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Does the UK’s net zero future need the EU ETS?

The 2008 Climate Change Act already commits the UK to an 80% reduction in emissions compared to 1990 levels by 2050. However, the unwritten long-term target hopefully is, or at least should be, to achieve complete carbon neutrality.


Since its inception in 2005, the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) has been Europe’s flagship climate policy. It has two stated aims, namely:

  • To reduce greenhouse gas emissions in an economically efficient manner.
  • To promote investment in low-carbon technologies and energy efficiency improvements.

Approximately 15400 installations, accounting for around 45% of EU greenhouse gas emissions, are now covered by the Scheme, over 1000 of which are in the UK. However, with the Brexit negotiations looming, the UK’s place in the EU ETS is under threat.

As an EU member, the UK is currently subject to the Emissions Trading Directive, but this is unlikely to be the case by the end of the negotiation process as such a position is not compatible with the incumbent government’s Brexit rhetoric of removing European Court of Justice (ECJ) jurisprudence.

The only obvious option for the UK to remain involved in the EU ETS, whilst avoiding ECJ jurisprudence, would be to create a UK ETS and then negotiate a unilateral or bilateral linkage. Switzerland has been undergoing just such a process over the past decade, culminating in a technical-level agreement in January 2016 that is awaiting ratification.

Before beginning to debate how a UK-EU ETS relationship should be formed however, the question that we should be asking first is: is it worth it?


This seemingly simple question has a rather more complex answer. The UK economy is large enough to have an emissions trading scheme of its own, however being part of a larger trading scheme with more participants carries efficiency benefits, through increasing the volume of available low-cost abatement options and through increasing market liquidity and stability.

What is not clear is the extent to which the UK receives these benefits. Given that the EU ETS is now in its twelfth compliance cycle, there seems to be remarkably little research into the extent of the benefits the Scheme produces. With the March 2019 Brexit negotiation deadline fast approaching, the Government should give serious consideration to commissioning such a study for the UK.

The EU ETS is also far from perfect which, to be fair, is to be expected given that it was the first, and continues to be the largest, emissions trading scheme in the world. The large surplus of allowances, a lingering remnant of the 2008 financial crisis, and the persistently low and unstable allowance price are the stand out issues, and add up to mean the EU ETS is not functioning as well as it could.

The majority of the EU ETS’ regulatory design features could simply be replicated in an independent UK ETSClick To Tweet

If the UK Government wishes, the majority of the EU ETS’ regulatory design features could simply be replicated in an independent UK ETS. Therefore, the decision of whether to remain involved in the Scheme boils down to weighing the aforementioned economic efficiency benefits against the issues the EU ETS is facing and the challenges of negotiating an acceptable linkage deal for both parties.


The UK business community should seek to take greater ownership of this issue, firstly by pushing the Government to conduct the necessary research to make this decision properly, and secondly by each firm reflecting themselves on what the EU ETS does or does not do for them in the pursuit of carbon neutrality. As the global threat of climate change grows, stricter environmental regulations are inevitable, but high costs don’t have to be. Emissions trading schemes are a proven mechanism for producing low-cost emissions abatement, but to get the most out of them they must have the right design. Is the EU ETS right for the UK? This is something we need to work out.

This blog was originally published on Edie.net

Using BIM for Net Zero: How to use BIM to Design Net Zero Energy Buildings

This blog is part of our Net Zero series for World Green Building Week 2017 – read more here.


The target for all of us involved within sustainability is ‘net zero’ energy buildings.

Roughly a third of all global green house gas emissions can be attributed to the built environment so it’s hardly surprising that there is a growing interest in net zero buildings; buildings that produce as much clean renewable energy on site as they consume in any given year.

Net Zero is achievable, but only with the collaboration in the planning, designing, constructing and operating stages. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution for delivering a net zero building. Each project will require its own tailored approach, siting, orientation, climate, occupant profile, control optimisation and then, crucially, ongoing asset management.

Net Zero is achievable but only with the collaboration in the planning, designing, constructing and operating stagesClick To Tweet

Building Information Modelling (BIM), an intelligent 3D model-based process that allows scenarios to be modelled in a virtual environment, is the new tool of choice for designers, proving to be a reliable time-saving method of collaboration amongst all stakeholders.

