Trust working hard to bring this vision to form, that we’ll report on in more depth in the near future. In this article we want to highlight and explore the principles upon which this new housing development is to be built. There are several important frameworks at the core, in this episode of The Futurist we’ll begin looking into two of them:
- London Housing Design Guide
- One Planet Living Sustainability Principle [view their principles in summary]
The London Housing Design Guide is a guide for developers to know and agree on minimum building space standards. The guide also advocates improvements in the development and procurement processes so that design remains valued from vision to delivery. Together these support the Mayor’s aspiration to help build a better, more humane and more beautiful city, with great housing at its heart (i.e. our communal consciousness and conscientiousness).
This informative guidance helps building developers prepare proposals that demonstrate:
- how their designs respond to its physical context, including the character and legibility of the area and the local pattern of building, public space, landscape and topography;
- how the scheme relates to the identified character of the place and to the local vision and strategy or how bolder change is justified in relation to a coherent set of ideas for the place expressed in the local vision and strategy.
By forming a Community Land Trust StART further demonstrated their collective readiness to take on this development and with this organisational base they are seeking to shape a very good place for communities of the future. In the Design guide this ethos and opening process is about “defining places”
StART have a robust proposal that shows how the design defines and responds to its physical context, including the inner character of the area and the existing local pattern of building, public spaces, general landscape and topography. The proposal shows how their scheme relates to the identified character of the place and to the local vision and strategy, it shows how bolder change proposals are justified in relation to a coherent set of ideas expressed in the broader local government vision and strategy.
Their design proposal shows how the scheme complements the local network of public spaces, including how it integrates with existing streets and paths; how public spaces and pedestrian routes are designed to be overlooked and safe, and extensive elevations overlooking the public realm at ground floor levels have been avoided. Also how new public spaces including streets and paths are designed on the basis of an understanding of the planned role and character of these spaces within the local movement (including transportation) flows of peoples.
StART’s compliance with the London Design Guide is, thus, very good and innovative.
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The land Trust has sought to be in harmony with Sadiq Khan’s pledges to make London zero waste, as expressed in the framework and that of One Planet Living. This pledge is a wonderful idea, but what does it really mean?
Supporters are excited, and call it a step in the right direction. However, the Mayor’s strategy implies the phasing out of waste incineration (destruction) in London, which is not considered part of a true “zero waste” principle. Generally there are two lines of consideration regarding zero waste; a) zero waste in building construction works and b) zero waste in the day-to-day operations of residential properties. In this article we are mostly exploring the residential consideration.
A zero waste city, as Sadiq says he would like, should really be built on zero waste homes, and therefore houses designed for zero waste living. How have St ART approached this?
The London Mayor has suggested that “by 2026 no biodegradable or recyclable waste will be sent to landfill and by 2030 65 percent of London’s municipal waste will be recycled”. How much waste recycling can a housing estate development like St Anns (under StART) yield? What is the feasibility of villages, compounds and even individual house homes effectively handling all of their own waste? The Futurist’s research show little evidence of any current existing “zero waste” homes in the UK. Where they are claimed to exist globally the context is very different from here (Europe) and they are very rare showcase type developments. Within and around the St Ann’s Hospital site these are places of heritage that already express a great value and legacy of generational recycling in-built to the everyday culture of the people.
Mr Khan says that “our linear economy (take, make and dispose) is unsustainable”, and that “too much waste” is produced. He says it is time to “take a circular approach to London’s use of resources that designs out waste, keeps materials in use at their highest value for as long as possible and minimises environmental impact”. What does this mean for the StART mission?
Talking up the concept of “zero waste” and “the circular economy” are popular ideas these days, but what does this really mean on the ground, we note that StART have affirmed that their homes will reduce waste by 25 % compared to other local homes. So we asked them what it would take to move completely to zero waste homes, and is it a really viable idea?
In response they said “We are taking a number of clever measures that will be put in place to achieve this aim:
- Internal storage within dwellings will be provided for recycling to encourage occupants to recycle.
- The green spaces will be included inside facilities to provide on site composting for biodegradable waste.
- Residents will be provided with waste bins that are accessible, well lit and uncluttered to minimise littering on the site
"In addition to addressing waste living, StART also aims to address waste created by the construction on the buildings themselves. The design will aim to address embodied carbon, that means the amount of materials and emissions that arise from the construction itself. There will also be a focus on careful construction management to ensure waste is minimal during the building process. The main contractor will be required to produce a Resource Management Plan detailing how waste streams will be segregated and predict waste generation figures. Prefabrication of certain building components is a further idea StART is currently exploring, which can help to reduce waste.” - Paula Morgenstern (StART member)
So whilst absolute zero waste homes appears to be far away technologically there are clearly many who are determined to continue to advance the levels and determination of waste reduction, who can argue with that?
