Carbon Neutral Construction.
3rd December 2020
Time for Construction to get Green.
In June of last year, the UK became the first of the worlds major economies to pass laws to reduce greenhouse emissions to net zero by 2050. Under this, the emission of any greenhouse gases into the atmosphere must be balanced by the offsetting the equivalent.
According to the UK Green Building Council the occupation of buildings in the UK is responsible for just under a third of emissions, largely due to heating and cooling and the use of electricity. In order to ensure the UK reaches its targets they have recommended that the office sector reduces its demand on energy resources by 60% by 2050.
RIBA has taken this a step further by developing the 2030 Climate Challenge, which aims to assist architects in their designs for new and retrofitted buildings to meet net zero carbon by 2030. Their updated Plan of Work 2020 also includes for a sustainable strategy within the design and life cycle of buildings, throughout the construction phase and into its occupation in order to provide a set of sustainable targets which are aligned with the UN sustainability development goals. Within the construction industry there are different ways that this can be achieved.
Achieving Carbon Neutrality
The first is to reduce the impact of the construction process itself. This can be achieved by reusing materials that had previously been used as part of another building. Alternatively using materials that in turn can be reused at the end of the building’s lifecycle such as timber or steel, rather than relying on concrete which not only has limited reusability but also uses a large amount of water during the construction process. The adoption of modern methods of construction can also help to reduce the amount of waste generated during construction and the amount of onsite pollution due to reduced time onsite, however there is a reluctance to adopt this in preference to more traditional construction methods.
The second is by reducing the operational energy use of the building in the post-construction stage of the building’s life. The incorporation of renewable energy solutions into a building’s construction can go a long way to reducing this figure. A solar façade system is an example of how this can be done. Here the installation of photovoltaic cells as part of a building’s external skin allows not only for the production of electricity, but also for the insulation of the façade itself, further reducing a building’s reliance on heating. Across Europe the installation of air and ground source heat pumps is a popular way to efficiently run buildings using clean, renewable energy sources. However, their use on the continent is far higher than in the UK. This is partly due to the costs involved but is also due to an unwillingness to adopt a new method, which is unknown to many.
Raising awareness and reducing the costs are key to renewable methods becoming “normalised” within the industry. A growth in demand should help to ensure that there is more competition, which in turn can reduce the associated costs and further fuel the demand, however without those within the industry promoting them, this is difficult to achieve.
At MacConvilles, we are passionate about playing our part in making this goal a reality, by looking to adopt sustainable practices within our projects. We recognise that the benefits of doing so go beyond the just meeting sustainability targets, with a host of advantages that follow from this such as improving the health and wellbeing of the occupants and reducing running costs of a building, which in turn can increase their appeal to tenants and add value for owner-occupiers and landlords.