BIM started out as a tool for spatial coordination and project collaboration but has now evolved to empower designers to model energy performance at all stages of project delivery. Thermal and dynamic simulation modelling, through BIM, is leading to better decision making, informing the delivery of net zero buildings.

Increasingly, EVORA has been creating building models that facilitate BIM collaboration as part of our Strategic Asset Management (BIM:SAM) solution. This innovative approach to managing the whole life cycle of a building is our way of ensuring that ‘net zero’ building design is followed through into actual operational performance.


Take a look at our Guildford case study or contact us to learn more about BIM:SAM.

Net Zero and Solar: Challenges in the Industry

This blog is part of our Net Zero series for World Green Building Week 2017 – read more here.


The concept of achieving a net zero energy building is becoming increasingly popular, although, in reality, only a very small number actually achieve this. No matter how efficient a building is, it will not reach net zero energy consumption without the help of renewables; the most popular being Solar PV, particularly for on-site generation. Solar PV has increased rapidly over the last decade but in early 2016, the UK solar industry took a significant blow due to government feed in tariffs being cut by 65%.

“Do not let this discourage you in reaching your goals; there is probably a lot more that can be done first.”

The cuts lead to a drop in solar installations of more than 80%, since the payback periods are now often deemed too long to make the projects feasible. However, do not let this discourage you in reaching your goals; there is probably a lot more that can be done first. Below highlights some of the areas that can be looked at to improve efficiency, before trying to hit zero emissions through renewables. It’s a lot easier to offset your emissions if you don’t produce many to begin with.


Taking a holistic approach to net zero buildings

Understand your energy – Compare the performance against benchmarks, such as the Real Estate Environmental Benchmark (REEB). Establish a metering and energy management plan and utilise data management software, such as SIERA, to identify the high energy users. If you can’t monitor it, you can’t manage it.

Establish a metering and energy management plan and utilise data management software, such as SIERA, to identify the high energy users. Click To Tweet

Building Fabric – Find a sensible balance between daylight, heat loss and solar gain. Is air leakage evident? Is there a need for solar reflective film?

Ventilation – Focus on minimising fan power and running hours. Can the windows be opened and a combination of natural and mechanical methods be adopted?

Heating and cooling – Systems should be designed for efficient year-round operation and not just to meet peak demand. Implement controls such as a seasonal set point strategy.

Lighting – Develop a lighting strategy using daylight, efficient fittings and controls. The appropriate amount of light should only be provided where it is needed.

Equipment – Implement power management strategies and switch equipment off at night. Where possible, use energy efficient servers, computers, monitors and appliances.

Other services – Saving water saves energy. Are the urinals on a sensor flushing system? Minimise unnecessary lift use. Has power factor correction been considered?

People – Engage with occupants on sustainability issues. Establish ‘green teams’ and provide simple user guides making it easy for them to save energy.

The above provides an example of some of the steps that can be taken to help achieve a net zero building and illustrates the holistic approach it requires. In practice, a comprehensive energy management plan should be implemented, including the conducting of detailed energy audits and execution of identified energy reduction measures.

A comprehensive energy management plan should be implemented, including the conducting of detailed energy audits Click To Tweet

Although renewables are a fundamental component in achieving net zero, they are by no means a prerequisite for setting a goal to achieve a net zero energy building. In time, subsidy-free Solar PV investment will become more attractive as cost continue to fall, so it’s important that buildings are ready to maximise the benefits when they do.


If you would like to learn more, please contact the EVORA team.

Net Zero and On-Site Renewables: Opportunities and Considerations for Net Zero Energy Buildings

This blog is part of our Net Zero series for World Green Building Week 2017 – read more here.


As part of the World Green Building Week 2017 theme #OurHeroisZero, this blog explores the opportunities and considerations for on-site renewables in the wider context of net zero energy buildings.

What are net zero energy buildings?

Net zero energy buildings can be defined in many ways, but on a simple level, it is a building connected to the grid where the energy generation matches energy consumption and balanced out to net zero. Net zero is usually assessed at the annual level, but it is becoming increasingly common to account for finer timescales in calculations to improve analyses to inform decision-making. This can be achieved by finding opportunities at all phases of the building life-cycle from construction materials at the design stage, reduction in energy consumption during operation, implementation of efficiency measures and incorporating renewable energy systems.

