In the race for net zero, the built environment needs to be a primary target for change. The OECD says that global emissions from buildings and construction account for 40% of global carbon emissions (and up to 70% in big cities).
The United Nations has reported that CO2 emissions from buildings have reached record-breaking highs – around 5% increase from 2020. This means the building and construction sectors are not set to achieve decarbonisation by 2050.
Additionally, the report has proposed that rising energy prices, energy market uncertainty, and interest rate hikes make for reduced investment in decarbonisation. We also face the growing need for electrification as cities and populations grow and change – with the corresponding need to reduce emissions. These statistics make engagement of property stakeholders of the utmost importance.
Innovation is critical to devising standardised, scalable, and practical ways to set and achieve benchmarks around decarbonisation.
Thought-leaders weigh In at Footprint+
I was proud to chair a discussion on the role of innovation in decarbonising buildings at this year’s Footprint+ conference. Footprint+ is a leading international conference on decarbonisation of the built environment. The work of these net-zero strategists will guide transformation in response to climate change. Speakers on this topic included Rebekah Needham of CBRE, Greg Borel of Ampersand, and Tom Watts of the UK Green Building Council. You can listen to the podcast recording of the discussion here.
In defining standardised principles for decarbonisation through the net zero programme, the principles of attribution, source, and additionality are being adapted to ever-shifting realities around balancing continuity and reduced emissions. Some key takeaways from the discussion include the following.
Technology is the most powerful driver of change
The collection of data for monitoring and reporting is critical to achieving net-zero objectives. Rebekah Needham of CBRE confirmed during the discussion that there is a big push for data collection by landlords for tenants and investor reporting.
Across all the talking points and net-zero guidelines, data will create a roadmap for change without impacting operational continuity. Understanding consumption is the first step to setting benchmarks and realistic KPIs, mapping progress, and initiating meaningful strategies.
Tenants and transformation
As touched on above, tenants are more engaged with energy management than ever before. Whether buffering themselves from volatile energy markets and the impact on operational expenses or setting achievable net-zero goals and simplified reporting, simplified energy monitoring and reporting is a key focal point for landlords.
As Greg raised in the discussion, the business case for net-zero performance is fundamental to accelerating transformation. As tenants engage more around these principles for procurement, these principles will be forged as differentiators for business, which presents powerful opportunities for collective transformation.
Transparency is key
As communities engage more and more on questions of emissions and energy efficiency, transparency at a user and a supplier level takes on enhanced importance. We are more alive to greenwashing than ever before – and this means scrutinising where our renewable energy comes from and the knock-on effect of green energy efforts.
To achieve time-matching, additionality, and offsetting in the shift to renewable energy sources, transparency for small, medium, and large energy users will ensure flexibility and quality as we benchmark areas of change.
Accessibility of net-zero aims
The three principles of the net-zero guidelines are exclusionary if they are robustly applied in their totality. Rather, it is important to focus on the benefits each principle brings to net-zero aims. This makes the idea of net-zero more accessible to broader populations.
Net-zero energy systems are critical to net-zero buildings
The greatest challenge to net-zero initiatives is the balance between the need for electrification in growing cities with the need to expedite reduced emissions. To achieve net-zero aims, the grid needs to decarbonise.
To reach targets, this means a significant increase in solar and wind infrastructure for local, traceable sources. 25% of annual energy consumption is attributed to commercial buildings alone – and this makes smart, digital energy management an essential tool for change as we navigate the future.
Matthew Margetts is a Director at Smarter Technologies. His background includes working for blue-chip companies such as AppNexus, AOL/ Verizon, and Microsoft in the UK, Far East and Australia.