Soil Matters 4 - BRE Scotland - innovation from the ground up

Billed as a project that will ‘change the face of Scottish construction’  the BRE Innovation Park at Ravenscraig is designed to demonstrate how a housing development can be both sustainable and efficient, while remaining affordable and community focused.

When the project was announced, developers invited to work on the site were warned that they would need to adhere to some of the strictest environmental guidelines in the country. These include energy requirements and the use of materials. The same level of care is being given to the creation of the new landscape, which is being designed to be accessible, attractive and to encourage the community to utilise the outside space as much as possible.

For BRE, putting the landscape first is a significant step change from the process taken at its first Innovation Park in Watford. There the landscape was incorporated at the final stage of development, rather than as a factor in its own right. BRE Scotland, however, set out to treat the landscape as an integral part of the project from the start.

Beginning in summer this year, BRE Scotland will start with the implementation of sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS) on site to manage rainfall, and then lay the foundations for geothermal heating. But with large quantities of poor quality soil left behind from Ravenscraig’s previous existence as a steelworks, the project has had to implement a sustainable soil strategy before any of this could happen.

More than 1,200 tonnes of high quality soil needs to be manufactured for use in the SUDS applications and ground engineering. This need led BRE to source BSI PAS 100 compost from local producer Forth Resource Management. The compost is being combined with the poor quality soil already on site to create the new soil.

Because compost improves a soil’s water absorption rates and boosts the development of healthy vegetation, the use of BSI PAS 100 compost is expected to significantly enhance the effectiveness of the SUDS applications being put in place.

Due for completion in spring 2011, the Ravenscraig Innovation Park has been described as one of the most ambitious regeneration projects ever seen in Scotland. This is quite a claim given Scotland’s strong association with a series of innovative regeneration projects – but the signs are that the new Park will be among the first projects to demonstrate how the creation of a wholly sustainable community needs to start from the ground up.