'Sustainable solutions in practice' was the theme of the second session at Engineers Ireland's recent national conference, and where members listened to presentations from ESB's Paddy Hayes; Transport Infrastructure Ireland's Peter Walsh; Arup's Mathew Vola; Atkins' Nicole La and Intel's Cathy Cronin.

Part I on 'Supporting the National Recovery' can be viewed here. Part III: 'Our digital future', Section A can be viewed here; Part III, Section B here; and Part III, Section C here.

ESB chief executive Paddy Hayes's address concerned ‘Sustainable solutions driven by low-carbon electricity’. He elaborated on how the organisation was building on the great work already done to reduce the carbon intensity of our electricity – including, for example:

  1. The importance of building out more renewables;
  2. Connecting those renewables and building the reinforcement in our networks;
  3. Accommodating that renewable electricity on the system;
  4. Enabling the whole-scale electrification of heat and transport and finding a reliable and cost-effective way of matching generation and demand. 

If we used the collective mindset, and engineers' innovation and skills, Hayes said the 'prize' would not only be the whole-scale decarbonisation of the electricity system – but of the economy and society also. 

Transport Infrastructure Ireland CEO Peter Walsh gave a presentation about the 'Sustainable transport focus of Transport Infrastructure Ireland'. He provided an overview of Transport Infrastructure Ireland ’s function and duties, and discussed its strategy, values and implementation of same. Walsh gave examples of transformative schemes including:

  • The organisation's dynamic traffic management system;
  • Active travel systems;
  • Use of Building Information Modelling;
  • Resilience issues and energy reduction measures.

Structural engineer and project director Mathew Vola, of Arup, the Netherlands, spoke about 'Engineering in a new world; digital and sustainable solutions for society'.

Vola's presentation focused on the 'Haut Project, A case for timber'. The project balanced nature, design, architecture and engineering within a city, and was a key contribution in support of the aims of the municipality of Amsterdam to reach CO2 neutrality. 

Atkins' Nicole La gave a presentation on the Challenges of design cycle infrastructure in urban areas – the Hong Kong experience’. La gave an overview of the cycling environment in Hong Kong and spoke about two case studies, ie, a pilot scheme along the Central Harbour Front and the Greenway within the Kai Tak Development. 

Senior environment health and safety engineer Cathy Cronin, of Intel Ireland, spoke on the theme of 'Engineering in a new world: digital and sustainable solutions for society'. Cronin focused on 'Sustainable approaches in semiconductor manufacturing', and provided details about Intel Ireland’s climate and energy goals, water stewardship, bog restoration, waste and circular economy management and biodiversity management. 

Low-carbon, brighter future 

ESB has stated that it "is making a stand for Ireland’s future, powered by clean, sustainable electricity". The organisation said: "We are committed to leading the transition to a reliable, affordable, low-carbon energy future, a future that protects our customers and the economy by maintaining the security and affordability of energy. We are investing and innovating across our business to make this a reality.

"We are developing new renewable sources of generation and flexible, low-carbon backup generation. We are also reinforcing and enhancing our network to accommodate unprecedented volumes of distributed energy resources and developing customer led solutions that will empower everyone in society to live cleaner, more sustainable lives, powered by electricity.

"Since the launch of our Brighter Future strategy in 2017, the imperative for climate action and the societal dialogue around the climate crisis have moved much more centre stage. ESB is already on a journey to a net zero carbon future with an ambitious carbon target and full reporting of our direct and indirect carbon emissions."

ESB has a key role to play in supporting the delivery of the targets contained in the government’s Climate Action Plan, especially the ambitious targets for 80% renewable electricity and for electrification in transport and domestic heating. The Climate Action Plan sets out how Ireland will deliver on these 2030 targets, while preparing for next zero by 2050 and becoming a leader in responding to climate change. ESB’s strategy is to lead on climate action, which is closely aligned with the national climate ambition. We will deliver against these ambitions by:

  • Bringing clean reliable electricity to our customers
  • Enabling low carbon living
  • Putting people first and leaving no one behind
  • Innovating and investing for the future

ESB's focus is to lead the transition to reliable, affordable, low-carbon energy.

