The Road to Net Zero

Net Zero and the built environment

Scientific evidence shows that we must reduce our output of greenhouse gases with real urgency. The built environment is a significant contributor to these emissions. Professionals involved at every stage from design to construction and operation must be aware of how to ensure buildings of all types are as energy efficient and sustainable as possible.

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According to the World Green Building Council, buildings and construction account for 36% of global final energy use and 39% of energy-related carbon-dioxide emissions when upstream power generation is included.

Research from the UK’s Climate Change Committee (CCC) shows that all buildings produce around 17% of UK greenhouse gas emissions, either directly or indirectly (through use of electricity).

Most of these direct CO₂ emissions result from the use of fossil fuels for heating and hot water production. Approximately 74% of our demand for heating and hot water is currently met from natural gas, making this an important area for GHG emissions reductions.

Buildings also use 59% of the UK’s electricity production which, the CCC states, adds a further 31 MtCO₂e of indirect emissions. Most of this electricity use is for appliances and lighting in homes. In commercial buildings, cooling, IT and catering are the largest electricity users.

The UK government has introduced legislation to reduce energy use in buildings of all types.

Future of offices

Decarbonising Heating

In the UK, building emissions related to electricity use (indirect emissions) have also been falling at about 10% per year since 2009. The improving efficiency of buildings means that our equipment becomes more efficient as well – better insulation means a reduction in the energy required to heat or cool and the continuing deployment of renewable energy production means a ‘cleaner mix’ of the electricity in terms of carbon intensity – a cleaner electricity grid means that the electricity that is required to run our kit is less carbon intensive.

However, direct emissions reductions have been relatively static since 2015, mainly due to our reliance on natural gas for heating and hot water in buildings.

We must decarbonise our heat if we are to achieve net zero by 2050.

Around 23 million UK homes are on the gas grid and have wet central heating systems. A further 4 million are off the grid, and more likely to use oil or liquid petroleum gas (LPG) as the fuel for space heating and hot water. So this is a challenge which requires solutions that can work at scale and that are attractive to householders as well as commercial building owners and occupiers.

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Our greener grid and the switch to energy efficient electric heating

The UK has increased its use of renewables such as offshore wind, which means that energy efficient electric heating has a smaller carbon footprint.

In the most recent edition of Part L (2021) of the Building Regulations, designers are encouraged to begin the switch away from gas central heating. The carbon weighting for electric energy in SAP 10.2 has been reduced, so that systems such as heat pumps become more attractive.

Part L 2021 states that domestic heating systems in new homes must be designed to operate at a maximum temperature of 55°C, making them suitable for heat pump heating. This means that even if a heat pump is not applied in that new home, it is future-proofed for retrofitting a heat pump.

View our heat pump range
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Net Zero Roadshows

As the world moves towards a Net Zero future, Mitsubishi Electric toured the UK in May 2022 with their, 'On the Road to Net Zero' Roadshows hosting events in Glasgow, Leeds, Birmingham, London and Bristol to discuss what this shift entails for each region, the future of offices, decarbonising heating and the digital future of HVAC. Download your regional presentation below.*

*Correct at time of event

Download your regional presentation
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Download our regional Net Zero presentations