London’s Blackfriars Station opened in the late 19th century and had been through several phases of redevelopment prior to the current £550 million overhaul.
The latest scheme is notable for its green credentials, which it is hoped will make the station and its environs fit for the 21st century. These include the fitting of technology such as sun pipes, rain harvesting systems, thermal insulation and photovoltaic panels. The aim is to make the station less reliant on external electricity and water networks.
Blackfriars was chosen as the site for the launch of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) recent report on adapting infrastructure to climate change, led by environment secretary Caroline Spelman. Amid the rubble of reconstruction, the government chose the station to look to the future and all its challenges.
Unusually, the report made special mention of the role that engineers will need to play in adaptation to climate change. Nothing less would have been expected by the engineering institutions. They played key roles in the report’s formation under the banner of the Engineering the Future group, which includes both the Institution of Civil Engineers and the IMechE, and also the IET and Royal Academy of Engineering.
Highlighting engineering, says Dr Tim Fox, head of energy and climate change at the IMechE, demonstrated that the government had understood the nature of what adaptation to climate change would involve. He says: “They are certainly taking a serious approach to adaptation, and engaging all the stakeholders that need to be involved, from the investment community to the engineers.
“The engineering community has played no small part in that by continually pressing government to take engineering more seriously, and to put engineering at the core of a lot of solutions to environmental and energy problems.” There were encouraging signs that the IMechE report on adaptation, published two years ago, had had an impact, Fox adds.
David Nickols, an engineer who chaired the Engineering the Future working group on water infrastructure that fed into the eventual Defra report, says: “In the latter years of the previous government and in the current government, there has been a recognition of engineers. That’s good, but more important is the recognition of the importance of critical infrastructure to the UK national wellbeing. That’s really the fundamental point. And that infrastructure depends on engineers.”
The IMechE’s strategy on climate change is a three-pronged attack – mitigation of emissions, adaptation and geo-engineering. But thinking on adaptation in terms of mainstream acceptance of what it will entail – not just in business but among the public – is lagging far behind thinking on the necessity of reducing greenhouse gases.
“We’re probably something like 10-15 years behind in terms of our thinking on adaptation, relative to our thinking on emissions reduction approaches and renewable energy,” says Fox. “We need to ascend the learning curve on adaptation to enable us to get to a position where we have an opportunity to be seen as world leaders.”