Energetica Corridor: Placemaking Guidance

21 November 2012 | blog, neighbourhood, place making, research, strategy

Energetica placemaking guidance
Commissioned by Scottish Enterprise on behalf of the Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Forum, the purpose of the Energetica Placemaking Guidance is to translate the Energetica Vision of transforming the coastal zone from Aberdeen to Peterhead into a high class lifestyle, leisure and business location by providing clear guidance to all developers on the standards to be adopted when initiating new developments.

Traditional design guidance tries to achieve improvements in some of the aesthetic, stylistic and functional characteristics of new developments but, although these are relatively modest ambitions, there is little evidence that it works in most circumstances.
In the past design guidance has been about efficiency of process, reducing design risk and is based on distrust and an adversarial model which tends to produce the lowest common denominator. Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Councils are therefore now both adopting a more engaged and forthright approach to design across the area. It is in this context that we expect design in the Energetica corridor to take the lead and to set the benchmark to which others should aspire.

In this approach, place quality characteristics such as innovation, talent attraction, quality of life, well-being, health and learning represent a much deeper set of parameters than building design and therefore the guidance should be about:

  • place performance (exchange, learning, social capital, energy reduction, experience)
  • landscape (experience, energy and food)
  • process (institutions, co-production, engagement)
  • core infrastructure (energy, transport, food)
  • new settlement patterns(and the urban-rural configuration)

So the characteristics of a more effective set of design guidance principles would include:

  • enabling process rather than fixing micro-place outcomes
  • avoiding overly prescriptive control
  • permitted development on the basis of performance rather than conformance and a priority for content over form
  • dealing with relationships rather than objects – eg building interfaces with the public realm, adjacencies instead of wasted space, and landscape experience linked to food and energy
  • environmental performance embracing energy, biodiversity, food, waste, water

This is the underlying philosophy and approach to the guidance, which will be incorporated into three key areas:

Quality of life

The original Energetica Strategic Framework described a future area in which quality of life, environment and economy combine to produce a new ‘lifestyle’ corridor. Access to quality education at primary, academy and university level is a traditionally important factor as is the state of the local economy but other factors have been shown to be consistently stronger including:

  1. social offerings such as places to meet or entertainment venues
  2. openness or how welcoming a place is
  3. the area’s physical beauty and green spaces

The guidance is tailored to promote these factors through encouraging higher standards in the following areas:

  • the relationship of development to landscape
  • better movement networks
  • density patterns
  • strengthening existing centres
  • the co-location of new facilities
  • encouraging vibrant mixed communities
  • integrating working environments
  • encouraging innovation
  • re-using heritage

Environmental performance

Energetica aspires to be a truly sustainable area providing a model of development for the rest of Scotland and the UK. A key aim is to deliver a quality of place that will attract and retain potentially mobile businesses and the highly skilled staff they require. To achieve this, the guidance is adopting two overarching strategic targets relating to carbon emissions reductions and ecological footprint reductions in the Energetica corridor:

  • a carbon emissions reduction of 80% by 2050 (and an interim target of 42% by 2020). This is already a legally binding target of both the Scottish and UK Governments, introduced in response to the threat that climate change presents to the future wellbeing of our society. However, as yet, very few development projects have adopted these targets as a core aim
  • an ecological impact reduction target of 66% for new developments. Different countries consume at different rates, but ecological footprinting analysis suggests that, in the UK, we need to reduce our ecological impact by around 66%, if we are to play our part in keeping global impacts within tolerable levels.


Energetica aims to generate the conditions for a step change in the business environment by attracting inward investment, both around its existing energy industry and beyond. Sustainable economic development depends on setting the conditions for the development of new and the growth of existing firms that add sustainable value to the economy through their activities whether through technology, job creation, or social value benefits. To be globally competitive continuous productivity increases are vital, which in turn depend on innovation.

Seven areas of guidance have been set out which will help to create innovative and dynamic environments. One of the key areas is improving the interface between communal areas and private realm, for example through visibility and overlooking, active frontages, boundary treatments and the positioning of entrances. Another would be the way in which development facilitates street design in neighbourhoods that create opportunities for informal social contact, play and community events.

A focus on the spaces in and between buildings and the connections between these spaces is another key component of the guidance. This suggests that consideration needs to be given to clustered building entrances, facilities for sports and informal recreation, public spaces near the workplace, high amenity, well-located bus stops and more consideration given to social spaces.

Key ideas

At the core of the guidance will be the following five key principles, which are intended to differentiate Energetica from other areas. These principles will be supported by advice available from the Energetica Placemaking Guidance – full document:

  1. The acceptance and encouragement of innovation and experimentation in terms of land use and design where it can be seen to further the progress of economic, social and environmental sustainability. This will be reflected in the mix and balance of uses in developments.
  2. The energy performance of layouts and buildings is expected to be exemplary.
  3. Future-proofing of buildings will be achieved by flexibility of built forms and enhanced space standards.
  4. There will be a particular emphasis on sustainable “social hubs” and civic spaces and how well buildings relate to them both in terms of form and active frontages. The provision of open spaces will relate to the lifestyle being promoted in the corridor and will be of a high quality which allows for access to the wider countryside including multi use woodlands and food growing areas.
  5. A higher quality and a unified design of landscaping will be required within the corridor. This will particularly apply to employment areas which must be of a standard which can compete on a global market and attract inward investment.