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Towards a Carbon-Negative Britain

Part 2 Project 2012
Luke Snow
De Montfort University, UK
The UK generates 80 million tonnes of waste a year, including 7 million tonnes of food waste, 55% of which is sent to landfill. We consume natural resources, including fossil fuels, at an unsustainable rate and cause climate change. The diversion of biodegradable waste from landfill can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide energy.

When biodegradable waste decomposes it releases carbon. Pyrolysis (the chemical decomposition of organic material by heating in the absence of oxygen) can be used to sequester some of the carbon in a much more stable form. This material, called biochar, is a natural soil improver that can be worked into the ground creating, potentially permanent, soil carbon pools and making this a carbon negative process. Pyrolysis also produces biogas and bio-oil: sustainable replacements for fossil fuels.

The proposed scheme is intended as an alternative to conventional power-generating facilities. It is situated in the Medway Estuary opposite the infamous Kings North Power Station which is due to be closed by 2016 under EU pollution regulations.

In plan the proposal can be read as an efficient, linear industrial process: Waste enters the building by boat, is offloaded, processed and monitored by scientists in high-tech cantilevered glass laboratories. The biofuels produced are used to run CHP units that generate electricity and hot water for the local community. The biochar is fed through the roof to modular greenhouses on the land and used as fertiliser for planting new bio-crops.

The program is sheltered by a tensile, living skin of algae injected panels for the cultivation of additional biomass. Hair oscillators harness energy from the wind meeting the buildings electricity requirements. These biomimetic devices take inspiration from the surrounding eco-system, the plant and insect life found in the marshes, and camouflage the building in its sensitive environment, preserving the poetic beauty of the estuary.

A new, greener form of power station is proposed for our waterways where a complex, industrial process learns from and lives with its natural surroundings moving us towards a zero waste economy and a carbon-negative Britain.

Luke Snow


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