A building connected to the grid where the energy generation matches energy consumption and balanced out to net zeroClick To Tweet

What are the opportunities for on-site renewable technologies to help achieve net zero energy buildings?

Alongside design, construction, building management factors and small-scale retrofitting such as efficient lighting, on-site renewables have also played a key role in achieving net zero energy for building energy generation and operation. On-site renewable energy generation have helped to harness clean energy, improve efficiencies and reduce dependency on the energy grid.

On-site renewable energy generation have helped to harness clean energy, improve efficiencies and reduce dependency on the energy grid.Click To Tweet

On-site renewable energy is a popular approach as the energy generated can be used to offset the actual energy use of the building and can even be integrated as part of sustainable building envelope design. It is not possible to strive for net zero at the design phase only, as net zero energy must be realised through on-going operation and maintenance throughout the building life cycle.

The technologies and mechanisms available are:

  • Solar Photovoltaics (Solar PV)
  • Purchase of green energy from the grid
  • Micro heat and power generation systems
  • Wind turbines
  • Energy storage technologies (battery and heat storage solutions)

More advanced approaches are:

  • DC microgrids
  • Smart grid and digital technologies
  • Active facades, e.g. artificial leaf technologies

Solar PV and Systems Integration

Solar PV is becoming a more viable option because of decreasing costs of materials and maturity in the marketplace. The mature status of the key solar technologies makes them key players in the energy world. According to the IEA’s Technology Roadmap for Solar Photovoltaic Energy (2014), it is projected that solar power could generate 22% of the world’s electricity by 2050. Solar energy is therefore a viable contender for energy and CO2 mitigation. Solar PV is also more versatile due its multi-disciplinary approach and scalability. In comparison, micro-heat and power generation is less scalable and wind energy through turbines are usually applied as off-site renewables.

It's projected that solar could generate 22% of world’s electricity by 2050 making it a contender for CO2 mitigationClick To Tweet

Of course, climate and locational factors have roles to play in determining the level of renewable energy generating capacities as well as cost and scalability. On-site renewables are however most effective when technologies are coupled together into a system to create a smart on-site renewables DC microgrid, with the application of energy storage and digital technologies. This can prove to be effective for local energy management, as well as scaling up net-zero energy buildings from the single building to the regional scale.

Solar PV as Design

In terms of sustainable building envelope design, there is an opportunity for integration into buildings materials, such as rooftops and facades. Solar PV has been especially popular due to its versatility as in the case of building integrated PV. As well as being decorative and architectural interests, innovative designs can make construction materials more productive and cost-effective compared to traditional building materials. Another element of building design is comfort for occupants which is linked to the wider issue of health & wellbeing as a value indicator for buildings.


What are the considerations for on-site renewable technologies to help achieve net zero energy buildings?

Economics

Market incentivisation is key to paving the way for net-zero energy buildings. This boils down to more cost-effective design and construction. Falling costs of renewable energy technologies have helped to increase the use of on-site renewable energy. Increasing digital technologies can help to align tariffs to real-time pricing strategies.

Balancing Loads and interactions with the wider power grid

For building energy management, there always the need to link power generation to building loads. Opportunities can be gained from balancing supply and demand to optimise performance in terms of energy and costs. On top of this, the peak load times and peak consumption reduction prospects must also be considered, as well as interactions with the wider power grid. Digital technology is creating ways to optimise and adjust demand and supply in real-time which improves energy security from outages, systems integration, reducing operation and maintenance costs.

Scaling it up!

Net zero energy buildings should be viewed at both the local and regional scale since net-zero could be achieved at the single building level, but also with the wider energy grid which is becoming smarter with the application of the smart grid. With more digital data available, it is becoming increasingly possible to use this to inform decision-making.

Holistic approach of design, construction and operation

There is a common view that most opportunities will be achieved at the building design stage. This must however be integrated into the operation of the building and integrated across the building life cycle. This is where on-site renewables present an opportunity for energy generation. A joined-up view must be taken for net-zero energy buildings. This is because a building may be designed to be net-zero, but building operation is the challenge when it comes to energy performance despite the intention at design phase and lead to deviations between modelled vs. actual energy performance.