"Over the next decade, we will completely transform our generation portfolio, replacing old plant with a mixture of renewables and high efficiency gas. This will cut the carbon intensity of our generation mix by over two thirds and provide flexible back up to allow more renewables come onto the system. By 2030, about 40 per cent of our generation will be from renewable sources such as wind, solar and biomass," it said. 


Electric vehicles 

By 2030, there will be an estimated 500,000 electric vehicles on Irish roads with proposals already in place to ban the sale of non-zero emission vehicles after this date. There are already more than 1,100 standard and fast charge points dotted across the island of Ireland, with ongoing investment and innovation in this area. 

Benefits for customers

  • Government incentive of up to €5,000 grant per vehicle and up to €5,000 Vehicle Registration Tax relief (See www.seai.ie)
  • €120 motor tax band for electric vehicles (See www.seai.ie)
  • Government grant of up to €600 towards home charging point. Please see www.seai.ie for details.
  • Nationwide charge point infrastructure
  • Incredible driving experience 
  • Major environmental benefits
  • Reduced running costs

Benefits for businesses

  • Up to €7,000 grant available towards the purchase of an electric vehicle for use as a taxi, hackney or limousine (See https://www.nationaltransport.ie/)
  • Government incentive of up to €5,000 grant per vehicle and up to €5,000 Vehicle Registration Relief (www.seai.ie)
  • Accelerated Capital Allowance Scheme permitting write-off of capital investment within one year.(See www.seai.ie)
  • 0% BIK for fully electric company vehicles
  • BIK exemption for employees charging at their workplace
  • Reduction in company carbon footprint

Benefits for society

  • Significantly reduced air pollution
  • Lower CO2 emissions

Smart networks 

With more people using electricity to power their cars, homes, farms and businesses, this presents new demands and integration of on our existing electricity grid. To facilitate this demand in a low-carbon manner,  ESB Networks has developed eight innovative roadmaps to deliver an electricity system which serves the future needs for all. 

Eight strategies to creating the smart network of the future

  1. Connecting renewables – ESB Networks will facilitate the growth of renewables connected to the grid
  2. Electrification of heat and transport – The electrification of heat and transport is key to meeting Ireland’s decarbonisation targets
  3. Asset optimisation – A number of projects are underway to maximise the utilisation of assets owned by ESB Networks
  4. Flexibility on our network – Flexibility on our networks will help us to deal with future demand without major reinforcement programmes
  5. Network resilience – Resilience is key to ensuring that customers receive the best quality supply and the least amount of outages as possible
  6. Operational excellence – We operate all aspects of our business to the highest standard and innovate to continually improve these standards
  7. Customer engagement – We are working to ensure that we listen to and respond to our customers’ changing needs
  8. Working with the TSO – We will continue to work closely with EirGrid to manage the emerging complexities of the system

Emerging technologies 

New technologies are transforming Ireland's energy system, providing opportunities to harness sources such as solar, wind and storage to collectively create a clean electricity mix. While contributing to a low-carbon future, these technologies are also enabling customers to take control of their own energy generation and usage. 

Wind energy is currently the largest contributing resource of renewable energy in Ireland. It is both Ireland’s largest and cheapest renewable electricity resource. 

Onshore wind generation is a mature form of renewable generation. Over the years the technology has benefited from development and economies of scale in the size of turbines. Due to the fact that wind is variable, wind generation is classed as an intermittent source, with implications for its contribution to security of electricity supply.

Wind farms can be sited onshore or offshore. Onshore farms benefit from lower construction costs but can be constrained by social acceptability. Offshore facilities have more favourable wind conditions but cost more to build.

Wind – onshore and offshore - is expected to contribute 37% of the 40% renewable electricity target for 2020. 

