Net zero buildings

Last updated: 27th July 2021

As the UK works towards its target of achieving net zero emissions by 2050, we take a look at the part that buildings play.

In the context of architecture and business, a net zero building (NZEB) is one that has no net carbon emissions during its construction and operation

What does a new build need to be a net zero building?

The optimisation of building energy efficiency typically considers the following, which work together to ultimately reach the goal of net zero energy:

  • Lighting
  • Walls and roof
  • Glazing
  • Heating, ventilation and air conditioning
  • Building usage and employee behaviours

An air-tight, highly insulated building envelope is an integral part of the NZEB strategy. Insulation represents significant potential energy savings. For example, quality insulation, used throughout the building interior and exterior construction, can help buildings realise heating energy savings of up to 70%, reducing dependency on fossil fuels.

To achieve high performance buildings, complete building energy modelling and thermal analysis are needed to help architects, designers, specifiers, contractors, building owners and energy consultants maximise efficiencies. A well planned and integrated team approach is typically necessary to achieve NZEB.

How can an old or existing building become net zero?

An existing building is, as you would expect, a more challenging prospect than a new build.

There are three main aspects, with a combination of all three likely in most scenarios:

  • Use of renewable energy and /or onsite generation
  • Carbon emission removal
  • Building refurbishment and/or retrofitting to create greater efficiencies

Moving to 100% renewable energy is the ideal step forward. To complement, or perhaps replace, bought in renewable energy, it may be possible to implement onsite clean energy generation. This will depend on the practicalities of the building itself and may be challenging in older buildings.

The second approach is to neutralise emissions, by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through carbon capture technologies and natural carbon sinks such as oceans and forests. However, climate change experts believe we cannot plant enough trees fast enough for this to be the solution on its own.

About 19% of the UK’s emissions come from heating buildings – 77% from homes and 23% from commercial and public buildings. Therefore, retrofitting/refurbishing existing buildings to make them more energy efficient is critical.

For refurbishment/retrofit projects, there is a strong argument that efforts should be first focused on improving the fabric of buildings to reduce energy demand, for example improving insulation, heating and cooling systems, as well as moving to renewable energy.

The benefits of a net zero building

If you are looking to make your business net zero, there are a number of advantages to focussing on your premises, including:

  • Excellent levels of insulation minimising heat loss and reducing costs
  • Clean energy generation and potential revenue from integrated solar PV roofs
  • Affordable construction with zero running costs for new builds
  • Airtight construction
  • Negative carbon emissions asset rating

And don’t forget to install electric vehicle charging points for your employees!

Achieving net zero

If you would like to learn more about renewable energy and net zero, you can download our free “Guide to green” eBook.

And you can always give us a ring on 01737 556631 to discuss your energy requirements, including EV charging points and moving to a renewable energy contract.

N.B. The information contained in this entry is provided by the above supplier, and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher

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