Concluding Remarks

The role of systems thinking can be appreciated within the contexts of energy management, technological developments, economics and policy. Advances and trends in energy storage technology in the microgrid have opened opportunities for net zero buildings and on-site renewable energy generation. For grid and microgrid management, a mismatch of supply and demand is an issue, however this is being resolved by energy storage. For net zero energy buildings to be realised, a coupling between technologies, systems, solutions as well as an eye for scale is required. This can be achieved by finding opportunities at all phases of the building life-cycle from construction materials at the design stage, reduction in energy consumption during operation and implementation of efficiency measures and incorporating renewable energy systems. It is not possible to strive for net zero at the design phase only, as net zero energy can be realised through on-going operation and maintenance.

For net zero energy buildings to be realised, a coupling between of technologies, systems, solutions as well as an eye for scale is requiredClick To Tweet

If you would like to learn more about EVORA and how we can help your organisation, please contact a member of the team.

Net Zero and Science Based Targets – Connecting the Dots

This blog is part of our Net Zero series for World Green Building Week 2017 – read more here.


I was recently asked how Science Based Targets are connected to Zero Carbon Buildings – hmmm, I thought, interesting question.

Let’s start with the definitions.


Science Based Targets

In response to mounting environmental, social and political pressure, organisations have recently begun setting science-based GHG emissions reduction targets (‘science based targets’ or SBTs). In doing this, companies are committing to bringing their operational activities and resultant emissions in line with the level of decarbonisation required to keep global temperature increases below 2oC compared to pre-industrial temperatures. Optional third-party approval of alignment to approved methodologies is managed by www.sciencebasedtargets.org, which is supported by the WWF, CDP, UNGC and the WRI.

The SBT approach is being adopted by companies across multiple sectors as the basis for setting long-term goals for GHG emissions reductions. Importantly, in the long-term the SBT approach may be adjusted to reflect advances of climate science and economic modelling (e.g. to target a 1.5oC increase in global mean temperatures).

A SBT approach may be adjusted to reflect advances of climate science and economic modellingClick To Tweet

Net Zero Buildings

Net zero buildings are highly energy-efficient buildings which uses on or off-site renewable energy sources – to achieve net zero carbon emissions. This definition encompasses all asset classes:  homes, offices, shops, stadiums and theatres of the future.

WorldGBC support the ‘Advancing Net Zero’ project – its aims are to ensure that:

  • All new buildings and major renovations should be net zero starting in 2030, meaning no buildings should be built below net zero standards beyond 2030. All buildings should be net zero by 2050
  • 75,000 professionals are trained on net zero building design and operation by 2030, and 300,000 by 2050.

Laudable – and I can see the 2030 target working with a combination of innovation, creativity and targeted regulation (a carrot and stick approach).  However, the aspiration to ensure that all buildings are net zero by 2050 if a big one.  We are less than 33 years away from this deadline and buildings are designed with much longer life-spans.  The speed of conversion and renovation must therefore increase significantly.  In the UK, Minimum Energy Efficiency (MEES) legislation will ban the leasing of buildings with F and G ratings from 2018.  However, net zero buildings have EPCs of A+ not D.  So, in short, at least in the UK, there is a long way to go.


The Connection?

I believe in SBTs – they require that organisational carbon targets are set in line with the global context and can be all encompassing, covering operational, supply chain and even embodied carbon emissions. However, it should be noted that at least for commercial property, the SBT approach doesn’t actually require that all properties become zero carbon by 2050; rather, a minimal level of carbon emissions performance must be achieved (e.g. ~13kgCOe/m2 by 2050).

As such, a science based target is actually – relatively speaking – less stretching than a net zero building.

Furthermore, science based targets are set at the fund, portfolio or even company level, whereas the net zero buildings agenda is targeting all buildings. SBTS are therefore more flexible.  SBTs can be met based on the average performance of a portfolio, with some inefficient and other efficient assets, which on balance are in line with a 2oC world.

In my opinion though, net zero buildings are a very worthy aspiration and will support any organisation in its aim to achieve performance in line with internationally agreed emissions targets. Certainly for new builds, I think we should be targeting net zero carbon. For existing assets, the challenge is substantial; however, one that we as an industry should be grabbing with both hands.

