Comment Walthamstow

Walthamstow Mall towers too tall to be green, expert argues

Huge towers being built in Walthamstow ‘will likely use twice the energy the same flats would in shorter buildings’
By Local Democracy Reporter Josh Mellor

How revised plans for The Mall are planned to look, as viewed from Selborne Road
How revised plans for The Mall are planned to look, as viewed from Selborne Road

The enormous towers being built at Walthamstow’s shopping centre are likely to use twice the energy the same number of flats would in five or six storey buildings, an expert claims.

Philip Steadman, professor of urban and built form at University College London, spoke last week at a meeting opposing plans to demolish part of 17&Central – formerly The Mall – and build 34 and 27-storey flat blocks.

After studying more than 600 existing buildings, Professor Steadman found those of 20 or more stories use 40% more fossil fuels, 100% more carbon and 135% more electricity than their low-rise equivalents.

He presented his findings on 28th October to Save our Square, a campaign group fighting the “overdevelopment” of Walthamstow town centre.

He said: “These findings were a big surprise, I think many in the industry didn’t believe them or didn’t want to believe them. Strangely studies like this haven’t been done in the past.”

A “theoretical” explanation for the higher energy use is the extra heating and cooling needed, said the professor.

He said: “In summer tall buildings are more exposed to the sun, and in the winter they are more exposed to lower air temperatures and faster winds, above the level of most roofs in the city.

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“Glass is not as good insulation material as concrete or brick and cladding glass can lose or gain more heat through the walls.”

Philip said that industry professionals usually rely on computer models to estimate energy use for tall buildings.

He added: “I have increasingly come to suspect that these models are not capable of calculating energy use, or they aren’t being correctly used. I have seen studies preducting 15% increase in tall storeys.”

According to Philip, similar numbers of homes can be built in shorter buildings, resulting in far lower energy use.

He said: “Much energy could thus be saved and carbon emissions reduced by building lower, without sacrificing density.”

Philip also referred to an Australian study that found high-rise buildings use 60% more energy in their construction than low-rise.

Cllr Simon Miller, cabinet member for economic growth and high streets, did not respond to questions about the energy use of the towers.

He said the redevelopment will deliver “much-needed new housing and employment” and will fund “off-site social rent homes” nearby.

At the planning committee meeting in January this year, residents urged councillors to reject the plans, arguing the huge towers posed a fire risk and that the flats were not truly affordable for local people.

However, approving the plans, committee members said there is a stronger need for good quality private-rented homes and a revamp of the “miserable” shopping centre.

Of the 538 flats being built on site, 99 will be available at “discount market rent”, meaning 80% of market rent in the area.

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