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Building Management

Carbon Trust: Heat pumps key to London’s net zero ambition

A new report from the Carbon Trust says heat pumps will have a critical role in tackling emissions from London’s buildings and delivering the Mayor’s 2030 net zero ambitions.

The report, commissioned by the Mayor of London, includes detailed analysis of the potential to retrofit heat pumps across a range of existing buildings in London and recommends an action plan for scaling up energy efficiency and heat pump retrofit across the capital.

The report will help guide local authorities, social housing providers and others considering a heat pump retrofit, highlighting the principles of good practice system design.

The Carbon Trust says decarbonising heat is London’s biggest challenge to achieving net zero emissions. Natural gas, used mainly for heating buildings and water, accounts for 37% of all greenhouse gas emissions in London. To achieve the Mayor’s net zero target by 2030, London will need to make a rapid transition from gas to low carbon heat solutions, the majority of which will be retrofitted into existing buildings, as at least 80% of buildings are expected to still be standing in 2050.

Heat pump systems have the potential to deliver immediate carbon emission savings of 60-70% compared to conventional electric heating and 55-65% when compared to an efficient gas boiler. As the grid decarbonises further in coming decades these carbon savings are expected to increase to 90-100% of carbon emissions by 2050.

However, heat pumps are not a like-for-like replacement for gas boilers and good practice system design will be essential to their effective deployment. The report contains guidance for building owners on the technical options for installation and the principles of good practice system design in heat pump retrofit.

Additionally, a prerequisite for the roll out of heat pumps in many buildings will be improved thermal energy efficiency, which is likely to require significant investment from central government, alongside investment and co-ordination with local authorities and the private sector. Retrofitting energy efficiency measures, combined with heat pumps, provides multiple benefits including reducing energy bills, and enabling the heat pump to operate more efficiently.

Heat pumps also allow building occupants to flex their heat demand in response to tariff price signals and other payments for demand side response. The report finds that engaging in demand side response and flexibility markets is hugely beneficial to the financial case for heat pump retrofit, as well as enabling overall grid resilience.

The report concludes that most building types will require further financial support to transition from gas boilers. However, some building types, such as electrically heated blocks of flats and buildings that are due for major upgrades to the building fabric or heating systems, already have strong financial cases for heat pumps, and should be prioritised for retrofit and energy efficiency investment.

Building Management

Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment gains 100 signatories

Five more companies have joined the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment, bringing the total number of signatories to 100 and doubling participation in the programme in just over a year.

Since inception, the businesses and organisations signed up to the Commitment, created by the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), now cover nearly 6,000 assets, over 32 million m2 total floor area and $100 billion in annual turnover.

This means that the operational portfolio emissions of these signatories will be at net zero by 2030, affecting approximately 3.4 million tonnes of CO2 (tCO2e).

WorldGBC is now calling for governments to #ActOnClimate as part of the 11th annual World Green Building Week event, happening 21 to 25 September 2020.

The signatories range from small and medium enterprises to large, multi-national corporations, and span engineering, design and consultancy services to real estate owners and manufacturing.

The latest signatories are Mott MacDonald, QIC Global Real Estate (QIC), United Metal Coating LLC, Bioconstrucción y Energía Alternativa and Tritax Big Box.

For these five signatories, the Commitment is one of three pathways to become a member of EP100 fromThe Climate Group, a global initiative for energy-smart companies doing more with less energy.

“Achieving this milestone, in less than two years since the launch, demonstrates the growing importance of net zero carbon buildings to governments, businesses and mayors”, said Cristina Gamboa, CEO, World Green Building Council. “As countries look to recover from the economic impacts of COVID-19, there is an opportunity for net zero buildings to provide benefits for people, the planet and economies. By positioning net zero carbon buildings at the core of these recovery efforts, governments and policymakers can harness the incredible potential of net zero buildings to build back better and enable a green recovery.

“I congratulate our new signatories on their commitment and for demonstrating the level of ambition and leadership required by both public and private sector actors going forward.”

The new companies and organisations are committed to ensuring that all assets they own, occupy and/or develop under their direct control will operate at net zero carbon by 2030, or earlier.

The Commitment is unique in positioning energy efficiency as a central component to achieving decarbonisation across global portfolios, in addition to generating and procuring renewable energy to meet reduced energy demand. This represents the most cost-effective, best-practice approach to ensuring buildings are fit for purpose, future-proofed against climate impacts, and able to provide healthy and comfortable environments.

The Climate Group’s Corporate Partnerships Director, Mike Peirce said: “Congratulations to World Green Building Council on passing this exciting milestone. Faster business and government action to clean up the built environment is critical to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. We applaud all of the signatories leading by example and welcome the latest EP100 members. Smarter energy use will help them achieve net zero carbon buildings and generate substantial financial savings annually — it’s no wonder more and more companies are seizing this huge business opportunity.”

