Eco - August 2012
Green flagship building in Manchester
The driving force of Britain's biggest regional development project is a stunning 'green' office complex intended as the new headquarters of the Co-operative Group in north-central Manchester. Nearing completion, the Co-op aims to move in this autumn to 1 Angel Square, a striking flagship for sustainable construction, rated as outstanding under the BREEAM environmental accreditation standards.
Mancunians, wit at the ready as usual, have recently nicknamed it the 'Sliced Egg'. Its unusual profile is due to its northward-tilting roof, which lets more natural light into the upper floors and the nine-floor glass atrium on the southern side. This maximises solar gain in winter, while sunshades prevent summer overheating. An integrated water harvesting system collects, stores and makes good use of Manchester's famously abundant rainfall.
Heat and electricity both come from on-site biodiesel cogeneration, partly fuelled by used cooking oil. The double-skin facade, faced with bronze-coloured diagonal panels is there not just to look pretty, but to ensure natural ventilation.
A walk on the wild side in barcelona
Like many a southern metropolis, Barcelona in the heat of summer can feel a very long way from 'green'. The advent of bike-sharing schemes has made it easier to get away from the asphalt and head for a park, but the centre of Barcelona isn't over-endowed with those. Overlooking the city, however, is a nature park on the Collserola ridge. A mixture of gorgeous oak and pine woods, meadows and Mediterranean maquis and garrigues (thick mountain vegetation), Collserola is interlaced with footpaths, yet still has a wild feel to it.
Twenty times bigger than New York's Central Park and under 20 minutes by train from Plaça Catalunya, the park provides a vital lung for the city and the surrounding region. Environmental regulations conserve its ecological value and biodiversity and there are said to be at least 1,000 plant species. Birds range from warblers and treecreepers to goshawks and buzzards. Wild boar, beech martens and genets are among the 190 varieties of vertebrate animals.
Just rewards in copenhagen
Copenhagen, self-styled 'world's best city for cyclists', is set to develop its distinctive bike-friendly culture still further. By 2015 it aims to have no fewer than half of all trips to work or school to be made on bicycle, and the prominence of cycling in its transport strategy has just helped it win the European Green Capital award.
Presented by the European Commission to highlight and encourage good practice, the title will go to Copenhagen in 2014. It's certainly a city with much to teach on the cycling front, where pedal-powered traffic throngs its wide, well-separated cycleways.
Special cycle traffic lights regulate the flow, but it can get pretty crowded - surely one congestion problem most cities wouldn't mind. And the central zone's self-service bike system is simplicity itself. A 20 kroner piece (about €2.70) unlocks a bike and it's yours to use, within the zone, as long as you need. You even get your coin back afterwards. Now that's civilised.