The 2012 London Olympic Games was touted as the most sustainable games ever and it was at the time the biggest construction project in Europe, today another development is underway in London that also boasts to be the largest in Europe. The Kings Cross development in Central London.
The development includes 50 new buildings, 2,000 new homes, 20 new streets, 10 new public squares. It covers an area of 67 acres and plays host to more than 45,000 people who live, work and study in the area. According to Richard Godwin of the Evening Standard Magazine :
"The King's Cross project is the largest area of urban redevelopment in Europe and it will include the largest new street in London since Kingsway in 1904; the largest public square since Trafalgar Square in 1845."
And of course all of this in the centre of one of the worlds foremost global cities, a hub for commerce, intense flows of people from all over the world and a hot bed of innovation and enterprise. At the same time it is a city that grapples with all the negative social and environmental ills associated with cities throughout the world. Kings Cross therefore is a highly visible urban development that like the Olympic development can provide invaluable insights into sustainability on a global scale.
I was recently invited to the Dutch Embassy in London which hosted a symposium that directly explored the sustainable development of Kings Cross. The symposium was organised by the foundation for Sustainable Area Development in collaboration with University College London and ARGENT the principle developers of the site. Questions raised included
How do sustainability assessment frameworks work: Does the assessment in any way reflect the actual level of sustainability in the built community?
How can we manage the sustainability - related ambitions during the entire process of development and how can a communal language help?
What guidance can we develop in order to create sustainable communities?
Does this concern sustainable designs and technologies, strong/ambitious governance, innovative thinking concerning returns and investment ?
It is an incredibly positive step forward that sustainability is being placed firmly at the centre of this development and these questions are being asked. FSA presented details of a compact tool that they are using to assess the sustainability of this and other areas. The tool includes elements such as synergy, resources, spatial development, socio economic and climate.
What interests me from a sustainable development perspective is the overall governance of the project, that is how the different stakeholders work together in order to produce the most effective and sustainable space possible. And from what I saw real progress is being made with the integration of social, environmental and economic aspects of the development. The Camden Cyclists held ARGENT to task on making sure the development was as cycle friendly as possible in this notoriously dangerous part of London. And it looks as though it will be with an impressive set of initiatives to make the development cycle friendly.
I for one have been inspired to follow the development of Kings Cross more closely and look forward to using the space when it is finished. Fellow delegate at the symposium and long time friend Adam Binney head of Safety and Sustainability for the property directorate at Network Rail said:
'Sustainability is the concept for the 21st century and it really is about finding the balance between environmental, environmental and economic concerns. At Network Rail this is a central strategy that we will be implementing in the coming years. I will be watching the Kings Cross development closely and am very encouraged by what I witnessed at the symposium'
The first phase of the development is now open to the public so why not take a stroll down and take a look for yourself.