Net zero buildings are a very worthy aspiration and will support any organisation in its aim to achieve performance in line with internationally agreed emissions targets.

We need a joined-up approach, supported and incentivised by Government, as refurbishing all existing assets is a massive job and should be considered as a national infrastructure project.  However, delivery will ultimately need to be managed by both Government and Business working in partnership.

For existing assets, the challenge is substantial; however, one that we as an industry should be grabbing with both hands.Click To Tweet

We need:

  • A strong approach from Government– balancing regulation with incentivisation
  • Visionaries – organisations prepared to lead, to continue to progress the sustainability agenda
  • Communication and voice – organisations like the WorldGBC,  UK-GBC and the Better Buildings Partnership to promote and
  • Adoption

Now, as they say, ‘that’s a big ask’.

However, so much [read everything] is at stake

Come on Property Industry – let’s take the lead!

Net Zero and Health and Wellbeing: Can the ‘Net Zero’ Concept Be Applied to Health and Wellbeing?

This blog is part of our Net Zero series for World Green Building Week 2017 – read more here.


‘Net zero’ buildings are highly energy-efficient buildings that use on or off-site renewable energy to achieve net zero carbon emissions. Can the concept of ‘net zero’ by adapted for the health and wellbeing agenda? Well, I think so and here’s why…

From a health and wellbeing perspective, a ‘net zero’ management strategy would involve identifying those aspects of building user health that are detrimentally affected as a direct result of entering the building.

Probably the most obvious example of such an issue would be indoor air quality. For example, buildings with relatively high-levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), particulates (PM2.5, PM10), carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide or ozone (O3) negatively impact on user health. Chemicals in cleaning products and soft furnishing materials, ingress of unfiltered and polluted outdoor air, and poor ventilation effectiveness are just some of the factors that can result in these indicators rising to dangerous levels in buildings.


Using language that better suits the health and wellbeing agenda

At this point, I am thinking: could we adapt the terminology to better suit the health and wellbeing agenda; and, what would a definition for the concept look like? My attempt below:

A health neutral building is one that enables access for all and does not result in deleterious health outcomes for building users as a result of direct increases or decreases in exposure to negative or positive [respectively] determinants of health.

Armed with this definition, I have drawn up a draft list of issues that might be considered in such a health neutral building:

  • Disabled access and access to public transport
  • Indoor air quality (e.g. VOCs, PM2.5, PM10, CO2, CO, O3).
  • Noise and vibration
  • Drinking water availability and quality

Looking at this list, I think that the concept of ‘health neutrality’ could be a useful consideration when conducting a materiality assessment of health and wellbeing issues. Naturally, it’s subjective, but at the very least it could be a starting point for pulling out the most material concerns and therefore those requiring prioritisation.

Could we adapt the terminology to better suit the health and wellbeing agenda; and, what would a definition for the concept look like?Click To Tweet

Reassuringly and perhaps not surprisingly, the above list looks similar to issues covered by the WELL Standards precondition criteria – requirements that must be met in order to achieve the most basic (Silver) certification. That said, there are some WELL precondition criteria (e.g. nutrition) that are additional to my list and I might argue go beyond health neutrality and are more about boosting the health of building users.


What would a health positive building look like?

Taking the conversation to its logical next step, if one accepts the notion of a health neutral building then what would a health positive building look like? Well, that would be a building that directly supports and or encourages improvement in building user health. Amongst other strategies, such a building might:

  • support active modes of transport (e.g. cycle storage, showers), active design (e.g. accessible staircases) and provide onsite exercise facilities;
  • optimise access to daylight;
  • provide access to outdoor green space and support biophilia;
  • provide multi-purpose rooms (e.g. faith, lactation rooms); and,
  • support healthy nutrition.
Well, that would be a building that directly supports and or encourages improvement in building user healthClick To Tweet

So, to conclude I think the concept of ‘net zero’ [and ‘net positive’] can be applied to the built environment’s health and wellbeing agenda and proves a useful way of considering the materiality of key health-related risks and opportunities.


Interested in exploring health and wellbeing risk and opportunities relating to your portfolio? Don’t hesitate to contact us today for a free consultation with one of our expert consultants.