Architecture firms pledge net-zero operational carbon design strategies for all future projects

Architects Perkins and Will, in partnership with Penoyre & Prasad, will offer net zero-carbon operational design strategies for new and retrofit buildings from January 2020 to help address real estate’s impact on the climate.

The built environment contributes 40 percent of the UK’s total carbon footprint, according to the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC). Designing in a net-zero carbon target for a building’s operations has a crucial role to play in cutting this figure across the property industry by slashing energy usage while helping future-proof assets against a backdrop of increasing regulation.

The two recently merged practices will produce a Zero Operational Carbon Strategies Report for each new build or retrofit project at RIBA Stage 2 (at the end of the concept design) at no additional cost to the client.

The aim is to encourage more sustainable buildings to be developed by making the process easier for investors and developers. The Zero Operational Carbon Strategies Report will make clear to clients what the operational emissions gap of their buildings will be and how best to close it in line the UKGBC’s 2019 definition of net-zero operational, helping to better inform clients’ decisions in line with the UK’s 2050 net-zero target.

Reaching net-zero operational carbon for buildings begins with minimising energy demand for heating and cooling directly through considerations such as building orientation, insulation, controlled ventilation and heat pumps. From there, design strategies that maximise natural light are proven to save significant energy from reducing the reliance on artificial lighting, while also boosting human wellbeing.

As much of the energy demand as possible for buildings must be met through on-site renewable energy and, taking plug loads into account, the remaining residual energy demand must be offset through direct investment in offsite renewable sources or through a credible and validated offset mechanism. This pledge from Perkins and Will and Penoyre & Prasad will offer a variety of design strategies to clients to make them fully aware of the operational emissions gap of their building, and how they might close it most effectively.

Another key focus area of the pledge will be the health impacts of materials used both for the structure and internal fit out, with the aim of choosing long-lasting and non-toxic materials to improve the building’s climate resilience and improve the wellbeing of users.

Perkins and Will and Penoyre & Prasad’s clients will be able to choose from a range of options between the ‘business as usual’ and a net-zero operational carbon design strategy for their project.
Asif Din, sustainability director at Perkins and Will, said:

“With the UK pledging to be net-zero by 2050, designing in energy efficiency will ensure that these climate-resilient and carbon-efficient buildings will be attractive and viable investments, future-proofing clients against the possibility of stranded assets.

“The key thing is designing a degree of flexibility for buildings that isolates them from the outside environment when we need to control them while being able to open them up to it as and when it’s required. Really getting under the skin of how a building will operate is what will move the dial and if we can encourage our clients to take the more efficient option, we can start to reach our goal of a net-zero 2050.”

Mark Rowe, principal at Penoyre & Prasad, said:

“Our industry still has a lot to learn when it comes to designing the built environment to address the climate crisis. This is a work in progress but is an effective and realistic first step towards changing the story. Our design strategies will actively try to reduce energy usage within our clients’ buildings, for both new projects and retrofit. We are committing to this pledge and I hope that as we engage more with our clients and design teams, we can develop and increase the presence of net-zero buildings across the country.”

Bill Hughes, Head of Real Assets at Legal & General Investment Management, said:

“Reaching net-zero by 2050 requires transformative changes throughout the entire real estate industry, including the way we finance, design, deliver and operate built assets. Pledges such as these to tackle the operational carbon emissions of buildings – a fundamental but often overlooked aspect of decarbonisation. We welcome this design strategy road map as part of the step change required to closing the operational emissions gap in the built environment, helping all investors and developers join the race to net-zero.”

Dame Alison Nimmo, Chief Executive of The Crown Estate, said:

“Climate change is the issue of our time and this pledge is a shining example of how we can start to shift thinking in the industry by bringing together developers, architects and occupiers to reduce the impact of real estate on the environment.”

Mark Farmer, chief executive of Cast Consultancy and the UK government’s MMC Champion, said:

“Climate change poses a huge risk to our planet and society. As an industry, we need to innovate and ramp up our ambition to decarbonise how we build and operate the built environment, which currently accounts for 40 percent of all global CO2 emissions. Taking decisive steps to future-proof new and existing building stock in line with or indeed in advance of the UK government’s 2050 net-zero commitment is essential to ensure that both our cities and communities continue to thrive.”

Patrick Bellew RDI, principal at Atelier Ten, said:

“It’s undoubtedly true that the property industry needs to continue looking towards the future and the many challenges that climate change is bringing. One way of addressing climate change and galvanising the built environment to step up the fight against its impact is through pledges like this one, where coherent design strategies clearly show the operational emissions of a proposed scheme and how to get them to zero. Amid a backdrop of growing regulation, risk and public concern, our industry must take the lead in offering investors and developers sustainable, future-proofed options to aid them in making better long-term business decisions, both in terms of finance and the environment.”