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Academic project: The Carbon Impact of Early Decisions on the North-West Cambridge site

Status: Completed | Date: May 2016

Person: Ele Brown | Subject: Engineering Tripos, final year | Supervisor: Professor Peter Guthrie

Project summary: This project looks at the impact of early decision making on large scale mixed developments, using the North West Cambridge (NWC) development as a case study with regards to heat generation.

Key findings: The decision timeline created as part of the project showed that design decisions were made during an unstable planning environment. The sustainability of the design was restricted by the carbon emissions targets set in the Area Action Plan (AAP).

The gas Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant which was chosen to heat the District Heating (DH) network is predicted to perform worse than gas boilers, electric heaters, and heat pumps, by 2023, assuming that the decarbonisation of the grid follows the DECC targets.

Read the full summary here.

Recommendations: If the NWC development is solely focussed on reducing its predicted carbon emissions, it should change the gas CHP system at the earliest opportunity. The gas boilers in the CHP system are estimated to need replacement within 10-15 years; at this point it is recommended to replace them with heat pumps if possible.

How has it been used? The findings have been passed to the sustainability consultants looking at the next phase of the NWC development strategy, for use in their review of the energy strategy to advise if changes should be made for phase 2 onwards.