New technologies lift-off when they address real needs and/or are backed by strong determinations, so let The Futurist bring forward this very interesting conversation around the challenging issues in establishing absolute zero waste homes in Haringey. We spoke further to André Skepple a special advisor associated to the Peoplescience Intelligence Unit, who, having spent many years in the waste management sector is now CEO of FullSpektrum Innovations Ltd, an emergent agile learning agency.
“There is the possibility of integrating newfound entrapment and biological waste management systems so such domestic and commercial properties can achieve a zero-waste status. One important part of this solution is in the recent advancements in anaerobic digestion systems for organic waste management.”
Anaerobic = "living, active, occurring, or existing in the absence of free oxygen"
These anaerobic digestion systems are fundamentally dependant on anaerobic microbes including protozoa, fungi and bacterial organisms, which possess anaerobic metabolic pathways and suitable digestive enzymes that break down organic waste at the molecular level. This can potentially be applied to all and any type of organic waste, including:
- Domestic & commercial effluent (raw/treated sewage)
- Hydrocarbons and petrol (oils, fats, polystyrene)
- Paper and horticultural/garden waste
- Food and drink
The end product of anaerobic digestion is typically biofertiliser (used in agricultural practices) or biogas (methane normally), which can be sold, used domestically or commercially for energy, or can be transduced within generators as electricity that can even be re-inserted to estate, municipal or national grid power networks. With optimal processing there is also the possibility for a fee charged to larger utility companies – attracting revenue for estate managers and communities with such a generator. The implication of this is that StART’s housing estate might need both a neighbourhood waste digester and a energy generator management facility.
The engineering required for such systems would require in-line assembly to the main effluent outlet of each property, these days most systems are designed for industrial and municipal use but could be adapted to neighbourhood level use.
Typically speaking, a relatively high amount of maintenance and energy consumption would be required for this kind of system to maintain digestion efficiency. Essentially, this is like a mini version of municipal (Council level) sewage treatment works.
Commercial and grouped-domestic properties, such as high-rise flats and complexes normally have grease-trapping systems installed, solely for general effluent management and not for general organic waste disposal, this is an area that needs innovation. Drainage and waste management engineers have prolific issues managing out-dated grease trap systems, which do not subscribe to the zero-waste policy alluded to by the Mayor, the One Planet Living framework or StART.
The use of biological products and dosing solutions (water flow and pumping management) can support more streamlined processes of waste digestion, as well as reduce certain drain-maintenance issues such as blockages and odours due to fats, oils and grease deposits, along with Hydrogen Sulphide gas (H2S), which is a by-product of organic waste decomposition that can cause corrosion and pungent odours.
We predict that the future will eventually see neighbourhood networked domestic properties with blended biological dosing systems plumbed in-line to the waste outlets from each property, with large numbers of residencies such systems can not only increase efficiency and improve waste management costs, but also eliminate the problematic drainage issues alluded to above that escalates at the municipal level. You may have heard of the issue of huge fatbergs disrupting the sewers networks of London, they are so famous now that samples have been displayed at the Museum of London.
Fatbergs = Congealed lumps and blockages in a sewer system formed by the combination of non-biodegradable solid matter such as wet wipes, plastics with grease or cooking fat, filth dwelling creatures, related disease vectors and every other thing you’d rather not imagine people putting into the waste system.
In short, there is a strong case to introduce innovative miniaturised anaerobic digestion systems as a direct-replacement to grease trap and wastewater pumping systems (lift stations) prior to entry into the municipal sewage system. According to André “the time will come when the synergistic impact of microbiology, biochemistry and engineering will bring about the elimination of waste from all properties as a whole. My suggestion is to add biological dosing systems in-combination with miniaturised digestion systems as a potential zero-waste solution for StART, subject to initial funding consideration there is that real possibility, in time, of actually having a neighbourhood that generates energy and income from its waste.”
Obviously these matters are subject to the political will to develop communal living in this decentralised way, practically speaking establishing such waste and energy management facilities locally, at a neighbourhood level, will need space that might have been used for more homes. What would you choose, more homes or decentralised waste and energy management facilities?
Though the question of how One establishes an absolute zero waste home pushes intriguingly into futurist thought and the boundaries of innovation we have concluded that the real question at this point is what is the true value and meaning of the “zero waste” idea to all who are talking it up, is it just hot gas?
Related Links for Deeper Insight:
- The London Mayor has bought the St Ann’s hospital site!
- Food Waste to Energy: An Overview of Sustainable Approaches for Food Waste Management and Nutrient Recycling