Thought Leadership

How London's New Air Quality Guidance Impacts Developers

london skyline smog
air quality guidance UK title

As cities continue to develop, creating new residential, commercial, and mixed-use buildings as well as additional infrastructure to support a growing population, air quality must be top of mind. After all, development, including its construction, can have significant influence on the quality of the air surrounding the project.

Air Quality Positive & Air Quality Neutral Guidance

The Greater London Authority understands the role new developments have in boosting the quality of London’s air. The design process for these developments, particularly the largest ones, provides several opportunities to better consider air quality.

As such, the Greater London Authority has published the final versions of the Air Quality Positive and Air Quality Neutral Assessment guidance.

construction crane in skyline

Air Quality Positive

The Air Quality Positive (AQP) guidance provides an outline for developers to find opportunities to deliver air quality improvements when working on new builds. The AQP guidance applies to the large-scale development proposals that are subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

Under this guidance, developers must prepare AQP Statements with the aim of improving air quality in and around new developments at early design stages. Such a statement should demonstrate the ways in which the new development surpasses air quality neutral benchmarks, ensured the best possible benefits to local air quality, as well as take a holistic approach and considered air quality throughout the entire design process. As part of this guidance to improve air quality, design teams must focus on four key areas:

4 key areas for air quality guidance

Air Quality Neutral

The Air Quality Neutral (AQN) planning guidance, which applies to all new developments in London that have additional emissions sources, provides updated benchmarks on allowable emissions and clarification on how to apply them to support planning applications. Specifically, two sets of benchmarks cover the main air pollution sources stemming from new developments:

  1. Building Emissions Benchmark (BEB)
  2. Transport Emissions Benchmark (TEB)

The AQN planning guidance establishes these NOx and PM2.5 benchmarks to ensure the associated emissions from all new developments do not negatively impact the city’s air quality. This new guidance introduces new offsetting payments for situations where adequate mitigation measures cannot be identified. 

Next Steps

As new developments continue to rise and shape London, so too does the impact they have on air quality. There are significant opportunities for new developments to reduce their impact on air quality, improving the health and overall quality of life in London. This is in line with the focus of the new Air Quality Positive and Air Quality Neutral guidance: maximizing benefits to local air quality. When in compliance with the guidance required for their projects, all developers will be ready for new builds they propose in London.

As new developments rise to shape the skylines of world-class cities, so too does the priority that must be placed on air quality.

Ultimately, the way forward is improving air quality in and around new developments, particularly large-scale ones, as they often have the biggest influence on the quality of the surrounding air. A flexible and combined approach – one that leverages elements such as dispersion modeling, air quality monitoring, computational fluid dynamics modeling, and wind tunnel testing – is a powerful tool to not only assist developers in aligning with AQP and AQN guidance requirements, but simultaneously identifying solutions and optimizing the total comfort for high-performance building design.

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