Solar energy: technically, and economically, solar technology continues to improve but is still an intermittent, or variable, form of generation dependent on weather and time of day. Roof-mounted solar photovoltaic (PV) in Ireland exists mainly in response to the renewable energy requirement in the building regulations. 

Energy storage has the ability to absorb surplus renewable generation at times when generation exceeds demand and release it when renewable generation output is low. There are several types of storage including pumped storage, battery storage and thermal storage.

The limiting factor with using electrical or pumped storage in conjunction with renewable generation technologies is the scale required to store enough energy for a full day’s operation of the electricity system without wind (or strong sunshine).

As an example, we can consider the storage capacity required to store the average daily electrical energy requirement of the all-island single electricity market on a windy or sunny day for use the following dark or calm one.This would require a storage capacity  equivalent to approximately 60 Turlough Hill pumped storage stations or 14 million Tesla Power Wall 18 version one batteries (six per household) or the batteries in some four million electric vehicles. 

Tidal and wave energy: Ireland's geographical position and climate determine that it is one of the best locations in the world for marine renewables including tidal, wave and of course fixed and floating off-shore wind.

This local natural resource-based opportunity is backed up by government policy initiatives to develop the industry – the Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan and Climate Action Plan in the Republic of Ireland and the Offshore Renewable Energy Strategic Action Plan in Northern Ireland.

Moreover, Ireland has developed significant test facilities to support the sector including the 1/4 scale test site at SmartBay in Galway, the Lir National Ocean Test Facility in Cork and the SEAI Atlantic Marine Energy Test Site at Belmullet, Co Mayo. 

TII and sustainability 

"Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) has a vision to lead in the delivery and operation of sustainable transport, enabling our networks to drive inclusive growth, create job opportunities, enhance the wellbeing of all persons including vulnerable groups, strengthen our resilience to address climate change, maintain our commitment to the environment and continue to prioritise safety," said Walsh when unveiling its 'Sustainability Implementation Plan'. 

"Delivering on this vision requires the Irish transport sector to work collaboratively with government, across communities and with our valued partners and stakeholders to collectively deliver on priorities as framed by Project Ireland 2040.

"To achieve this vision for our transport networks, TII must respond to the promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals. TII’s Light Rail and Road networks link our citizens, connect our local communities, drive our development and facilitate Ireland’s trade. 

"It enables people to access what they need and contributes to enhanced health and well-being for all when delivered effectively. Balancing our critical role in supporting economic competitiveness, quality of life and social cohesion with protecting our environment, addressing climate change and respecting planetary boundaries means we must overcome great challenges if we are to reach a future in which transport is sustainable.

"We believe that the demand for sustainable modes of mobility and the development of transportation technologies will all shift as we continue to enable access to employment markets, housing, education and health care.

"The Covid-19 pandemic has raised our awareness of significant global challenges such as biodiversity, climate change and social inequality. We continue to have deep concerns about environmental quality, social equity, and economic vitality that have informed our approach to sustainable development. Never has there been such a need to rapidly address and promote sustainable and active modes of transport. 

"Across everything we do, we are driven by our purpose: to provide sustainable transport infrastructure and services, delivering a better quality of life, supporting economic growth and respecting the environment. We have a significant role to play in understanding and delivering to national expectations on these aspects and have therefore committed ourselves to becoming a leader in delivering and operating sustainable transport infrastructure in line with Project Ireland 2040, the Programme for Government, the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the European Green Deal.

"TII is committed to good governance and ethical practice, and as part of this we recognise the importance of sustainability as a corporate responsibility. Transport must provide benefit to all equally and through the provision of a safe, reliable, and equitable transport system TII can support integrated sustainable transport planning through appropriately balanced development of transport modes, while also introducing new transformations to meet our longer-term sustainability aims. 