The full list of the Commitment signatories comprises 68 businesses and organisations including developers, real estate investment and property funds, manufacturers and global design firms, 28 cities including London, New York and Tokyo, and six states and regions including California and Scotland.

Businesses, governments, organisations and individuals are encouraged to sign the World Green Building Week’s Call to Action Statement which is intended to galvanise governments to take urgent action for the decarbonisation of buildings. More information on the week, can be found at www.worldgbc.org/worldgreenbuildingweek.

Open Innovation Levels Framework published by UKGBC

The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) and Sustainable Ventures (SV) have published the Open Innovation Levels Framework, a resource aimed at enabling open innovation with the goal of reducing the climate impacts of the built environment.

The organisations say 40% of UK carbon emissions are attributable to the built environment, which requires significant innovation to reduce its impact. Recent research shows that, in London, innovation is the most frequently identified soft skill required to respond to recent trends in the built environment, with the same research identifying the most significant trend being the climate crisis.

As part of a project to accelerate open innovation, funded by EIT Climate-KIC, UKGBC and SV carried out interviews, desktop research and workshops with innovators and large corporations operating in the built environment sector to identify the needs and barriers currently preventing significant innovation. This research identified that in many cases the power to overcome barriers to innovation lies with large corporate organisations.

45% of all barriers identified related to corporate culture, including attitude to risk, lack of systems thinking and lack of incentives.

The Framework provides a step-by-step guide on how corporates can engage in open innovation and reach effective solutions. It is divided into 4 key phases – challenge definition, scoping, engagement, and collaboration – each of which are broken down further into 8 levels with associated actions. This shared process creates a common understanding of open innovation between corporates and innovators, increases transparency, and enables more efficient and timely engagements.

Alastair Mant, Head of Business Transformation at UKGBC said: “If the built environment is to play its part in tackling the climate crisis we must radically increase the use of innovative solutions. Many companies throughout the property and construction value chain are setting ambitious carbon reduction commitments and to meet these they must now find new ways to construct and operate buildings and infrastructure. Innovators and start-ups continue to create many of the required concepts, prototypes and even final products, but due to largely cultural issues, take-up of these solutions is too slow. The Open Innovation Levels Framework provides corporates with a step-by-step process for collaborating with start-ups in a way that will lead to greater levels of innovation within their projects and across the industry.

“It is our hope that UKGBC members and other organisation in the built environment find this Framework useful in pursuing innovative solutions to environmental and social impact challenges.”

Charlie Beharrell, Senior Commercial Associate at Sustainable Ventures, added: “Sustainable Venture’s community is thriving with innovators tackling the Built Environment’s climate and sustainability issues, but the sector lags behind in its efforts to nurture these and bring them to market. The framework we have developed with UKGBC will enable corporate entities to better engage with early stage innovation, helping to build new, tailored solutions to facilitate the transition to net zero.”

Sustainable office buildings ‘offer tangible investment benefits’

Sustainable office buildings can deliver tangible investment benefits to investors through a combination of higher rents and stronger leasing velocity.

The Impact of Sustainability on Value report from JLL also reveals growing occupier demand for sustainable offices in central London that will need to be met in the next decade.

JLL has calculated that the next wave of office development and major refurbishment will need to accommodate at least 8.0 m sq ft of highly sustainable demand from occupiers across central London by 2030.

This demand assessment for central London office stock is based on the space currently occupied by companies which have signed up to science-based- targets (12m sq ft) who have lease events before 2030, demonstrating the increasing demand and need for highly sustainable buildings within central London.

The research also identified demand from companies signing up to net zero carbon commitments, who currently occupy over 1.5m sq ft of space across central London.

JLL’s research found that, based on historical leasing activity, the future development and redevelopment pipeline of offices incorporating sustainability would deliver tangible financial benefits for developers in addition to strong levels of demand.

JLL analysed leasing activity for New Grade A office buildings in central London and found that those with a BREEAM rating of very good or higher achieved higher rents than those without a rating and that the average rental premium over non-rated buildings over the last three years was around 8%. The analysis also showed that New Grade A buildings with an A or B EPC rating achieved a rental premium of 10% over comparable offices with lower ratings over the same period.

The research further demonstrated that payback for investors who target higher BREEAM ratings is rewarded with higher occupancy rates throughout the cycle. JLL analysed the leasing velocity of 120 central London development schemes completed between 2013 and 2017 and found that those that have an outstanding/ excellent rating tended to show a higher pace of leasing and have lower vacancy rates – of 7% compared to 20% for those rated very good – 24 months after completion.

