Ground Zero

Last week was Wales’ Climate Change Week and Catherine Griffith-Williams, CEO of CEWales chaired the achieving net zero in Buildings session. Here’s her summary of what you need to know

I was delighted to Chair the event; where I believe through collaboration, we – in Wales – a small country, can achieve the big ambition of achieving net zero. Work has already commenced to develop the second low carbon delivery plan for Wales; with the First Minister stating the importance for goals to be achieved as an all Wales effort. We believe net zero buildings will need to be a big feature in this.

The Welsh Government Energy Service has been supporting the public and community sector in Wales to decarbonise through a range of measures including energy efficiency measures to buildings and renewable energy projects. Since 2015 Welsh Government has invested over £97 million worth of net zero-interest loans across the public sector and attracted a further investment of £27 million towards renewable energy efficiency projects in Wales. This has generated lifetime savings of over £190 million to the public sector and a reduction of over 970,000 tines of carbon.

But CEWales believes we can do more. What occurs in a building is critical to its energy emissions. But the whole construction process needs to be considered – from the idea, the concept of a space or building through the design stage, specification and procurement of materials and contractors as well as on site behaviours and the build itself. It’s a huge undertaking. But critical. What more should be done, what do we need to get to net zero.

Climate change is increasingly on our thoughts and is the impetus for change in all speres of our lives. Business’s worldwide are encouraged to do everything they can to reduce energy consumption and eliminate our centuries old reliance on fossil fuels. Industry is funding innovative solutions and achieve goals that will help save the planet from the ravages of climate change.

As we know there is so much policy drive towards sustainability and therefore it’s not surprising there is a move towards net zero buildings. Energy use in buildings after all is a large contributor to societies collective carbon footprint.

The grim reality is that an estimated 39% of global carbon emissions are generated by construction in general and buildings in particular. As we know net zero energy is an ambitious goal for any building; one that cannot be achieved without scrupulous attention to every aspect of a buildings design, construction, and operation.

Any net zero building must first achieve significant load reductions and systems efficiency and then meet the remaining loads with onsite energy generation. If all buildings today were redesigned to use net zero (or even only renewable), and all new construction was built to the net zero standard, the carbon footprint in the world would significantly be reduced. But that is not the real world. So, what does it mean practically to achieve net zero energy in buildings and what are the challenges of achieving this goal? Taking us through these challenges we heard from:

-          Christopher Lewis – Senior Environment and Facilities Advisor, NHS Wales

-          Neal O’Leary – Programme Director 21st Century schools and Collages

-          Andy Sutton – Co-Founder Director, Sero

-          Kim Yates – Sustainability and Climate Change Lead, Mott Mac Donald

View the sessions HERE