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Learning lessons from others

I visited the FOOTPRINT+ conference and exhibition recently in London’s Billingsgate and I have to say I was impressed.

The show bills itself as the ‘centre of excellence for carbon reduction in property’ and brings together companies that are looking at ways to decarbonise the built environment.

I’ve been to so many events now, across several different industries, and they can all seem to simply blur into others, where you’ve trapsed up and down exhibition aisles and stood at the back of the most popular seminars because they didn’t provide enough seats.

This was different, and I came away buzzing and full of positivity.

What we need is one clear definition of net zero that everyone can adhere to

Chris Herber Chris Herber Product Marketing Manager

A diverse range

The venue was the old Billingsgate market, and they had a main conference space with 34 scheduled seminars. Around the edges was a ‘market’ packed out with booths all appealing to a diverse audience of investors, insurers, architects, building underwriters, developers, along with contractors, and others from the construction supply chain.

The seminars were as diverse as the audience, with a wide variety of topics from ecology to finance, but all focusing on property, construction and the built environment.

My colleague Chris Newman spoke on the first day and makes a brief appearance in the highlight reel for the Show which you can see here.

Portfolio greening through retrofit

Chris is our Zero Carbon Design Manager, and he chaired this discussion with Ben Cross, Creative Real Estate Developer, Tim Heatley, Capital & Centric, Youhna Rhee, Atelier Ten, and Suki Gilliland, Lansec

The seminar focused on the views of leading UK developers on their emerging strategies to make retrofits a desirable and viable proposition on the market.

It looked at the increasingly touch legislative environment and how this is impacting on property portfolios, potentially leading to buildings becoming stranded assets.

Despite higher complexity and less financial incentives, a few developers have proven that it is possible to make retrofit a main business model.

On the other hand, larger developers are looking at new models for portfolio-wide "greening" through energy retrofits, low-carbon extensions, operational hyper-optimisation and product transformation.

Suki Gilliland from Lansec talked a lot about HVAC and the important role heat pumps will play in the net zero retrofit challenge.

A busy schedule

I managed to get to 9 of the seminars and overall, I’d say the key theme from all of them focused on the importance of ownership, along with the need for shared responsibility and collaboration.

This is something Mitsubishi Electric has long advocated.  Everyone must accept that they have an important role to play in tackling the climate challenge but equally, no-one person or company has all the answers.  We will only get nearer to net zero if we all work together.

My colleagues in our sustainable construction team have described net zero as a destination without a map.  We all know where we want to get to, but there isn’t one clear route for everyone, and we are all starting from very different places.  Some people haven’t started yet, and others haven’t even realised that they are already on the journey whether they want to be or not.

The other important theme that came from one of the seminars that I saw was how important it is to engage with contractors and the supply chain as early as possible.

HVAC used to be seen as an ‘add-on’ once everything had been built.  Even now, it is often clipped back to ‘save cost’ when construction or retrofit budgets get tight.

Both of these views ignore the increasing importance of whole life operation on the carbon footprint, and both completely miss the point of how much can be saved in terms of carbon and running costs, with earlier engagement.

One clear standard

The other important seminar I went to, focused on the UK Net Zero Carbon Buildings Standard

At the moment, net zero is undefined officially and still means different things to different people.

What we need is one clear definition that everyone can adhere to which is exactly what this seminar focused on and why we are happy to be a founding member.

The UK Net Zero Buildings Standard is underpinned by different industry bodies, such as CIBSE, UK Green Building Council, LETI, RIBA, RICS, etc.

This provides much more certainty that it will become the definition and the standard, so let’s hope that it is in place by the next FOOTPRINT+ event.

Chris Herber is Product Marketing Manager