Success is negative: Carbon negative office spaces
EIC explores the carbon-negative office spaces that are emerging, their role in the green recovery and the technology that make them possible.
Favour the bold
The path to net zero is fraught with obstacles and among these is the carbon intensive nature of the mainstream construction sector. Materials like concrete are extremely resource intensive to produce.
While often offset on a citywide scale, some firms are beginning to focus on the buildings themselves and work sustainability into their initial designs.
Blazing the smoke-free trail are Norwegian architects Snøhetta, who will design exclusively carbon-neutral buildings over the next decade.
The aim is then that from 2030 onwards, Snøhetta will focus on creating carbon-negative designs.
Carbon negative structures either generate more energy than they consume, or sequester more carbon than they produce. The figure includes expenses from initial construction and materials, as well as operation and decommissioning.
Elusive costs like these are problematic, with 85% of building emissions generated by materials and construction, before the structure is ever used.
“For the next 10 years, we have the ambition of having projects on the table that will become CO2 negative in the cradle-to-cradle definition… This means we have to understand the embodied energies and all the materials used.”
-Snøhetta co-founder Kjetil Thorsen
Balancing the books
Since less intensive materials suited to large scale construction are not yet widely available, balancing through generation will be key. Solar is central to Snøhettas plans, with structures taking about 60 years to hit carbon negative with embedded generation. The architect recently completed its Powerhouse Brattørkaia project, which boasts an identical timeline for net negative. The Powerhouse also sports a cutting edge ‘wedge’ shape designed to maximise exposure to the sun’s rays.
While this may seem like a life sentence for business leaders, it is refreshing that groups like Snøhetta are beginning to think in terms of multi-generational gains.
Bywater Properties are leading a similar development project aimed to create the lowest-carbon workplace in London. The office, named ‘Paradise’ for the road it occupies: Old Paradise Street. Supermarket, Iceland has already secured the majority of this space, planting a green flag for the brand in the minds of its customers.
It is no secret that the attraction of short-term gains have significantly contributed to the environmental challenges we now face.
However, vision extending beyond the next board meeting can help transform the UK and global economy to reach net zero. Carbon negative buildings are a part of that vision.
Unfortunately, that can feel exclusionary to firms that have already established their sites and do not have the luxury of completely retrofitting them.
The complex, modular nature of structures does mean that while carbon negative may not be feasible, ‘carbon-light’ might be possible.
Intelligent building control is one of the most effective ways to improve your carbon profile. Primarily because it streamlines the carbon-producing elements of a building, mainly utility consumption, and shrinks carbon footprint as a result.
A holistic ally in carbon reduction is the addition of green spaces to working environments, since these also sequester carbon.
On-site generation further reduces your reliance on the grid and the subsequent sequestered carbon in meeting demand – particularly across long distances.
Other benefits include improved energy supply security, added leverage in procurement talks and a better carbon profile for crucial legislation.
EIC understands that intelligent building design and frugality around resource-use work in hand in glove. As such, EIC offers a comprehensive carbon service combining building management, intelligent procure and compliance acumen.
Marriage of these three pillars means unlocking the full potential of sites, and leveraging for the benefit of all. EIC’s full offering is on its services page.
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