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Sustainable cities: innovative “hubs” and battlefields against negative change

Only ten years ago, knowing about sustainability meant that you might have accidentally read a piece of avant-garde research, speculating about harmful changes in our climate. In the blink of an eye, sustainability has gained wider momentum, and today has established itself as a global goal for our future and that of our planet.

However, years have passed but we still have a long way to go: threats to our environment and humankind haven’t disappeared as quickly as we’d hoped, and industrial production has largely been favouring short-term interests over environmentally-sound long-term benefits. Hence, the war against negative environmental impact is still on. What better battlefield than cities today?


Cities are expected to be home to over 70% of the world’s population by 2050[1]. In Europe, urban areas account for 75% of the population already. It is anticipated that US350 trillion are to be spent on urban infrastructure over the next 30 years[2]. How can we use those monetary resources effectively and sustainably?

Real Estate is a sector with one of the most comprehensive sets of tools and practical standards aiming to improve sustainability and resilience in cities. And thankfully so, as buildings account for almost 40% of carbon dioxide emissions globally, and in bigger cities up to 80%[3]. Ensuring that buildings are sustainable means finding ways to use resources efficiently, without compromising their overall purpose. Buildings should be designed with the best solutions and ideas at stake and should be a grounding element of future-proofed cities.

Great theory, great lesson, but what has been done so far?


Practical learning n 1: Business for sustainability, or sustainability for business?

A lot of initiatives and developments have taken place in the real estate sector to advance sustainability holistically. More and more, environmental standards and certifications such as BREEAM, LEED and many more have set out criteria to measure buildings’ sustainability and determine which actions can contribute to better results. Along this line, the GRESB sustainability survey has become a turning point for real estate investors’ business-wide future decisions. The speculative market environment can therefore easily be influenced by what investors believe to be future risks. This means that sustainable cities and structures are at the core of the international agenda, and they have the power to steadily shape what is next.

Practical learning n 2: All that glitters today is not gold tomorrow

Industries such as Real Estate, which deal with infrastructures that need sustainable (re)development, have started rewriting their founding lessons, with an eye for long-lasting value, rather than short-term benefit. Why is business, often the enemy to our environment, suddenly turning towards more sustainable solutions?

Industries such as Real Estate, which deal with infrastructures that need sustainable (re)development, have started rewriting their founding lessons, with an eye for long-lasting value, rather than short-term benefit.

Sustainable cities mean resilience, hence resistance to future risks and challenges. This means better stability and reward for the years to come as well as a greater understanding of how to peacefully live within our environment, rather than harming it or feeling threatened by it.  More in cities than anywhere else, where consumption patterns are the direct cause of environmental degradation, there is a need for enduring value, which can only go hand in hand with an increasing respect and understanding of how to treat our urban surroundings. What glitters today is not going to be the gold of tomorrow, if it cannot last until tomorrow!

Practical learning n 3: The happier, the better

Cities are a hub of production, which means innovation, creativity, financial reward, increasing services and ambitious professional, social and cultural opportunities. As a result, however, cities can also be stressful environments, filled with people, vehicles, infrastructure, but with little space and resources to support them. This does not only affect the resilience of businesses and infrastructures, but also of the people contributing to them, who increasingly suffer from psychological distress, anxiety and hence lower productivity. Sustainable cities and their infrastructures can only achieve enduring value if they become healthier environments for their people.

The Real Estate sector has recently made advancements in establishing health and wellbeing as a part of the sustainability agenda. Not only do sustainable buildings mean good management of resources, which inevitably meet future human needs, but research has shown that proximity to more natural elements within our urban spaces is fundamental to advancing our well-being, and as a result our productivity[4][5]. Standards such as the WELL, RESET and Fitwel have taken health and wellbeing as their main focus to aspire to resilient and thriving communities within urban spaces. Similarly, GRESB recently introduced a health and well-being module in their annual survey and it will likely gain wider coverage in future years. It seems that if you feel great within your environment, you will be happier, healthier and will reach your full potential. Isn’t this what we are all looking for?

If you agree, then you have reason to believe that because our current cities are the major obstacle to improving sustainability and finding enduring value, they are also the inherent solution.

This blog post was originally written for and published on GRESB Insights.


[1] Neij, L., Bulkeley, H. & McCormick, K. (2015) Cities and climate change: The great decarbonisation challenge, Climate in Focus, 1-4.

[2] WWF (2012) Reinventing the City: Three Prerequisites for Greening Urban Infrastructures, p. 6

[3] WF (2012) Urban Solutions for a Living Planet. P.10

[4] WF (2012) Urban Solutions for a Living Planet. P.9

[5] Ryan, C., Gaziulusoy, I., McCormick, K & Trudgeon, M. (to be published) Virtual City Experimentation: A Critical Role for Design Visioning. In: Evans, J., Karvonen A. & Raven, R (eds) The Experimental City. London: Routledge.

EVORA achieves Planet Mark Certification

We are proud to announce that EVORA has achieved the Planet Mark Certification for the 4th year running!

The Planet Mark is an internationally recognised certification based on sustainability standards. It represents an organisation’s sustainability programme to actively reduce environmental and social harm.

[clickToTweet tweet=”EVORA is committed to continuous improvement in sustainability” quote=”EVORA is committed to continuous improvement in sustainability”]

In order to achieve the Planet Mark certification, EVORA had to submit data and evidence on a number of its business activities, such as its utilities (energy and water), waste (recyclable and landfill) and business travel. The Planet Mark then takes that data and puts it through ‘rigorous carbon footprint measurement and reporting’ to ensure we are acting responsibly and limiting our environmental impact.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Total carbon footprint per employee – decreased by 17.3%” quote=”Total carbon footprint per employee – decreased by 17.3%”]

Highlights from the report:

  • Total carbon footprint – decreased by 8.6%
  • Total carbon footprint per employee – decreased by 17.3%

EVORA is committed to continuous improvement in sustainability and aims to reduce our carbon footprint even further next year!

EVORA to Manage Real Estate Sustainability Event for Over 100 Delegates

On Wednesday 7th February 2018, we are delighted to be running an event for over 100 commercial real estate and sustainability professionals.

Real Estate Sustainability: Planning for 2018 & Beyond


What started out as an idea in November for a small workshop-style event for up to 30 people quickly escalated into something much larger when we received over 30 bookings before Christmas. Thanks to our client, Schroders, who are hosting the event for us in the auditorium of their Gresham Street office, we are now able to accommodate up to 130 attendees.

With six guest speakers and panelists including Sander Paul van Tongeren, Managing Director of GRESB, Debbie Hobbs, Head of Sustainability at Legal & General Investment Management, and Murray Birt, ESG Thematic Research Strategist at Deutsche Asset Management, participants have been eagerly booking onto the event to hear from such industry experts.

[clickToTweet tweet=”We’re currently at 105 registrations with some spaces remaining! So, why not join your peers and kick-start your year” quote=”We’re currently at 105 registrations, meaning we still have some spaces remaining! So, why not join your peers and kick-start your year”]

We’re currently at 105 registrations, meaning we still have some spaces remaining! So, why not join your peers and kick-start your year by learning the answers to the following questions:

  • How can you make 2018 your best year yet for meeting your sustainability goals?
  • What are the new risks and opportunities you should be aware of this year?
  • What changes are on the horizon for GRESB?
  • How can social value be measured?

We firmly believe this is set to be one of the biggest and best consultancy-organised events that the UK commercial real estate sustainability sector has seen to date. Don’t miss your opportunity to be a part of it. We expect the remaining few places to go very quickly!


Enquire now by completing the form on this page

Introducing EVORA Giving – Our New Series of Charitable Initiatives

No one has ever become poor by giving.”
― Anne Frank, diary of Anne Frank: the play

Charity: we all know that this is the concept of ‘giving back’, but how many of us can say that the business we work for is actively involved in doing good and promoting social responsibility? Well, I am proud to announce that EVORA has implemented its own charity initiatives, which we are calling EVORA Giving.

EVORA Giving logo

For us at EVORA, when deciding which approach we wanted to take, we had to think about what we are passionate about collectively and individually, as charity means something different to all of us. We also had to consider how our approach will not just benefit humanity but also the business and our employees.


Below I have listed the four main initiatives of EVORA Giving:

1. Employee Volunteering Days: All employees have been allocated 2 days per year that they can take off work to volunteer for a charitable cause of their choice. Volunteering makes a difference, you can see real changes based on your actions, and this not only makes the recipient feel good but makes you feel good also.

2. Payroll Giving: EVORA will offer each staff member Payroll Giving to a charity of their choice. Payroll Giving, also known as Give As You Earn and is a way of giving money to a registered charity in the UK through PAYE without paying tax on it. Therefore, the charity gets the maximin benefit. The Employee decides on the amount and the charity/charities that should receive it.

3. Ad-hoc Fundraising: We will be holding one-off fundraising events for various charities throughout the year. This can be anything from Macmillan Coffee mornings, wearing red for Red Nose Day, or joining an organised event such as Race for Life.

EVORA Giving BetterBanksideThis December we have already kicked things of by getting involved in Better Bankside’s (business improvement district) Together at Christmas campaign. This involved hosting a collection box where our lovely employees donated warm clothing, festive foods and toiletries to the homeless. Once we had collected the gifts we decided to host an in-house gift wrapping session where we had some yummy mince pies, mulled wine and wrapped all the gifts to some cheesy Christmas music. The gifts are then collected by Better Bankside and go out for delivery to a variety of charities.

Next week, we will be getting involved in Christmas Jumper Day by donning on our ugliest, silliest and woolliest jumpers in order to raise money for Save the Children. Keep an eye on our social media channels for photos of our staff in their festive attire.

4. Corporate Sponsorship: Corporate sponsorship of a chosen charity for a 12-month period. Starting in January 2018, we will be sponsoring one UK registered charity through corporate sponsorship for a 12-month period. We have put together a working group to help set up fundraising events and come up with some fun and inventive ideas to raise money for a worthy cause. At the end of the year we will then choose another charity that we can support and keep this going on rotation basis.


After the Christmas holidays, we will be announcing our chosen charity in a new blog post, so please stay tuned for the big reveal!

I hope you have enjoyed this post. We will keep you updated with all our fundraising events so please watch this space for more information…!

How to Achieve Great Collaboration in a Growing Company

EVORA has been growing fast, with over 100% team growth in the last 18 months alone. While such growth is exciting, we also had to overcome some challenges in order to keep and nurture our positive office culture. In this series of blog posts, I will take you on a journey about the creation of an engaging workplace in a growing company. This first article focuses on communication and collaboration.


Here are my 3 top tips:

1.     Bring the Team Together More Frequently

There is so much going on in a growing company. Your sales team might have won three new projects, the technology team wants to release a new software update – not to mention an after-work drinks social to welcome new employees. How can you keep everyone in the loop? How can you make sure every single employee is aligned with the big vision of the company? It might seem obvious to founders and directors where the ship is headed, but the newest member on the ship might have no clue! That is why we introduced the weekly stand-up.

EVORA Global Monday meetingOnce a week, we all come together – from the newest recruit to the Managing Director. Staff in the main office gather around the breakfast bar, while remote workers dial in via Skype. And that in itself is already quite important: to come together as one team on a regular basis fosters the bond between co-workers and builds a sense of community. We then update each other about the latest news and events happening in our world. Everyone can speak up, will be heard, and can ask questions. We are all – from top management to entry level employees – on top of what is going on and promote transparency within the company and support the alignment of people with the company’s goals. As you don’t want the meeting to be too long, I recommend keeping the stand-up to an absolute maximum of 30 minutes. That way you make sure that people give a short and snappy update which is relevant for everyone. Pro tip: use an alarm to signal when time is up.

2.     Give Everyone a Voice and Promote Innovation (one of our Core Values!)

As Albert Einstein said: “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” The same applies to a business. Not only should you be on top of what is going on in your industry, but you should also endeavour to drive your sector forward with new ideas and innovations. To create a culture of engaged employees, and to promote participation and innovation throughout parts of the business, we launched our so-called lunchtime briefing sessions.

EVORA Global lunchtime learningOne speaker per session prepares a presentation of around 15 minutes. It can be about anything business related such as a legislation change relevant to the industry, an idea for a new client service or how to create an internship position within your organisation. Based on our experience, a lively Q&A session will follow each presentation. With lunchtime briefing sessions, you not only promote knowledge exchange, but you also empower your staff to contribute and have their voice heard. The cherry on the cake:  employees also have the opportunity to practise their presentation skills. We reinforce the last point by handing out post-its and pens to all participants at the beginning and ask them to write down constructive feedback for the speaker. One last tip: record the sessions and upload them to your Intranet. In doing so, you will have an internal library full of knowledge and ideas from which not only current but also future employees will benefit.

3.     Share Knowledge and Boost Employees’ Development Through Reading

Picture this: during lunch you are engaged in a casual conversation with your colleagues and one of them refers to that fantastic book she read about how to run a target-oriented business, which really opened her eyes. You ask for the book title, maybe even manage to make a note of it and then…well, that was it, you forget about it. Sound familiar? It has happened to me so often! This led to the idea of creating a book sharing corner in the main office.

EVORA Global book cornerHere is how it works: if someone has a book at home that they recommend others to read as well – and it can be anything from the Agile software development methodology to a book about how to run a sustainability-focused organisation – they can bring it to the office. All books are gathered above our fireplace and anyone can borrow it simply by checking the book out in a list (you don’t want books to get lost, do you?). It is such an easy project, bringing many advantages: employees widen their horizons and learn new things, they develop their skills by discovering new ideas and approaches, it boosts their creativity, and reading has even been proven to reduce stress. Plus: you gain a bit of extra space at home by having one book less in the shelf! Our next step might be to implement a ‘Book Club’ – a voluntary programme where a group of employees read the same book and meets regularly to discuss its content and relevance to the company. This could foster collaboration between employees who might not interact with each other very often and provide employees an opportunity to learn and grow. I’ll keep you posted on how this goes here at EVORA.


Creating an engaging workplace is always a work in progress. What is applicable for other companies might not work for your team, so the best approach is learning by doing. Give it a try and see if it is well received by your employees. Feel free to get in touch with me if you face similar challenges – I am always open for exchanging experiences and ideas. In my next blog post, I will write about how to make your office a pleasant and productive environment. Stay tuned!

BEIS framework consultation: Streamlined Energy & Carbon Reporting

Last month, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) opened a consultation on their new proposed framework for energy and carbon reporting. This process has the potential to bring environmental data smoothly into the mainstream, but could also just create further tangles in the knot that is the current energy reporting landscape.

Between the CRC, ESOS, climate change agreements (CCAs), and mandatory greenhouse gas reporting (MGHG), there’s a lot of existing legislation that either encourages or coerces companies into monitoring, reporting, and acting upon energy and carbon data. It must be easy for companies to get lost in this complex legislative landscape so, with this in mind, the basic premise outlined in the BEIS framework consultation document of streamlining the reporting process makes a lot of sense.

The million-dollar question, however, is how exactly should this new framework be designed? In particular: who should report and what should be reported?


Firstly, who? There are different ways to scope the policy that fit into three broad categories: employee numbers, financial turnover, and energy consumption. Any one or a combination of these could be used to define what counts as a ‘large’ company and hence who will be required to report under the proposed scheme(s).

The consultation also asks whether Limited Liability Partnerships, which are not subject to the Companies Act (meaning they are not covered by the framework in its current form), should be made to report too. This would increase the burden of implementation, but would also greatly expand the coverage of the scheme and the volume of data being reported.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Ways to scope the policy fit into 3 broad categories: employee numbers, financial turnover, and energy consumption. ” quote=”There are different ways to scope the policy that fit into three broad categories: employee numbers, financial turnover, and energy consumption. “]

Secondly, what? There are also different things that companies could be made to report. Centrally, there is total energy use, which can be broken down into electricity, gas, transport, and potentially some other categories, and emissions, which can be broken down into scope I, II and III. There are also additional options such as intensity metrics, or listing opportunities identified in audits and whether they have been acted upon. This last one could be a channel to formally tie ESOS requirements into the framework.

This last one could be a channel to formally tie ESOS requirements into the framework.

Finally, another question that should be given more attention is: how? Specifically, how will these large companies manage the data collection process, and how will its quality and accuracy be assured. The presence of good data is integral for pursuing the far-reaching energy reduction goals of the UK Climate Change Act and the Paris Climate Agreement, but the consultation document only asks for recommendations of the guidance that might ease reporting burdens for companies towards the end, and offers even less on how the Government intends to ensure the quality of data.


At EVORA, we recognise the frustrations and resourcing it can take to collate, analyse and report energy data on a national and international scale. It is why we developed SIERA to seamlessly collate, verify and report data to enable decisions to be made on portfolio and building optimisation programmes. Our clients are seeing the positive impact of SIERA, which has helped one portfolio achieve a 3% like for like reduction in one year and individual buildings save up to 26% through operational improvements.

Our clients are seeing the positive impact of SIERA, which has helped one portfolio achieve a 3% like for like reduction in one year and individual buildings save up to 26% through operational improvements.

The consultation also asks for recommendations on possible complementary policies that might help drive further emissions reductions. Currently, there is no additional incentive proposed to help reduce consumption beyond the fact that the published report will be available to third parties and therefore be subject to investor and public scrutiny.

Personally, the outcome I would like to see is a framework that requires large quoted companies & LLPs to report global energy use, total emissions and intensity, whilst requiring large unquoted companies & LLPs to report UK energy use, total emissions and intensity, with all of the above required to undertake ESOS-style audits every four years and then report the opportunities identified and whether they have acted upon them each year. I would align the definition of ‘large’ with the UK Companies Act definition to minimise confusion, and give it a stand-alone bespoke report in the annual report portfolio to exemplify its importance. Such a design would streamline the CRC, ESOS, and MGHG schemes all into one package, greatly simplifying the reporting landscape.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Such a design would streamline the CRC, ESOS, and MGHG schemes into one package, simplifying the reporting landscape.” quote=”Such a design would streamline the CRC, ESOS, and MGHG schemes all into one package, greatly simplifying the reporting landscape.”]

But the important takeaway here isn’t my opinion, it is that this consultation has the potential to radically change the environmental reporting landscape. Therefore, businesses need to make sure they are aware of the proposals and what it could mean for them. We here at EVORA are in the process of producing a company response to the consultation, and if you wish to do the same then the full consultation document as well as information on how to respond is available on the BEIS website.


This blog has done its best to summarise a 40-page document in a few hundred words, but if you need any additional information or assistance regarding the consultation, or any of the other policies mentioned in this blog, feel free to get in touch and our team of experts will be happy to help.

Sustainable web and graphic design: An introduction

Sustainable web and graphic design – has it ever crossed your mind? I think it’s ok to admit that up until now, the sustainability of your marketing collateral isn’t something you’ve thought much about, if at all. But with climate change and sustainability climbing further up the agenda, now might be a good time to start.

I’ve been an in-house designer for a number of years now, but it wasn’t until I started working in the industry almost five years ago that I even gave sustainability a second thought.

Beyond asking your staff to go ‘paperless’, adding that footer to your emails, and having a recycling bin, is there much that you can do? The answer is yes!

In this blog post, I endeavour to introduce you to the idea of sustainable web and graphic design, and give some top tips to get you started.


Change your approach – form, function and usability

For many of us, the thought process behind a new piece of collateral is simple. A client or a colleague says, “We have a new service to talk about, let’s create a brochure” or “we need a poster about the Christmas Party” and we go straight to design ideas.

Taking a ‘back-to-front’ approach that starts with visualising our end goal allows us to find a creative way to solve the problem.

Let’s use the example of the poster. Think creatively and ask questions: What is our end goal? Is a poster necessarily the right solution? How and where is the poster used? Is there another option that might be more effective?

If your goal is to inform staff about the Christmas Party, could your poster actually be a banner that is on your Intranet home page? Or a short internal email campaign? If you want to ensure something tangible is getting in front of your staff, could a postcard work?

Thinking about the answers and working with your agency or in-house designer, it might be clear that an alternative solution might have a more positive impact.

Once you have your perfect solution, it’s time to follow some top tips for design and production.


Top Tips to get you started

Sustainable web and graphic design

Design: Optimise!

  • Be size-ist – go for substance over size! By optimising your design and downsizing, you reduce the demand for paper.
  • Use less ink coverage in your designs. The more ink on a page, the more difficult it will be to recycle.
  • Reduce the bleed when possible. Keeping the bleed white where you can reduce the amount of waste.
  • Think about how you work. Do you print out your design drafts? Can you reduce that number? Or stop doing it altogether?

[clickToTweet tweet=”Be size-ist – go for substance over size! By optimising your design, you reduce the demand for paper” quote=”Be size-ist – go for substance over size! By optimising your design and downsizing, you reduce the demand for paper”]

Print: Know what to ask for

There will always be situations where printing is the correct solution, which is why your print supplier is also an important consideration. What should you be asking for to ensure that your projects are being printed as sustainably as possible?

Paper:

  • FSC certified – find out more here
  • Recycled paper – at least 30% Post-consumer Waste (PCW) recycled fibre
  • Processed chlorine free (PCF)
  • Consider using a lighter weight paper
  • Use uncoated paper stock

Ink:

  • Vegetable/plant-based
  • Low VOC levels

Other considerations:

  • Use a local printer
  • Choose a printer with a formal environmental and energy reduction policy
  • Consider digital or waterless printing
  • Choose PDF over print proofs
  • Reuse and recycle – have a strategy and make sure your printer has one too

Digital: There’s still things you can do

While printing contributes to pollution through the usage of materials, digital design contributes to climate change through the usage of electricity but there are still some things you can do to reduce your impact.

  • Streamline website image size to reduce download times (and you’ll also make your site faster, giving your visitors a better experience and giving you a welcome SEO boost from Google’s algorithms!)
  • Offer print-friendly web pages – that really lovely scrolling page might drop over to three or four pages if someone decides to print it
  • Have a strategy to offset the carbon used by your electronics

What does sustainable design look like at EVORA?

Since I joined EVORA in June, we have already made a start on improving the sustainability of our design process and there are things that we’re really excited to be doing in the year ahead.

  • Switching print suppliers. The first (and most simple) thing I have done. EVORA’s preferred printer is Seacourt ‘planet positive printing’, a Net Positive print company.
  • Identifying our standard paper stock. The next step is a switch in our paper stock for all work going forward. We will work with our supplier to identify a paper stock which is as sustainable as possible while maintaining a corporate image in keeping with our brand guidelines.
  • Being more creative with our designs. A revamp of our marketing materials for 2018 provides the ideal opportunity to be more innovative with our collateral – watch this space!
  • Optimising digital. EVORA’s new website, which launched recently, offers us much more control of the design of the site. We have already worked on image optimisation to reduce our site load speed and in the new year we will be working on print friendly versions of our most visited pages.

EVORA supplier Seacourt logoSeacourt ‘planet positive printing’ is a green printing company. Seacourt is known for its radical approach to protecting the environment, is one of the very first printing firms to achieve EMAS certification in 1999, an accreditation renowned for its high standards and stringent demands. The company has been recognised as ‘one of the top three leading environmental printers in the world’ by a worldwide printing association, and has gone onto win THREE coveted Queen’s Award for Sustainable Development. In 2017, they were also awarded a European EMAS Award.

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.

[clickToTweet tweet=”A building connected to the grid where the energy generation matches energy consumption and balanced out to net zero” quote=”A building connected to the grid where the energy generation matches energy consumption and balanced out to net zero”]


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.

[clickToTweet tweet=”On-site renewables have helped harness clean energy, improve efficiencies and reduce dependency on the energy grid.” quote=”On-site renewable energy generation have helped to harness clean energy, improve efficiencies and reduce dependency on the energy grid.”]

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.

[clickToTweet tweet=”It’s projected that solar could generate 22% of world’s electricity by 2050 making it a contender for CO2 mitigation” quote=”It’s projected that solar could generate 22% of world’s electricity by 2050 making it a contender for CO2 mitigation”]

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.

[clickToTweet tweet=”For net zero buildings to be realised a coupling between technology, systems, solutions and eye for scale is required” quote=”For net zero energy buildings to be realised, a coupling between of technologies, systems, solutions as well as an eye for scale is required”]


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).

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.

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 Urban Sustainability: The future really is green

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


I’ve taken the name “World Green Building Week” a little more literally than most. All too often our urban spaces are at odds with the natural environment; masses of steel and concrete trying to control and contain the elements. However, increasingly planners and policymakers are waking up to the benefits of incorporating vegetation into our towns and cities, urban sustainability is a trend I fully expect to accelerate in the coming years.

It is an adage as old as civilisation that mankind should seek to ‘dominate’ over nature, and this insistence on control is reflected in the design of our urban environments. This persistent societal axiom has almost certainly contributed to the incredible rate of human technological advancement over the last few centuries, and has resulted in some engineering feats that are nothing short of remarkable, but we shouldn’t forget that nature’s R&D department has had an extra couple of billion years to perfect the art of living on Earth.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Increasingly planners and policymakers are waking up to benefits of incorporating vegetation into towns and cities” quote=”Increasingly planners and policymakers are waking up to the benefits of incorporating vegetation into our towns and cities”]

Take the Amazon Rainforest as an example. It is essentially able to completely to self-regulate its internal conditions, it recycles resources in situ again and again and again, and it has survived millions of years of ice age and El Nino cycles, all the while developing into the most biodiverse ecosystem on Earth. Such longevity is testament to its ability to both adapt to long-term change and to deal with major exogenous shocks; it is the ultimate display of sustainability.


Incorporating sustainability into urban environments

Whilst I’ll admit that the Amazon is far from ideal for human occupation, there are a lot of lessons we can learn from nature, and opportunities to incorporate its sustainability strategies into our urban environments. Some of the major ecosystem services that vegetation can provide include:

1.     Drainage & Flood Prevention

Sealed surfaces such as roads and buildings increase the speed and volume of runoff during precipitation events, increasing the likelihood of disruption due to flooding. Having vegetation present means that some rainwater is caught in plant canopies, before either evaporating away or dripping more gradually to the ground, thereby alleviating some of the ‘shock’ of flooding. Meanwhile, unlike tarmac, the soil in which plants sit will usually be permeable, allowing water to soak into the ground.

2.     Building Energy Usage Reductions

Trees can provide shade in summer, whilst blocking cold winds in winter, so their careful placement can reduce energy consumption for nearby buildings. Meanwhile, green roofs and green walls can act as a kind of makeshift insulation, reducing the energy required for internal temperature regulation.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Careful placement (of plants) can reduce energy consumption for nearby buildings” quote=”Careful placement (of plants) can reduce energy consumption for nearby buildings”]

3.     Reduced Urban Heat Island Effect

As mentioned, vegetation can help cool in situ by providing shade, but it can also help cool whole urban areas by removing heat through the process of evapotranspiration. The albedo of vegetation is also lower than dark surfaces such as tarmac, meaning more energy from the Sun is reflected rather than absorbed.

4.     Improved Air Quality

Via photosynthesis, plants can be used to take up some of the carbon dioxide produced by our cars and factories. They can also absorb other gaseous pollutants and some solid pollutants, as well as acting as retention sites for impermeable particles. The extent of air quality benefits from urban vegetation is still debated, and depends a lot on a number of variables including building structure, vegetation structure, vegetation type, pollutant type, and pollutant levels.

5.     Wellbeing Benefits

Research exists that suggests that access to nature can help improve concentration, alleviate stress, and generally improve the psychological condition of those exposed. Even just having plants in and around the workplace seems to be sufficient to carry at least some psychological benefit.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Even just having plants in the workplace seems to be sufficient to carry at least some psychological benefit.” quote=”Even just having plants in and around the workplace seems to be sufficient to carry at least some psychological benefit.”]

6.     Aesthetics

Maybe it’s just me, but I think plants look pretty. The green wall on the side of the Rubens at the Palace Hotel in London is definitely worth a look, being both innovative in design and spectacular to look at.

Perhaps even more telling than the long list of benefits, is the seemingly short list of downsides to incorporating vegetation into urban spaces.


So what are the downsides?

The key issue for most places will be to do with space, which is a finite and valuable resource in modern cities. However, from rooftop gardens to green walls, people are finding new and innovative ways to integrate vegetation into even the densest urban areas, and I believe that all cities have measures available to them for improving their utilisation of available space if local governments, planners, building owners, and tenants are willing to innovate.

Other issues include the cost associated with the maintenance of vegetation, and the minor risk of damage from falling trees. However, personally I view these as minor prices to pay compared to the potential benefits that are on offer.


In conclusion, for any problem we create in our modern urban environments, nature usually has a solution. We only have to be willing to find ways to integrate it, then we can just let it help us out.