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Hon. Vice Presidents

‘An important word (and behaviour) to guide our future’


fficiency is the (often measurable) ability to avoid wasting materials, energy, efforts, money, and time in doing something or in producing a desired result. In a more general sense, it is an ability to do things well, successfully, and without waste. Has there ever been a better or more necessary time for the Government (or a University?!) to consider a new overarching department to help in so many of the issues confronting the country and the world? A counter point to this idea is that efficiency is built into the decision making in our daily life and the policy decision making of the powers that be. That’s all OK then? Setting up any new oversight process would therefore be less efficient! I disagree. Pausing, reviewing, questioning and taking an overview of our decisions might, in many instances, suggest a better more efficient way forward. Proper planning and preparation at the outset of course is best but it is amazing how many bad decisions still seem to get made. Let us look at a few matters that are high on the agenda of Real Estate. Land use, transport, energy use/CO2 emissions, personal consumption and our industry’s consumption, disruptive technologies, ‘Smart Places’, and the cost and financial returns of real estate. Land use and transport (my perennial bugbear): With the estimate of the UK land mass actually built on as 5.9% (Corine Land Cover Inventory) and with the actual emotive ‘concreted over’ land area estimated at less than 1%, how is it that we, the population, perceive our country as being over developed? Most people’s daily life involves travelling in some form and I would argue strongly that it is our experience of this travel, the joy, ease, comfort, cleanliness, congestion, crowding, air quality, noise, reliability, safety and cost that provides us with our views of the built environment around us. I have been lucky enough for many decades to have made my daily commute into Central London by ‘the most efficient’ transport known to humanity - the bicycle. I pass each morning 100s of metal boxes taking up thousands of square feet of real estate, pumping out poisonous fumes into children’s lungs, requiring 100s of horse power to take one person in a vehicle usually


Cambridge University Land Society 2019

with 4 empty seats. The occupant might of course be on their way to an important board meeting to discuss efficiency and carbon reduction targets for their business! I have also spent many hours in sailplanes / gliders and hot air balloons flying above ‘the over developed’ south east of England. Almost every non pilot that I fly with at some point, usually early on in the flight, asks ‘where are we?’ The green (brown and yellow) carpet of fields and woods below and all around give no clue as to where we are. The ‘small’ (sometime quite large) distant town has to be pointed out. Often the villages below go unnoticed. This is not another essay on land use planning but just a reminder to us all that when we plan or comment on plans to develop and expand our built environment, the density, the mix of uses, the intensity of uses, (which of course influences the efficiency of public transport) the walkability and the realistic cycle desirability are key factors. All obvious of course; so, see if you can find the new railway station where the proposed Oxford to Cambridge railway intersects with HS2? There is currently not one proposed and ‘we’ are proposing 1m new homes in that ‘belt’ of land. ‘Well-located mixed-use development, cycle and walkable neighbourhoods with great public transport’ is neither rocket science nor a new mantra, but just look around you and look at what is still going on. A Ministry of Efficiency would surely have something to say? Disruptive technologies over the past few centuries, from the railways to the automobile, have shaped our built environment in dramatic ways. Particularly with the automobile, the ‘private sector’ barons/entrepreneurs from Henry Ford and Rockefeller led our societies to the current car dependent land use model that so many of us experience (and some enjoy) today. Governments followed the disruptive technologies of the day with laws and infrastructure to support, encourage and enhance the use and effects of these new and popular disruptions. Today we have our own disruptive technologies that enable communication instantly to and between millions and allows the collection of huge amounts of data. This has among other things spawned the ‘sharing economy’ with its potential for the greater efficient use of

Roger Madelin CBE Joint Head of Canada Water, British Land Commissioner of the Independent Transport Commission

resources. Governments can follow or lead. What are they doing? Currently with ‘Uber’ they are following; more cars are arriving back on urban roads. A Department of Efficiency might look at our road space and do something different with this amazing technology? We are in an interesting ‘place’ when we clamour to ban the zero emission (assume the electricity is CO2 neutral!) electric scooter from our roads in favour of keeping the 2ton 4X4s (I do of course have a 4X4 but I promise I don’t use it in town!). I realise that these are difficult political, economic, land use and societal issues. Energy use, CO2 emissions and consumption. Flying in a sailplane for hundreds of miles across the landscape and climbing as fast as a high speed lift to ‘000s feet above the ground has always made me be in awe of the power in the environment around us. The sun, the thermal air currents and the wind. The UK’s progress to ‘decarbonising’ the electricity grid is more impressive than thought possible a few years ago. As I write this, I see that our electricity in the UK is being produced from 25% nuclear, 23.7% wind, 22.8% gas, 12.1% solar 7.2% biomass, 2% hydro and 7.2% imported. (Grid Carbon the ‘app’ is recommended to see what is happening in the UK and ‘electricity map’ to see our neighbours performance). This is a great direction of travel in the UK. Shame on some of our continental partners, and don’t even ask about most of the other huge and growing economies to our east. Electrification of our buildings and transport would appear to be the right policy direction but without continued or ‘re-energised’ efficiency measures for our existing building stock we will find our CO2 reductions targets very hard to meet. No gas connections to residential from 2025 is probably a good thing but

Profile for Cambridge University Land Society

Cambridge University Land Society Magazine 2019  

Cambridge University Land Society Magazine 2019

Cambridge University Land Society Magazine 2019  

Cambridge University Land Society Magazine 2019

Profile for culandsoc