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By Simon McWhirter, Head of Engagement

Sustainable design and green construction are going to lead industry debates in the coming year (and the foreseeable future). As we look to 2020, I think one thing which should be front and centre in architects’ minds is the integration and utility of electric vehicles (EVs) in the design process. 

There’s no doubt it’s a topical issue. Just recently, Boris Johnson outlined plans to dedicate £1 billion to EV manufacturing with a view to encourage an increase in adoption.

Certainly we will need to adapt the existing built environment and carefully plan future development to provide for the low and zero-emissions transport options of the future.

Ev grid capacity

However, we face a few hurdles towards creating an EV-friendly society, not least from existing infrastructure. Lack of charging points is one, but another, more important, obstacle is grid capacity.

As it currently stands, if the nation were to mass adopt electric transport overnight, the National Grid wouldn’t be able to cope with the surge in energy demand. It’s an inconvenient fact which needs to be solved rapidly if we want to meet our national net-zero carbon targets by 2050.

Built environment and electric vehicles

This conundrum presents architects with a golden opportunity to consider how the built environment can play a role in the promotion of EV adoption.

Fundamentally it requires a creative and holistic approach, looking beyond conventional attitudes toward sustainable buildings, and designing technology and facilities into a building which are specifically tailored for EV drivers.

Integrating electric vehicle charge points

‘Active Buildings’ offer one potential solution to realise a nation of EV users and simultaneously alleviate pressure on the grid from mass adoption.

Applicable for both commercial and residential projects, Active Building systems are those which enable a building to support the wider energy system by intelligently integrating renewable energy technologies for heat, power and transport.

Significantly, they reduce demand on the national grid, a crucial balancing factor towards mass adoption of EVs.

Benefits of integrated technologies

Such an approach would ensure the appropriate infrastructure will be put in place for the particular building or development. Whilst allowing for innovation in the deployment and integration of different technological elements.

Integrated technologies could include building energy controls, energy capture and storage, as well as the necessary local gird connection and devices to ‘fuel’ or charge an associated vehicle.

Such an approach would provide a more robust and ultimately cost effective route to ultra low emission vehicles deployment and associated infrastructures.