Neil Prime, head of central London offices markets and UK office agency at JLL, said: “Our analysis of existing environmental ratings shows that overall sustainable buildings deliver better returns for investors against the benchmarks of void rate, leasing velocity and the rents achieved. This provides the industry with a clear and defined base case to begin to formulate an understanding of how the next generation of sustainable offices – for which there is demonstrable demand – will perform.”

Sophie Walker, UK head of sustainability at JLL, added: “Clearly the urgency to build and redevelop these offices in central London to support corporate environmental and people goals is only speeding up.  The first developers to undertake the task will reap the rewards of high levels of demand and the intrinsic higher performance of their product. This opportunity to provide sustainability as a point of differentiation and to appeal to forward-thinking occupiers will really play out over the next decade.

“Beyond 2030, tougher building regulations will drive a reduction in energy consumption and carbon emissions and mandated sustainability performance will become more defined – this may mean that the premium associated with it will disappear and buildings that don’t comply will underperform, leading to the displacement of tenants and lost rents due to costly retrofits.”

Is NET ZERO possible for heavy gas users?

Achieving NET ZERO emissions is a significant task, made all the more difficult if you use lots of gas for your process (for steam, drying, frying, furnaces etc). Gas is around 5-6x cheaper than grid electricity, so the cost of switching from gas is prohibitive.

This is a challenge I see a lot in all sorts of heat intensive sectors (food manufacturing, glass manufacturing, healthcare, care home etc).  Gas is typically used either for direct combustion or indirectly to produce steam.

In 2008, the electricity grid emitted over 570 g/kWh, and gas is around 180 g/kWh, so gas was “clean”.  In 2019 the grid has reduced to 255 g/kWh, and is tracking down to 130 g/kWh by 2030, with a target of zero by 2050, so gas is becoming seen as “dirty”, as it really hasn’t changed much.

Firstly there are developments happening that may start to decarbonise the grid such as biogas injection and hydrogen injection. You may wish to check how your equipment will run on a mix of gases.  For some it may mean planning to replace or refit equipment.

There are technology alternatives that can be looked at but a lot will depend on the temperature of the heat that you generate using gas just now e.g. furnaces, ovens, steam or hot water.  Also consideration should be given to recovering waste heat and using it to reduce gas consumption.

A relevant consideration is that over 50% of most electricity bills relates to “non-energy” costs.  This is the cost of the grid transformation that is happening including renewables obligations, cost of FITs, use of system charges etc.   If you generate power at your location but can often save a lot of these, which helps bring down the price gap to gas, and reduces the cost of switching.  Also this can enable a different mix of power generation to be considered at the site to re-balance electricity and gas use.

Many of the measures may have a longer payback time though.  How can you do them when the criteria for payback is only, say 2 years ?  This is the reason Onsite Energy Projects exists.  We recognised the challenge of capex availability and can provide a no-capex, off-balance sheet solution to implement both energy efficiency and on-site generation measures.

We may also be able to identify additional improvement measures, and deliver them all without any capex. If you would like to know more email us at info@on-site.energy or call on 0161 444 9989.

Onsite Energy Projects provides energy savings and energy generation solutions to energy intensive businesses, without capex if required.

Do you have a Net Zero strategy?

The UK has become the first major economy to pass laws requiring all greenhouse gas emissions to be net zero by 2050.  The electricity grid is decarbonising (its carbon intensity has dropped by over 50% since 2011 to where it is today – 254 g CO2 per kWh) and is forecast to drop another 50% by 2030.  Grid costs are rising to pay for this transition.

A key lies in the word “NET” because whilst some businesses will struggle to reduce carbon, others could actually become POSITIVE – e.g. generating excess renewable power.  New business models and revenue streams could emerge though

So what does this mean for YOUR business ?  How do you develop a net zero strategy ?

  1. Significant changes will be needed to the way you do business and use energy.The changes could impact how your employees come to work, how you distribute your products, sell your products, procure your raw materials and use your facilities.  Processes may require to be redesigned and reengineered.  This will mean the ability to embrace change, challenge existing assumptions, innovate and understanding of alternative methods and costs

Businesses should be looking NOW at their own operations and looking for ways to BOTH reduce consumption AND generate their own low carbon power locally in a sustainable way.  Simply buying a green energy tariff is not sufficient. There are many very good long term business benefits by embracing this genuinely, which can become a source of competitive advantage.

For businesses that use a lot of gas, this is going to be particularly challenging. Gas is cheap (5-6 x cheaper than electricity), so changing away from gas will be expensive.

  1. Those changes will have financial costs that may not be affordable within conventional capex constraints.New business models such as energy as a service are increasingly available to help bridge the gap, and enable changes to happen.

NET ZERO WILL REQUIRE NOTHING SHORT OF AN INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION, with new business models and technology, and all within the next 30 years. 

