With COP28 on the horizon, organisations are increasingly looking at ways to raise ambition and accelerate action towards decarbonisation.
The key question remains how best to achieve it.
We believe climate change can only be achieved by a collaborative response, which is why we work with our customers to help streamline the decarbonisation process.
Take our Decarbonise Today service for example. By gaining a comprehensive understanding of your estates and objectives, we can assist in crafting a feasible and practical plan that will reduce carbon emissions.
We make it as easy as possible to implement, so that the plan can quickly begin to deliver tangible results.
This year we’ve hosted multiple roundtable discussions on the topic of decarbonisation. They have brought together customers and consultants to identify the main obstacles towards achieving net zero and looked at how to overcome them.
Recently, we held a roundtable in London in partnership with Procurement Hub. It focused on the challenges in transitioning to a lower carbon estate through refurbishment programmes and how to meet the commitments enshrined in legislation.
Here are some of the key takeaways:
The need for a more coherent approach to sustainable infrastructure
Strategic infrastructure planning is crucial. There is a huge emphasis on the need for a robust national framework that includes the National Grid’s capacity to accommodate new connections and future electricity demands. This will demand strong leadership from the government and the involvement of combined authorities.
However, it’s equally important to recognise the potential for local authorities to lead regional initiatives, such as low carbon heat networks for example, and localised electricity generation and storage projects. These initiatives allow local authorities to unite strategic partners and communities to drive sustainable solutions at a local level.
Exploring embodied carbon and whole life cycle approaches
Much of our discussion revolved around embodied carbon, with a notable development being RICS’ whole life carbon assessment standards for the industry. While there was a consensus that the standards are not yet perfect, they are viewed to be a positive step forward. User feedback and experience can support RICS in reviewing and refining these assessment tools in the future.
Conversations with customers and consultants have highlighted the significance of carbon credits in measuring additionality, and the growing openness of some insurance companies in covering timber structures due to their lower embodied carbon footprint.
The financial aspect
It is important to recognise that financial restraints present a significant challenge on the journey to decarbonisation.
The targets set by the government ask all industries to think and act differently. Greater modernisation is required to support the transition to net zero and current economic models do not fulfil the need.
It’s also critical that building owners make best use of their own resources by incorporating energy efficiency and decarbonising measures into their main capital programmes – and many are already doing so.
Additionally, the availability of grant schemes for public sector organisations and other measures that can reduce operational costs, mean there is a need to look at capital expenditure and revenue budgets in a holistic way.
Shared learning and striving for excellence
As decarbonisation is a relatively new challenge with ambitious targets, it’s important for the construction industry to share its learning more widely.
Digital Twin Models allow proposed interventions to be modelled against different scenarios and uses. It means that we can assess the impact of changes of use during the lifetime of a building, future proofing investment decisions and increasing operational efficiencies. Third party reviews ensure that processes are correct and as good as they can be.
Feedback on how buildings are performing is vital for continual improvement. One suggestion made at our roundtable with Procurement Hub, was that this kind of information should be built into contracts, so that designers, consultants and contractors are aware of the outcomes and can help identify useful adjustments. This can also support in achieving operational efficiencies, designing intuitive controls and further educating operators.
There was an acknowledgment of the challenges regarding systems that are already in place. In line with government policy, there was widespread agreement at our roundtable that it is preferable to make changes when systems are at the end of life.
There was also acceptance of the need to consider carbon reduction alongside financial savings. Low carbon will not always be the cheapest option but it will deliver long-term sustainability benefits and can in turn reduce a building’s lifetime cost.
Start your decarbonisation journey
It’s clear that decarbonisation needs a whole system approach.
Carbon calculators need to be used to determine what saves carbon, and businesses need to move away from focusing too much on financial payback.
Although net zero brings with it ambitious targets, this is a journey that we are all embarking on.
If you would like to discuss decarbonisation please contact us.