I am sure everyone involved in the design and delivery of low carbon buildings was frustrated by the government’s October announcement of a reset of its Net Zero goals.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the UK’s target was still Net Zero by 2050, but that the approach to the transition should be “proportionate and pragmatic”.
Although the UK has made fair progress on lowering emissions in the past decade, this has largely been by reducing our reliance on gas-powered electricity generation.
There is a lot more to do, particularly in the built environment – as the Climate Change Committee pointed out in its latest report.
It’s increasingly important for the buildings they occupy to achieve sustainable credentials
A growing demand
But I don’t think we need to rely entirely on the government to lead the way.
It has set the 2050 target and introduced some legislation, including the updated Part L 2021 and the upcoming Energy (Security) Act.
These will help to drive the decarbonisation of buildings and increase the use of heat pumps and heat networks across the UK.
While legislation is important, when it comes to Net Zero buildings, what also matters is the customer – the building owners and tenants who foot the bill for new buildings or carbon-reduction refurbishments.
And here, we can clearly see a growing demand for sustainable, efficient, low-carbon buildings.
As corporate tenants set their own Net Zero objectives to reduce global carbon footprints, it is becoming increasingly important for the buildings they occupy to achieve sustainable credentials. We continue to see the popularity of BREEAM and the rapid growth of NABERS accreditation.
Refurbishments are also being driven by owners who don’t want their properties to become stranded assets – either left behind by ‘greener’, more marketable buildings or vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
In addition, banks that provide loans for property development are increasingly including sustainability clauses in agreements.
They must also decarbonise their investments to meet higher international standards. If we follow the money, it’s certainly heading down the road to Net Zero.
Knowledge and experience
At Mitsubishi Electric, we have established a Sustainability and Construction Team to help our customers make the most of energy efficient, low-carbon HVAC solutions.
This unique team can share and discuss your target project outcomes with knowledgeable, experienced building services professionals who can provide advice and input on how you could achieve Net Zero targets.
It is encouraging to see the construction industry and its clients working to shrink the carbon footprint of buildings.
Most people I meet in my job want to work on projects that are part of the low-carbon future and that will stand the test of time.
Clear direction needed
That said, I think that the government will need to lean in further with legislation and regulation.
It’s not necessarily about forcing businesses to adopt Net Zero, but about giving clear direction.
A recent report from Ernst & Young noted that while 80% of UK-listed firms have committed to becoming Net Zero by 2050, 95% haven’t publicly disclosed detailed and actionable plans. I don’t think they’re keeping them secret, but I think they’re still working out how to get there.
Construction and property clients are showing a strong interest in sustainable buildings as part of their Net Zero goals, and I think that the government should pay close attention to where business is going.
Net Zero is an opportunity for growth and the development of sustainable skills across the construction sector. The government should be actively engaged if it doesn’t want to be left behind.
Dave Archer is Business Manager - Influenced Sales