Your carbon footprint might be complex, but your journey to net zero doesn’t have to be. Alex Mozaffari, Director for Sustainability looks at some of the challenges businesses face as they strive to achieve net zero carbon and how they can set up for success by getting the right strategy in place.
Apart from the lack of clarity in a zero-carbon definition, a major obstacle for businesses is often the inability to direct resources away from their core processes in order to focus on creating a strategic plan.
Before any strategy can be implemented it’s important to have a clear roadmap and target. For many companies, whilst the vision is clear, often there is no defined target - i.e. what do we mean by zero carbon? Is it:
The latter cannot be justified if we are serious about meeting net zero carbon in the UK by 2050.
Now let’s assume the aim is to achieve net zero carbon for a certain asset. There are questions which must be addressed at the initial stage:
It might not be easy to formulate coherent responses to the above questions; however, this will make defining the strategy and roadmap much easier.
The first step towards zero carbon, and the foundation of a net zero strategy, is identifying where your greenhouse gas emissions are coming from. Split into three categories, they can be:
Moving forward, you need to establish a baseline understanding of the following areas to formulate a detailed plan of action:
Most of the operational carbon emissions for a building are associated with energy consumption, i.e. gas and electricity consumption for heating, cooling, power, during use. Operational carbon is generally considered to be responsible for the biggest share of total emissions. There is an intuitive link between design choices and operational carbon performance: using more insulation, efficient building services and renewable energy generation will result in proportionally lower CO2 emissions, while the link between design choices and embodied carbon performance is not so intuitive. Achieving better performance requires all aspects of the design to be considered simultaneously.
Our net zero carbon team can set up an energy reduction target and bespoke plan to reduce your energy intensity by a practical percentage, for assets that have been under your operational control for at least two years.
A bespoke energy reduction plan can:
When a building is designed, there is a targeted level of energy performance. Once a building is completed however, the reality is that these targets often aren’t achieved. This is called performance gap. The gap might originate from building material/fabric durability and usability, ventilation strategy, building service performance or any other operational installations. Most of the problems arise in the design and construction (or renovation) of buildings which can be addressed through better knowledge and more care. It is plausible that those projects which fail to meet the performance which is required for a good building should not merely be seen as average, but as unacceptable, but as failures.
To ensure that our client’s future assets also meet these targets, we have developed a Design for Performance approach to set energy intensity targets. This tool aims to close the performance gap by ensuring that new developments as well as existing assets operate as efficiently as they were designed to. We will then map the performance against the UK Green Building Council's (UKGBC) pathway to net zero to ensure that they are in line with industry best practice.
For businesses and the UK to achieve our target of net zero carbon by 2050, the next few years will be crucial in laying the groundwork and putting the right strategy in place. We can support your sustainability strategies, business transformation and development plans.
Your carbon footprint may be complex, but your journey to net zero doesn't have to be.
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