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The London Energy Transformation Initiative (LETI): towards a cleaner UK

The London Eye. Photo: pixabay

What is it?

The London energy Transformation Initiative (LETI) is a voluntary network of over 1000 professionals working in built environment towards a zero-carbon future. It comprises developers, housing associations, engineers, architects, planners, sustainability professionals, contractors and facilities managers. It is supported by both the GLC and its constituent boroughs.

What is its purpose?

It was set up to compile evidence-based recommendations towards the London Plan and the London Environment Strategy. Here is an indicative section of its mission statement:

→  engaging with stakeholders to develop a robust and rapid energy reduction approach, producing effective solutions to the energy trilemma of security, sustainability, and affordability

→  working with authorities to create practicable policy alterations to ensure the regulatory system is fit for purpose, placing verified performance at its core

→  encouraging and enabling collaboration between built environment professionals

→  providing technical advice to support exemplar developments, enabling pioneers who aspire to go beyond the current regulatory frameworks”

What is it up to in 2020?

Quite a lot, in short. First, it is of interest to consider how its work fits in with that done by UKGBC, who were the focus of our attention in a piece last month on this site. Of course, they’re both working towards the same goal: a zero-carbon future. With this in mind, both organisations collaborated towards the end of last year on a short paper entitled Ten Key Requirements for New Buildings, which builds on the UKGBC’s Net Zero Framework.

Also new this year is LETI’s Climate Emergency Design Guide and its Embodied Carbon Primer. Here’s what they both offer.

The former should be fairly self-explanatory, but here are some key takeways. It covers five areas:

  • Operational energy
  • Embodied carbon
  • The future of heat
  • Demand response
  • Data disclosure

The requirements pertaining to four areas of operation: small scale residential; medium/large scale residential; commercial offices; schools. Part of the thinking here is showing the wider world that the industry is thinking collectively about how to design buildings, and isn’t just reacting to government guidelines. LETI thinks that in order to meet climate change targets, 10% of new projects ought to be designed with these requirements in mind. That seems realistic and, it is to be hoped, achievable.

The Embodied Carbon Primer is effectively an add-on offering supplementary targeted guidance for people wanting to explore this aspect of sustainability in greater detail. LETI takes the view that there is something of a knowledge gap regarding what is needed to make reductions in this areas, so this short document is an intervention to address that. As they say themselves: “the leap of knowledge and skill required to be able to fulfil this goal is still relatively large, but far from insurmountable”.

Like much of the guidance out there in the field, there is a confluence of grand targets and empirical hard-headedness: yes, there is work to be done in getting where we need to be; no, that doesn’t mean we can’t achieve the targets, specifically the principal one of net zero carbon by 2050. LETI believes this means that by 2030 all new buildings will need to operate at net zero. Why? Because each new building not operating at net zero represents an increase in total carbon emissions. Therefore, there needs to be a shift in how buildings are designed, constructed and operated, as soon as is feasible. This will also limit future spending on retrofitting buildings that are not fit for purpose.

There are other publications on its website, of course, not least its consultation response to the draft London Plan in 2019. The importance of that plan cannot be overestimated, given London’s size and strategic leadership role in the UK. Have a look at a recent article on our site pertaining to this.

LETI wants you to get involved, and there are many different ways of doing this, from volunteering your time to attending workshops. See here for details.