Electricity generation

Traditionally electricity is generated in huge centralized power stations and then fed into the national grid for distribution, but this is in many ways an inefficient and environmentally harmful system.

The most widely quoted definition of sustainable development is from the Brundtland Commission of 1987: 'development which meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs'. Sustainable design recognizes the interdependence of the built and natural environments; seeks to harness natural energy from biological processes and eliminate reliance on fossil fuels and toxic materials; and seeks to improve resource efficiency.

It is the responsibility of designers to create buildings which protect and potentially enhance the environment both physically and in other ways. The following are some of the key considerations.

New thinking indicates that generating electricity close to where it is needed (for instance, a large sports complex could generate its own electricity on site) is the way of the future. Decentralized Energy (DE) is claimed to be cleaner; to have lower carbon dioxide emissions; to be cheaper in both the costs of construction and costs to the consumer; and to be more secure than centrally generated energy. According to Greenpeace it is already mainstream in countries like Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands.

Combined Heat and Power (CHP) is a system in which the waste heat from the electricity generation process is used for space heating, instead of being discharged into the atmosphere as waste (which is largely what happens under the present centralized generating system). This process too can be decentralized to local areas or even to an individual stadium complex. The total efficiency of CHP systems could be in the region of 85 per cent, compared with less than 50 per cent for conventional centralized power generation.

In all cases energy from renewable sources - wind, waves, and boreholes, etc. - should be used where possible, whether generated on site or taken from the grid.

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