February 14, 2022

What we can learn from Europe to create a greener UK

The UK is far from alone in its desires to dramatically cut carbon emissions and create a greener future. Just a few months ago, countries from around the world came together at COP26 in Glasgow, committed to updating their plans to achieve net-zero by mid-century and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.

Since then, the EU has pushed ahead and updated their Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD). The revisions reflect their higher ambitions and the greater need for climate action. They also hope that it will ensure they reach their target of a 55% reduction in carbon emissions by 2022.

While the UK is no longer obliged to comply with these European directives, the changes do provide UK businesses with some useful guidance as to what might be coming, and how they can improve their green credentials.

Life cycle of a building

One of the most significant changes is a shift from focusing on a building’s carbon emissions while in use, to a whole life cycle approach. The carbon emissions during a building’s use are known as ‘operational’ carbon emissions. However, this doesn’t consider other carbon emissions during other life stages of the building, such as construction. ‘Embodied’ carbon emissions include those from the manufacturing of materials, transportation, construction, and maintenance of the building.

The EU is introducing a new metric that incorporates these factors. This will apply to new buildings over 2000sqm from 2027, and all other new buildings from 2030. New buildings will also need to be zero-emission by 2030.

The metric takes a more holistic view of carbon emissions. Simon Green, Managing Director of Green Building Design, points out that “taking embodied carbon emissions into consideration for new buildings provides businesses with the opportunity to make an even greater contribution to reducing carbon emissions.”

New Targets

Other changes to the directive include revised energy efficiency targets. Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) have now been with us for almost two decades. However, the EPBD now requires non-residential buildings to meet at least an F rating by 2027, and an E rating by 2030. This targets buildings where changes are likely to have the greatest impact.

An EPC gives businesses a snapshot into the efficiency of their building and how they might best improve it. In the UK, the government has already introduced regulations preventing property owners from renting out residential properties with an F or G rating. It’s therefore likely that commercial buildings with similar low EPC ratings may face regulation in the future. Plus, improving the EPC rating of your building can be a simple way to reduce carbon emissions and often comes with cost savings in the long run.

Another target set in the EPBD involves the use of renewable energies. By 2030 the energy consumption for almost all new buildings will need to be 100% covered by renewable energy. There is an even earlier target of 2027 for public buildings. The aim is to completely phase out the use of fossil fuels in buildings by 2040.

Businesses here in the UK could also reduce their carbon emissions by focusing on the use of renewable energies. This also comes with the added benefit of reducing energy costs, something that has risen steeply in recent months.

Why go greener?

But why should a UK business consider the life cycle of their building, its energy rating, or use of fossil fuels? After all, we are no longer bound by EU regulations. While many business owners are concerned about the planet and keen to do what they can to reduce their impact, others are less concerned by this, and worried about the cost implications.

However, green credentials are increasingly a top concern for employees, buyers, and investors. For example:

  • The Financial Times reported that a survey found 64% of business students thought businesses were not making ‘sufficient efforts to address environmental concerns’ and another discovered 80% of business students agreed businesses could 'do a lot more’.
  • A 2021 study found corporate environmental responsibility (CER) had a significant positive impact on investors’ reactions.
  • In 2020, Capgemini Research Institute, found 79% of consumers ‘are changing their purchase preferences based on sustainability. With such high figures, it’s likely these attitudes will also now be found in the workplace.

By improving buildings, businesses can not only capitalise on potential energy savings, but also attract the best people to their business.

How we can help

Of course, reducing your carbon emissions and making your buildings greener is not always straightforward. Most businesses want to focus on what will have the most impact while remaining cost effective. As a multidisciplinary consultancy, Green Building Design can offer you advice and support at each stage. We can conduct surveys to identify key points of focus, as well as offer the most cost-effective and environmentally sustainable design solutions. We also offer management of mechanical and electrical projects.

If you want a greener building and wish to reduce your carbon emissions, then give us a call on 01992 552111 to discover more about how we can help.

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