"Consolidating years of ongoing commitment and effort, and building on our existing strengths, this plan sets a clear vision, and establishes a roadmap for embedding sustainability throughout our organisation and activities. Six guiding principles of sustainability describe how we will deliver a sustainable future through our work, and we will undertake a programme of activities over the next 10 years to support this ambition.

"We cannot achieve our societal sustainability ambitions alone. This will require cross-cutting activities and collaboration, combining strong leadership with dedicated input from all of our staff and wider engagement with you, our external stakeholders to support the implementation of the plan." 

Arup's Haut project: Realising the tallest wooden residential building in the Netherlands 

Timber buildings are one of the most talked about innovations in sustainable construction internationally, due to the large storage capacity of CO2. Using wood provides an answer to the Municipality of Amsterdam’s quest for CO2 neutrality. 

HAUT is a 73m-high residential tower located in the Amstelkwartier, which will include 55 apartments, a bicycles parking and an underground car parking. On the ground floor HAUT's Hortus is planned, an public indoor city garden, which will present sustainable technologies and enable the residents to grow their own vegetables. It will have a total gross floor area of approximately 14,500 m2 and is to receive the BREEAM Outstanding label, the highest possible sustainability score. 

HAUT also stands for haute couture: designed customized architecture. The design offers the first buyers unlimited freedom of choice in dwelling size, number of floors and the location of rooms, outdoor spaces and voids. Within a strong and simple façade design, with white-gray floor tapes and high windows, the balconies seem to have randomly been slid in and out. The wooden ceilings of balconies and large overhangs make HAUT’s architecture expressive and iconic.

Arup signed up for structural engineeringbuilding servicesfire safetyacoustics and building physics consulting.

Amstelkwartier, the new district on the Amstel encompasses about 4,000 homes, shops and businesses. 

The building 

HAUT enriches Amsterdam with its iconic status. Conversley, HAUT residents can enjoy the city through high ceilings, large windows and spacious terraces. Using wood as its main building material, and inspired by international example, HAUT is the new standard for healthy building and luxury living.

With a height of 73 meters and 21 floors, HAUT is set to become the tallest wooden residential building in the Netherlands. HAUT is designed by Team V Architects in cooperation with ARUP. The contractor J.P van Eesteren has started with the construction of HAUT. Medio 2021 the apartments will be delivered. 

Sustainable innovation 

HAUT is made from wood. A centuries-old building material, yet at the same time a basis for innovation in sustainable construction. Wood does not emit CO2, but naturally absorbs it. HAUT therefore earns the highest possible sustainability accreditation, unique in Dutch housing.

In addition to a wooden high-rise construction, HAUT will be fitted with an energy-generating façade, triple glazing and where possible, the application of recyclable materials will also feature.

Wood has additional qualities; it breathes, it lives. Wood feels warm and therefore provides exceptional comfort. 

Ground floor 

Health & Performance Club Great intends to locate in the ground floor of HAUT. This successful club, which already has a base in Amsterdam Oud-Zuid, focuses on a healthy lifestyle through activities related to sport, wellness and nutrition. This club enhances HAUT with a pleasant ground floor area dedicated to exercise and relaxation, and views over Somerlust Park on the Amstel.

A parking garage with electric charging points, bike parking space, and storage space for all apartments will be found in HAUT’s basement. 

Atkins: The challenges of designing cycle infrastructure in urban areas – the Hong Kong experience

Nicole La of Atkins Hong Kong gave a very informative and interesting presentation on cycling infrastructure there. Before she presented the clear, self-explanatory slides, she showed a number of greenway projects that Atkins Ireland is working on.

Intel: Sustainable approaches in semiconductor manufacturing 

"Technology has never been more important to humanity," Cathy Cronin told delegates. "There is a driving need for exponentially more computing. Semiconductors are the underlying technology powering the digitisation of everything and this is being accelerated by what CEO Pat Gelsinger calls the four superpowers: ubiquitous computing; pervasive connectivity; cloud to edge infrastructure; and AI. We intend to lead the industry by harnessing these superpowers for our customers’ growth – and our own.  

