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.

My generation

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.

 

 

 

 

Summer Economic Update

EIC explores Rishi Sunak’s Summer Economic Update and what it means for businesses looking to gain a head start in the green revolution in the UK’s future.

A brave new world

The build back better campaign received a large, public endorsement from Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak this week, who pledged in the Summer Economic Update that £3bn would be committed to the new green economy. While this is only a drop in the proverbial bucket of the £160bn Covid-19 recovery package, it has been met with great enthusiasm from both business leaders and the public.

An E.on survey conducted earlier this year, polling 500 UK-based business leaders, demonstrated that 72% felt that the pandemic has given them cause to re-evaluate their organisations priorities regarding the environment.

During the announcement, the Chancellor revealed the two major fields of improvement to be energy efficiency in public structures and a £2bn Green Homes Grant for those not in social housing. The remaining £1bn will be invested in improving the carbon usage and profile of public sector buildings through measures including double or triple glazing and smart energy meters.

“Improving the energy efficiency of buildings is crucial for reducing our emissions…. this announcement of £3bn is a welcome first step… This funding needs to be part of a comprehensive plan to improve the whole of the UK’s building stock, creating tens of thousands of jobs for the long term, not here-today-gone-tomorrow.”

UKGBC chief executive Julie Hirigoyen

Sunak also announced that £50m worth of funding would be used to support trials into early-stage energy efficiency and flexibility technology for the UK’s least efficient sectors.

The majority of respondents to E.on’s survey believe that the primary responsibility for the UK’s green revolution lies with business leaders, and the UK public, it seems, agrees.

Dancing in the dark

One of the unforeseen gifts of the pandemic has been a heightened awareness both of our potential effects on each other within our society but also the affect that our species is having on the planet. It is no secret that human behaviour is partially responsible for large-scale disease outbreaks and as a result, consumers are becoming ever more cautious about which companies to whom they declare allegiance.

The Capgemini Research Institute has also conducted a recent survey that showed almost 70% of respondents are concerned the effect that their spending habits are having on the natural world. The institute also reports that 80% have altered spending habits in the last year in response to social and environmental issues.

However, while there is clearly a market trend developing in favour of sustainable business practices, ‘greenwashing’ and a lack of transparency threaten to shake consumer trust on a mass scale. Six in ten business leaders consider their clients to be well informed of their sustainability efforts but over half of consumers have stated difficulty in confirming corporate sustainability claims.

“…when baked into an organization’s mission and purpose, sustainability has the potential to entirely change an organization’s relationship with its customers and partners… As businesses focus on transformation in the wake of the pandemic, they should put sustainability at the heart of their efforts.”

Capgemini’s VP for consumer goods and retail Kees Jacobs said.

Getting a head start

Legislation will be one of the major lynchpins in the UK’s approach to a green economic recovery, however clearly signposted legislation could also help to bolster consumer trust.

SECR stands as not only an ethical benchmark for firms that are invested in a cleaner economy, but also a declaration of intent to consumers. Compliance to such legislation demonstrates to consumers that emissions reductions is a company-wide objective and therefore representative of your brand as a whole.

The palatability of SECR is also a major benefit, while it is a complex piece of legislation; the objective is simple and easily explained to non-energy professionals. Employment of the strategies necessary to ensure compliance, be they energy efficiency measures, supply chain reorganisation or on-site generation raises a green flag to would-be clients.

Fortunately, each of these listed strategies is covered under EIC’s carbon management team, who are able to utilise over four decades of experience to create a bespoke carbon strategy for your firm. The EIC services page contains full details of its compliance offering.

 

 

 

IETA’s net zero plan

EIC breaks down the IETA’s proposed ideas to help guide Europe towards net zero 2050, specifically the role cap and trade practices may play and why we must raise ambitions.

Rowing together

Last month the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) announced its 2020s forecast for the price of carbon emissions, expected to rise to  €32 per CO2 tonne equivalent.

The IETA, in a report published last week, also outlined several ways in which international carbon trading, spurred by the increased price, could aid the fight against climate change.

The report outlined that some countries and firms were better equipped than others to reduce and replace carbon-intensive practices. Infrastructure, resources and trade exports are among the variables that can impede or hasten an organisations ability to stay within allotted carbon allowances while remaining soluble.

The trading of such allowances frees individual states and firms up to offset one another’s emissions in order to achieve the collective goal of limiting global temperature rise.

Moreover, it is effective; the European Union’s Emissions Trading System (EUETS) reported a drop of 29% in emissions from stationary structures when comparing 2018 to 2005, thanks largely to such ‘cap and trade’ schemes.

