Iain MacDonald, director, YRM
With government backing, industrial architecture is set to become an important part of urban regeneration says Iain MacDonald, director of YRM.
The government’s decision to designate eight sites for nuclear new build as part of a widespread delivery programme towards a cleaner energy generation, offers a significant opportunity for the design industry. When the life extension and decommissioning of existing complexes and future power generation typologies are taken into account, such as small and modular fission and prototypes for fusion, the challenge for the architecture and engineering professions is how to adapt and synchronize to deliver design solutions for buildings of significant scale and complexity with long lifespans.
While architecture and landscape design have to follow where engineering leads in nuclear projects, the changes to the planning system in the decades since the first and second generation complexes were built, together with the proliferation of information, stakeholder engagement and design consultation in a digital age, has brought a recognition that approval will be dependent upon the quality of architectural design and environmentally aware construction. But we are not talking about the approach to design that has shaped Dubai or Shanghai.
Large-scale complexes in rural or coastal settings have the capacity to generate habitats and employment as well as power. Response to context will determine whether the design of temporary and permanent buildings, infrastructure and composition of clusters and landscape adopts a highly visible or stealth-like approach. In the near future, small and modular reactors with safety footprints measured in metres rather than kilometres could take their place alongside CHP, W2E and other forms of metropolitan plant supplying power for digital real estate. This will elevate industrial architecture even further in the public consciousness – it will be an important component of urban regeneration.
Iain MacDonald is a director at YRM
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