Understanding the true scale of your carbon liability
25 Jan 2022
Laboratory-based process loads impact operational energy use. Debbie Hobbs discusses the shift towards measurable build performance metrics and the profound implications to science parks, research campuses and the technology and innovation sector
As the built environment is one of the largest contributors to global carbon emissions, the momentum building behind this investment revolution demands an urgent and sustained response from contractors, building owners and tenants.
'Follow the money’ may be a phrase synonymous with criminal investigations, but today it’s equally applicable to a dynamic realignment in the global investment market towards environmental, social and governance (ESG) assets. Shares in ESG stocks have significantly outperformed rival equities, and commentators see this, not as a short-term bubble, but the commencement of a transformational shift in investment focus to ethical and sustainable asset classes.
As the built environment is one of the largest contributors to global carbon emissions, the momentum building behind this investment revolution demands an urgent and sustained response from contractors, building owners and tenants. The direction of travel will see us move away from what have been termed ‘building badges’ during design and construction – the BREEAM and LEED type accreditations – towards performance-in-practice certification. A radical shift from pre-operational ‘estimated performance’ environmental benchmarks to the rigour of data-driven and measurable real-life building performance metrics.
ISG conducted analysis of a multi-storey R&D space and found that operational energy use was over six times more than the Part L model would estimate, due to the high process loads in fume cupboards and other R&D equipment, as well as controls not operating the base building HVAC systems efficiently during operation. A quick win here is simply monitoring the energy consumption of our buildings, comparing this to the design modelling and descriptions of operation, and optimising performance. This benchmark data is the starting point to understanding the scale of the net zero challenge.
We must, however, be under no illusion that we can reach net zero carbon by robust energy monitoring and swift corrective action. With an electricity grid powered solely by zero carbon sources, such as renewables, collectively, our buildings must reduce their energy consumption by circa 80% to hit net zero by 2050. This level of energy reduction must be derived from sustainable materials specification, smart design of our buildings and efficient operation. Deep retrofit of existing property assets will increasingly be the start point, ahead of demolition and new build, as embodied carbon calculations will almost always favour re-use and adaptation, as embodied carbon targets are slowly decreased by planners.
Author: Debbie Hobbs is group director for sustainable business at ISG isgltd.com