Cap and trade is not a novel concept, it has been suggested as a market-led solution to polluting industry for years. During his presidency, Barack Obama met with a lot of criticism for introducing a bill in support of such schemes with pundits calling it a “sledgehammer to freedom”.

The concern was not unjustified since it was predicted that Carbon intensive industry would simply be undercut by foreign interests able to offer more competitive energy rates to consumers.

However with international cooperation now being actively encouraged, the attraction and probability of price gouging between domestic and international firms is likely to reduce.

The price is right

Alongside the proposed price rise has emerged a surge of concern that, while ambitious, the UK will fall behind on its own national targets unless an even higher charge is established.

The IETA’s forecast would mean an increase on the €27 price that was in effect from June 2018-19 however, think-tank Carbon Tracker believes this would still fall short of the targets stipulated in the UK’s Green New Deal.

A report released by the Zero Carbon Commission has estimated that the IETA’s price would need to be increased by almost 100% to €60 by 2025 to stay within established carbon budgets.

“We need to introduce a stronger, more consistent carbon price signal across more sectors of the economy if we want to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy.”

Sam Fankhauser

Assuming that Fankhauser’s perspective is adopted in the UK, carbon allowance trading promises to become a lucrative venture for firms that are able to significantly reduce their carbon emissions ahead of time. Any shortfall between emissions and allowance could be traded with more carbon intensive firms, thereby effectively doubling the value of carbon emissions saved.

Intelligent utility management, on-site generation and smart procurement are all methods to increase the gap between emissions and allowance and, subsequently, its potential value in cap and trade. EIC offers all of these services as well as over forty years of direct experience in integrating and applying them to the benefit of its clients.

Alone, together: Mental health during lockdown

EIC looks back on the recent Mental Health Awareness Week UK, this year’s theme of kindness and some of the stories of kindness that have emerged from the energy sector since lockdown began.

Kindness to all

The theme of kindness could not have been more appropriate for this year’s Mental Health Week UK, with so many struggling under the emotional, financial and medical burdens of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown.

Indeed, kindness, solidarity and generosity are things that have been in great demand as a result of the widespread concerns wrought by coronavirus. Despite the added pressure felt simultaneously by the commercial energy sector, it’s proponents have responded with a magnanimity seldom anticipated by their customers.

Orsted

Danish renewables supplier, Orsted, has promised more than £165,000 to various health and charity organisations across the UK to help support them through the crisis, beneficiaries include Guy and St. Thomas’ Hospital and Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Duncan Clark, the supplier’s UK region head, impressed the importance of solidarity between companies and their customers:

“Across the UK, the current situation is having a profound effect on families and communities.. It is at times like these that we must come together to do what we can to support each other.”

Duncan Clark, Orsted

British gas  

Big six supplier British Gas stated their allegiance to customer welfare early on in the lockdown by announcing that vulnerable customers would be issued with 2 weeks of discretionary credit for electricity. The support will be pre-loaded onto keys or cards while gas customers will receive £5 credit, British Gas is also offering a remote version of the same service for those customers with smart meters.

Emergency measures 

Emergency credit limit for gas and electricity has been extended across the board by many major suppliers in the UK,  with E.ON raising the limit tenfold from £5 to £50 and nPower raising emergency credit limits from £7 to £45. 

Hands across the oceans

The trend of solidarity hasn’t stopped in the UK, energy companies across Europe are taking up the cause of customer support during the challenges of COVID-19. Italy was infamous for being one of the worst affected European countries and taken as an omen to be heeded by other EU states, domestic energy giant ENEL has answered with vigour. The supplier has donated €23m to support Italian healthcare professionals by funding hospitals, beds and machinery and president Patrizia Grieco framed this move as an act of duty from ENEL.  

“We are an Italian multinational with strong ties with the territory. It’s natural but also a duty to aid the territories where we operate and the communities we work with every day.”

Meanwhile in France, multinational ENGIE, has also contributed to Italy’s fight against the virus by providing free electricity and technical assistance on the construction of new medical units. 

 

 

A kinder world

The primary beneficiary of the lockdown measures however, might be an unexpected one, with the slowing of economic activity and the subsequent drop in emissions, the planet is receiving a long overdue dose of kindness from our entire species.

COVID-19 may have given us an opportunity to reflect on our current practices as well as a vision of what the world could look like with better, greener behaviour from us. 

EIC are champions of sustainable business practices through an end-to-end approach that can support you from initial procurement of your utilities, through to maximising their efficiency with IoT in order to faster deliver a sustainable commercial culture.

The strides EIC is taking to help the UK build a green commercial sector and reach climate targets are myriad and you can find out how to engage with them on our website.