Earth Overshoot Day – and why we need to tackle buildings’ carbon footprint

We’ve busted Earth’s budget. By July 29th humans will have already used up more of Earth’s ecological resources than the planet can regenerate this year.

That’s according to research scientists at the Global Footprint Network, who calculate the date every year and officially mark it as Earth Overshoot Day. Over the last few decades, Earth Overshoot Day has been slowly creeping up the calendar: from 30 December in 1970, to 10 October in 1990, finally hitting August and July in recent years.

Carbon: the major player

One of the biggest culprits is carbon emissions, and it should remind us all – individuals and businesses alike – of the urgent need to tackle our footprint.

We are already living with the impact of climate change. More frequent storms and extreme weather events destroy homes, businesses and communities. The recent rainfall and flooding in Germany, Holland and Belgium was unprecedented and the scale has even surpassed predictions made by climate scientists. The impacts are irreversible, and they are nothing compared to what the world will look like in the future if we don’t act. 

The UK has pledged to end its contribution to climate change by 2050 with a legally binding net zero emissions target. There is no one silver bullet to get us there, but it’s certain we will need to overhaul the way we power our homes and workplaces. Buildings account for 23% of UK emissions, the majority of which is primarily for the use of fossil fuels for heating. Climate experts agree that a clean energy revolution is needed, with a permanent and fundamental shift away from fossil fuels.

Taking action on buildings

The good news is that many of the solutions we need to decarbonise our buildings exist today and can be easily deployed. The first step should be to reduce overall demand through energy efficiency measures such as building controls and LED lighting. These are tried and tested, “low regret” measures. Energy demand can then be met through 100% green tariffs and onsite renewables, such as solar PV and heat pumps. The government is championing the latter as a key tool to decarbonise our heating needs.

BGES Group has recently been involved in a major renewable retrofit project at a hotel and golf club, which combines energy efficiency with renewables to reduce carbon emissions. The site has slashed its energy consumption by using lake water from the golf course as its main heat source.

The new system sees pipework take water from the lake to the heat pump in the main plantroom. The resort’s old oil-fired boilers and chiller have been replaced with a low-energy heat pump system, linked to a 250kW solar array installed onsite. It is all intelligently monitored and controlled by an upgraded BMS, which we’ve designed and installed. This precise control & visibility is contributing towards a vast reduction in energy input demand for the club’s heating, cooling and hot water, and combined with other efficiency improvements, it’s expected that energy consumption will be reduced by up to 75%.

Added benefits

Global Footprint Network estimates that reducing our carbon emissions by 50% would move Earth Overshoot Day by more than three months. And for many businesses, the solutions are already available.

Taking action to reduce building emissions will not only have an impact on the UK’s carbon footprint, but bring a whole host of benefits to your organisation. A smarter, healthier, more comfortable building in which to work. A building that is more efficient, with reduced energy, operating and maintenance costs. A building that is future-proofed for tightening carbon regulations.

This Earth Overshoot Day could be the perfect reason to start a conversation in your business on grasping the opportunities of low carbon buildings. And we can help you take the first step. Our BG Projects team have delivered a whole host of building energy efficiency projects across a range of sectors, and our BG Service team are helping clients to boost those savings over time. If you’d like advice on where to start, get in touch.