Subscribing to our award-winning Hub enables readers to receive regular emails with the top articles most likely to interest them

Setting out the challenges, opportunities and support

We recently held our first customer conference since the pandemic, where we gathered over 350 of our key strategic Partners together to talk about the challenges and opportunities of net zero.

Called PACE24, the event consisted of three main sessions with the first looking at what change is coming in both the short and long-term for construction and buildings, and how this affects the businesses supporting the sector.

We have been monitoring the construction sector for well over a decade and can see that the ‘stars are aligning’ and pointing us to an all-electric economy, which puts the products and services our Partners offer right at the heart of the future.

During the breaks, delegates were able to talk to our product experts and discuss support from our Partner programme, as well as look at events, workwear and generally network.

It was fantastic to see everyone together again and there was a real buzz about the place with lots of discussion about the significant opportunities ahead.

That equates to a significant opportunity for any business in the HVAC sector that is ready.

OliverCollins Oliver Collins Marketing Manager for our Installer Partners

Lord Deben

After the break, we went straight into our fantastic guest speakers, kicking off with Lord Deben, the former Chair of the Committee for Climate Change, who spoke at length about the challenges of the climate crisis and the need for certainty.

He started by saying how we can be certain that the climate crisis is going to get worse, which certainly grabbed the attention of everyone in the room.

He then explained how businesses needed certainty and how the government would, and would not, be able to provide that certainty. He ended by also saying how certain he was that we would be able to do something to mitigate it.

My colleague Russell Jones has written a whole blog post on this section, which does Lord Deben speech more justice than I can manage in these few words.

Engineer of the Year

Next on stage was the CIBSE Engineer of the Year 2024, Phil Draper CEng, FCIBSE, and Managing Director at Twenty One Engineering.

Phil started by explaining the typical barriers people mention to him, but how we already have the technological solutions available to help us achieve net zero, along with all the tools and skills necessary to deliver it.

He said he felt that sometimes we need to be more creative in the way we approach buildings or even elements of the building, and that we always need to be collaborating across the supply chain, so that everyone is working together.

The most important thing for him though was the need to always think holistically about the whole building, rather than each element that impacts on carbon and energy use, working in isolation.

He then gave some fascinating specific case studies from his clients, about how he helped them decarbonise. The important thing here for Phil is that you need to start each project by measuring everything, so you can really determine and understand the need of the building and its users.

Banking and finance 

Andy O’Hare, Climate Lead for NatWest talked about why the bank is looking to decarbonise its balance sheet and how it aims to achieve this.

He explained that NatWest is working to become the leading UK bank helping to address the climate challenge and how it sees the climate transition as a great business opportunity for both the bank and its customers.

He covered why the bank is focusing on decarbonisation and touched on upcoming legislation, which is only going to get tougher. Andy spoke of the dangers of buildings becoming ‘stranded assets’ which owners are unable to let or even sell for a decent price, because they have fallen behind energy efficiency and net zero legislation.

The banks ambition includes a target to provide £100bn climate and sustainability funding and financing between July 2021 and the end of 2025.

We can’t be part of the problem

Next the conference delegates heard from Jennifer Kelly, Head of Sustainability at Chester Zoo, which is a world-leading conservation and education charity with a mission to prevent extinction.

Jennifer explained that climate change is a key driver in biodiversity loss, so the zoo and its operations can’t be part of the problem they are trying to solve.

Chester Zoo is aiming to be net zero by 2031 and as part of this, it is actively working to remove fossil fuels from its estate of 92 buildings, each of which has very different requirements based on the animals and species housed in them.

Work has already been done in including replacing oil heating for renewable heat pumps in the Butterfly House and the Rhino Home.

Jennifer explained that this proved that heat pumps could work in any building as the rhinos need to be kept at temperatures of between 18 and 24 degrees, but their home has big open doors, which can lead to significant heat loss.

Net zero opportunities

Our Zero Carbon design Team Manager, Chris Newman then spoke to delegates about the scale of change and the opportunities this offered to the industry.

He focused on how the big challenge was the retrofit market as around 80% of the buildings that we will occupy in 2050 are already here. 

We can’t knock them all down, even if we wanted to because of the financial and carbon costs involved, so we must find ways to make them more efficient and reduce their carbon emissions.

Chris looked at research from the UKGBC which highlights how 85% of the existing commercial buildings are below and EPC rating of B, which they will need to achieve to help us get to net zero.

That equates to around half a million shops, 350,000 offices, 250,000 hospitality and community venues from bars to theatres, 240,000 factories, and around 40,000 educational establishments, which offers significant opportunity for any business in the HVAC sector that is ready.

A day of excitement

In the final session, our product experts talked about the roadmap and support that we have planned for our partners in the coming months, which includes exciting new products sectors.

This led to a lot of interest to the new products on display in our exhibition area, including our new ECOV refrigeration products, and virtual reality (VR) training, which allowed partners to explore the inside of our products.

We wrapped up with a very engaging Q&A from our Partners in the room, it is so valuable to hear from them and it was a fantastic opportunity to discuss any concerns or questions they might have.

The conference was then followed by a fantastic black-tie dinner with comedian Russell Kane entertaining everyone in an event that went on into the small hours.

All-in-all a fantastic day that helped strengthen the ties to our Partners and demonstrate what we are trying to achieve to help them grow their business.

Oliver Collins is Marketing Manager for our Installer Partners