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  • We provide support to over 500 businesses for energy and carbon management
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Bringing Net Zero to the property sector

With the operation of buildings accounting for around 30% of total UK emissions, the property sector has an opportunity to make a real impact on our overall Net Zero Carbon targets

17th July 2020

The drive to achieve environmental sustainability is changing what communities, governments and customers expect of businesses. To transparently demonstrate their commitment to decarbonisation, businesses are increasingly expected to not only share their compliance, but to proactively document their vision and strategy for a sustainable future.

With the operation of buildings accounting for around 30% of total UK emissions, the property sector has an opportunity to not only innovate to tackle its carbon footprint, but to make Net Zero Carbon mainstream, whilst still delivering value for money to tenants.

Beneficial to society, beneficial to clients and tenants

Decarbonising the property sector can deliver benefits beyond the obvious goal of reducing our impact on climate change.

Customer satisfaction

Sustainable choices can improve comfort, well-being and productivity, which can all help contribute to a high level of occupant satisfaction.

Value delivered

The value delivered to occupants by reducing and optimising the overall energy spend improves valuation and can translate into higher rental income and improved brand equity.

Cost recovery

Energy savings produce cost savings, which can be reinvested in further decarbonisation work to create a virtuous circle of funding to invest in the next stage on the sustainability journey.

One way to release equity to start the sustainability journey is to carry out a forensic audit on utility bills to identify whether historical overcharges have occurred and, if so, to recover these overpayments.

Whilst the benefits of achieving net zero are clear to see, getting there can sometimes appear complicated but with a clear strategy in place, the path to net zero can be a less daunting one.

Defining net zero

The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) defines what achieving net zero carbon emissions means in terms of two approaches:

For a building’s construction, the net zero definition provided is “when the amount of carbon emissions associated with a building’s product and construction stages up to practical completion is zero or negative, through the use of offsets or the net export of on-site renewable energy.”

For a building’s operational energy, it is “when the amount of carbon emissions associated with the building’s operational energy on an annual basis is zero or negative”. A net zero carbon building is “highly energy efficient and powered from on-site and/or off-site renewable energy sources, with any remaining carbon balance offset.”

For many property organisations, achieving operational net zero will be the goal that they see as their main priority when they define their sustainability strategy.

Achieving Net Zero from insight to implementation to impact

Reaching operational net zero needs to be embedded within the organisations medium to long-term strategy. Many operational decisions will have an impact on a buildings carbon output and therefore, a system of continual measurement, optimisation and validation is the foundation on which net zero can be achieved.

  • Benchmarking your current carbon output is the most important stage of the process as all further decisions and actions are based on this. By gaining accurate measurements at the start, a strategy can be put in place for you to achieve net zero in a way that is aligned with your overall business objectives. However, this may be difficult as the impact of Covid-19 means that 2020 will not provide a valid reference of normal operational emissions and 2019 data will only be appropriate if the building expects to return to the same operational status when the pandemic ends.
  • Once you have developed an appropriate methodology for defining and measuring ‘business as usual’, energy, water and waste audits need to be performed. These will identifyopportunities for optimisation and demand reduction. The next step is to determine the costs and benefits of implementing the opportunities with the simplest projects giving the fastest paybacks being prioritised, whilst others may need some time and planning to get done. All of these decisions and projects can be added to the overall strategy, making the process easy to manage and agree upon.
  • Sourcing some or all of your energy through a renewable procurement strategy is a great way of reducing your carbon output and is something that is easily measured and costed provided you have got the measurement stage of the process correct. However, our experience shows that most energy efficiency projects have shorter paybacks. Never forget that a kilowatt-hour of energy saved, is just as green as generating a kilowatt-hour from a solar panel!
  • Continuous improvement. Maintaining net zero carbon is a long-term strategy and one that needs to be continually reviewed and revised as business operations change over time and paybacks for energy and water saving devices improve due to innovation, cost reductions or increasing costs of grid supplies.

Bringing an integrated approach rooted in analysis, optimisation, engineering and procurement, Inenco helps organisations take a data-driven approach to sustainability from insight, to implementation, to impact. For more information, contact us on 08451 46 36 26.