These are the reasons Onsite Energy Projects exists – we help businesses innovate, reengineer their energy supply chain and implement the full potential of both energy efficiency and on-site generation measures.  We recognised the challenge of capex availability and can provide a no-capex, off-balance sheet, solution to make it all happen.

If you would like to know more email us at info@on-site.energy or call on 0161 444 9989.

Onsite Energy Projects provides energy savings and energy generation solutions to energy intensive businesses, without capex if required.

Sustainability Pays: How to take care of the planet and your profits

Being good to the environment is great for your business finances.

Taking control of your own energy needs – using onsite generation and storage – can reduce costs and cut carbon emissions. It will also protect your business from energy supply disruption.    

Download our research report to discover the 4 steps you can take to accelerate your energy sustainability and improve your profits.  

The advantages of using smart technologies in commercial buildings

As the UK Government pledges to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the urge for sustainable buildings is stronger than ever.

According to the UK Green Building Council, an estimated 40% of the UK’s carbon footprint is attributed to the built environment, half of which comes from energy used in building. Heating alone created 10% of the country’s carbon footprint. 

Yet sustainability is still out of reach for many property owners and managers. Old buildings, small budgets, tenants’ varying needs – there are many factors that make it hard for a property manager to truly measure the sustainability of a building and to act upon any findings.

Considering this, Frankie Bryon, Sustainability Surveyor at LSH discusses why smart technology can help buildings improve on sustainability as well introduce other benefits that include promoting health and wellbeing and enable agile working…

Smart is sustainable
Firms’ sustainability strategies have been a major driver of the rollout of smart technology. By providing more efficient controls over energy usage, it can deliver significant reductions in energy consumption.

It is no coincidence that some of the smartest office buildings in the world are also rated by BREEAM as among the greenest. Smart systems allow lighting, heating, air conditioning and ventilation to be monitored and adjusted according to a building’s usage and occupation. Energy wastage can be minimised by turning off heating and lighting when an office is unoccupied. Intelligent building facades may also be used to control the heat and light entering the building in response to changing weather conditions.

The next generation of energy efficient smart buildings have their own sources of power generation and some are even able to generate more energy than they consume, with surplus energy going back to the grid.

Workplace wellbeing
Smart technology is increasingly recognised as having an important role to play in promoting health and wellbeing. It can help to create environments that support alert, energised workforce. 

Sensors can monitor air and water quality, light, temperature and noise levels. Issues known to affect workers’ concentration levels such as poor air quality or a lack of natural light can thus be detected and fixed.

More advanced smart office technology can also make use of data from wearable biometric devices monitoring the health and comfort of workers. In fact, research by Instant Offices shows 45% of the UK workforce would feel comfortable with sharing information via wearable devices for the purpose of protecting their health and wellbeing. 

Ambient conditions can be adjusted when workers show signs of discomfort, or an individual’s immediate working environment can be changed according to their personal preferences.

Work smarter

Sensors, smartphones or wearable devices may collect data monitoring environmental factors such as temperature, light, air quality and noise, as well as data on employees’ usage of the building.

The data collected can deliver building managers with actionable insights on how to improve a building’s performance, or it may feed through to automated systems controlling the office environment. With smart technology continually evolving, it is being used to support an increasingly wide range of applications, providing multiple benefits to building owners, investors, occupiers and employees.

Enabling agile working
Smart technology is providing occupiers with a better understanding of who uses the office at any given time, how they work and with whom they collaborate. These insights can enable increasingly agile, flexible working.

Some of the newest generation of smart buildings have fewer desks than workers. Instead, employees may reserve a workspace using an app, with a choice of spaces depending on whether they would prefer a collaborative workspace, private meeting area or a quiet space.

Smart systems may thus facilitate a move away from the convention of employees ‘owning’ a desk, which then goes unused for periods when they are out of the office. Flexible workspaces can be used more efficiently and may be continually adapted to changing employee demand and new work styles.

Improving workplace experiences
As well as enabling desk and room bookings, workplace apps can also be used to order food and drink, book gym sessions or reserve parking spaces. They may allow employees to control ambient settings, as well as providing new ways of connecting and collaborating with colleagues.

Workplace apps are thus developing as important interfaces between employees and office buildings, giving individuals greater control over their office experience. This will help to align the modern office with the expectations of a younger workforce for whom smart technology already plays an integral part of their lifestyles outside of work.

The benefits of being smart
Overall the advantages that smart offices offer are in terms of the following:

  • Sustainability
  • Employee wellbeing
  • Agile working 
  • Workplace experience

Smart offices also aid talent attraction and retention, by creating spaces in which people want to work, while appealing to workers’ environmental values. Modern, sustainable offices can help to reinforce a company’s brand values and define a progressive, forward-thinking corporate culture.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay