Grounds for Change: Sustainable Energy Futures

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The Design Charrette: Ways to Envision Sustainable Futures, 2014, pp. 213 - 243
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Spatial design and sustainable energy systems are two worlds apart. It is assumed that the energy system can be technically arranged for without influencing the spatial designs of regions, cities and neighbourhoods. Moreover, from an energy system point of view it is regular policy to formulate the conditions to which spatial plans must obey. From an historic perspective this is understandable. The energy came from below ground level or from far away and needed to be transported through grids towards households and industries where it’d be used. In the case of using renewable resources to supply the energy, this is mostly harvested at the ground level, whether it is biomass, wind turbines or solar farms. Moreover, these sources are produced locally, which means that they have a visual impact and affect local land-use. This makes a good case at aiming to bridge energy supply and spatial design. ‘Grounds for Change’ has declared this as its major objective. Its preferential way of working is found in executing design charrettes at different scales and in different contexts. The origin for Grounds for Change dates back to the special project of the International Gas Union (IGU), as presented during the 22nd World Gas Conference in Tokyo, 2003. This project, entitled ‘Proposals for the International Competition of Sustainable Urban Systems Design’ (Ito (ed) Proposals for the international competition of sustainable urban systems design. Report for the International Gas Union special project. The Institute of Behavioural Sciences, Tokyo, 2003), reports the submissions of international combined design and energy teams to propose integrated models for urban environments to become more sustainable, taking the energy supply as a major starting point of thinking. In the aftermath of the competition, won by the Vancouver team, the idea rose to start a follow up project, which emphasises collaboration rather than competition in developing sustainable solutions for energy conscious regions. In this ‘Bridging to the Future’ project four teams from Canada, India, China and the Netherlands took up the challenge. The Dutch project is called Grounds for Change and focuses on designing a sustainable energy supply for the North Netherlands region. The Chinese team developed designs for the Western Qingpu District, west of Shanghai, with the town of Jinze as the key village in the area. Both projects organised design charrettes, one in Groningen and one in Jinze Town.
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