"Each impressive on their own, together these superpowers reinforce and amplify one another. This allows us to push forward with innovation, discovery, and disruption and to help our customers capitalise on the fastest-growing opportunities. These four extraordinary technological capabilities have become major market forces. They will fundamentally alter how we experience technology and interact with devices, ranging from PCs to other connected devices, even our homes and cars.

"The four superpowers will also exponentially increase the world’s need for compute by packing ever more compute processing capability onto ever-smaller microchips. This is where Intel plays and wins: our semiconductors are the underlying technology empowering developers and enabling our customers’ innovations."

Four superpowers  

Ubiquitous computing – Everything we interact with involves computer technology. Computing is transforming from something you do to something you experience, with new and emerging form factors and real-time analytics guiding intuitive digital workflows that make it easier to create and experience in work and play. Compute capabilities are permeating every aspect of our existence, serving as the human/technology interaction point across existing devices and emerging form factors.

Pervasive connectivity – Everybody and everything is connected. Universal connectivity is enabling our customers to collect, store, move, and analyse large data sets, enabling the design and delivery of incredibly innovative business models, products, and services.  

Cloud to edge infrastructure – Creating a dynamic reliable path for connected compute data. Organisations are adopting distributed networks and tapping the intelligent edge to process workloads closer to customers, providing data-driven digital services and a personalised experience customers covet. Unlimited scale and capacity in the cloud combine with unlimited reach through the Intelligent Edge.

AI – Intelligence everywhere. Turning infinite data into actionable insight. Enabling intelligence everywhere to extract more value from data. AI helps our customers automate critical processes, unleash the creativity of their teams, and deliver digital products and services that end-users love.  

"In this landscape of rapid digital disruption Intel’s technology and leadership products are more critical than ever. Covid-19 spurred faster innovation and digital ways of working, learning, interacting, and delivering healthcare. 

"According to McKinsey, during Covid-19 companies accelerated the digitisation of customer and supply-chain interactions and internal operations by three to four years. Digital product innovation happened even faster, accelerating at a pace seven years. Intel will help lead the digital transformation of industry in new and wonderful ways." 

What is 14nm

"As Gordon Moore predicted more than four decades ago, transistors have enabled computers to become faster and more efficient and more pervasive each succeeding generation. But Moore’s Law is not a scientific principle. Rather, it’s an observation of the pace at which the industry is able to deliver more computing functionality at ever lower cost. 

"And almost from the very moment of Moore’s Law being posed and becoming understood, there has been speculation that it will someday end.  Yet each time, Intel engineers have found a way to innovate, go past, around, and through perceived obstacles, using new materials, inventing new technologies along the way.

"As we look ahead to the next decade, our ambitions and opportunities have never been greater to unleash the power of data and help advance integrated corporate responsibility strategies in which companies use collaborative models to drive increased value creation and societal impact. 

"That is why we launched our new RISE strategy and 2030 goals. Through this strategy, we strive create a more responsible, inclusive and sustainable future, enabled through our technology and the expertise and passion of our employees.

We will continue to raise the bar for ourselves in own operations and supply chain to deliver value for our customers and help them reach their corporate responsibility goals and targets.

In our own operations and supply chain

Responsible: One of our new goals in this area will scale our supply chain responsibility programmes to 100% of our Tier 1 contracted suppliers and higher-risk Tier 2 suppliers, helping us to positively impact the lives of more people in the global supply chain. 

Inclusive:  As we look to 2030, we will increase women in technical roles to 40% and double the number of women and underrepresented minorities in senior leadership. 

Sustainable: With our new goals, we challenge ourselves to achieve net positive water use, 100% renewable power, zero total waste to landfill, and additional absolute carbon emissions reductions, even as we grow. 

(Part I of a summary of Engineers Ireland's recent national conference can be viewed here, while Part III: 'Our digital future'Section A can be viewed here; Part IIISection B here; and Part IIISection C here.)