#ActOnClimate is the watchword of this year’s World Green Building Week (21-25 September), an annual initiative of the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC). It calls on the building sector, policymakers and governments to take urgent action towards the ultimate goal: net zero buildings by 2050, with significant reductions made by 2030.
This matters if we are to limit global warming to below 2 degrees and avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change. The staggering truth is that buildings and construction account for over a third of global energy-related carbon emissions. Some of this comes from embodied carbon (from construction and materials), but the majority comes from operational emissions, such as heating, lighting and cooling.
The case for retrofit
80% of the buildings in 2050 have already been built – so it’s crucial that we focus on decarbonising our existing stock through retrofit measures.
Energy efficiency doesn’t perhaps grab the same headlines as emerging low carbon technology, but it is “the biggest missed opportunity of the last decade,” according to the Energy Institute’s latest member survey. “Energy efficiency is considered low-risk, so this is a particularly big ‘no-regrets’ option that has been consistently neglected,” says the report.
Energy efficiency offers a potential saving of 23.6MtCO2 per year by 2030, according to a UK Green Building Council paper – that’s roughly equivalent to cutting the CO2 emissions of the UK transport fleet by one third. There are additional benefits too: evidence shows that smart control of building functions such as lighting, temperature and air quality can improve comfort, wellbeing and productivity. Office workers in high performing, green certified buildings have a 61% better cognitive function, according to the UKGBC.
The UK’s net zero by 2050 target is legally binding, and will require all buildings to be operating at net zero carbon. Policies are on the way to support the transition, and so too are tightening compliance requirements for building owners and occupiers. Businesses would be wise to act early and show leadership, and in doing so reap the added benefits of smart net zero buildings.
At BGES we are proud to play our part in decarbonising the UK’s buildings through smart, efficient technology. If you would like advice on practical solutions to reduce your buildings’ carbon footprint, get in touch.