Incorporate extended use in project planning phases; create or update city policies to allow for extended use.
🏢 Make the best use of existing buildings and infrastructure
The demolition of old buildings and construction of new buildings require vast quantities of heavy materials, and significant amounts of energy and water. Where possible, it is preferable to renovate and refurbish an existing building in a circular manner rather than demolishing it to build a new one. Additionally, underutilised and vacant buildings and spaces represent an enormous untapped value, which could be leveraged to finance investments in other areas and revitalise neighbourhoods. This could include ‘meanwhile use’ or ‘intermittent use’ of buildings, which involves making temporarily empty spaces, properties and land available for use as work spaces, pop-up cafes, shops, and more. Such projects help to rethink the design of the surrounding urban space, creating attractive, safe and user-friendly areas, thus revitalising neighbourhood economies and encouraging local retail networks.
Local governments—along with multidisciplinary teams of finance, human resources, technology, and corporate real estate stakeholders—can identify idle or underutilised spaces and determine their value, and then consider this in relation to current and future requirements of their citizens (for example, shortage of affordable housing or cultural spaces). Measures to address the underuse of buildings and spaces could include flexible zoning plans, economic disincentives for new greenfield developments in favour of refurbishing and manufacturing, as well as piloting projects with public vacant buildings.
⚡💧 Capture and utilise residual heat
In many industrial processes and in data centres, part of the energy input is lost as residual heat. It is possible to recover the excess heat to be used as a new source of energy. Recovering and utilising residual heat reduces the demand for additional heat generation. In turn, this reduces fuel requirements, and subsequently emissions if fossil fuels are used to generate heat.
Residual heat can be recovered via pipelines and reused again on-site, or transported to another location for another use, such as district heating which heats the homes of residents. In cases where the temperature of the recovered heat is too low, heat pumps can facilitate increasing the temperature to a more suitable temperature.
Local governments can utilise their wide knowledge and influence to map residual heat flows and heat demand sites to help connect heat supply and demand across stakeholders in the most optimal way. As well as supplying industry with this knowledge, local governments can provide subsidies to industrial sites and data centers to help them to procure the relevant infrastructure and additional technology (e.g. heat pumps). What is more, local governments can commission the development of district heating networks.