Building A Zero Carbon Future Today

2050 sounds like a long way off. But, creating a net zero carbon built environment is very much an issue for today.

It’s an issue for today partly because the industry has to urgently develop the expertise and capacity to deliver large scale and cost-effective net zero retrofit programmes. This is something Osborne is contributing to through the GLA Innovation Partnership.

Net zero is also an issue for today because we should already be delivering net zero-ready buildings through every construction project. Similarly, every organisation involved in the construction sector should be making concerted efforts to reduce their own carbon footprint.

Materials and Methods

Practical steps towards carbon reduction have to focus on methods and materials. Building with traditional methods and then upgrading the insulation onsite is an expensive, time consuming and uncertain route to carbon reduction. It also only addresses operational carbon.

To make a significant and immediate impact on carbon emissions we have to start accounting for whole-life carbon emissions – embodied carbon in particular.

Updating building regulations to include embodied carbon calculations would be a helpful step. In the meantime, we have the tools to carry out automated calculations of embodied carbon based data extracted from the Revit tool. Whole life carbon accounting is perfectly possible.

Inevitably, the embodied carbon debate leads into material selection. It means prioritising structural timber over materials such as steel, concrete and blockwork.

Real World Carbon Reduction

The next big question is how to guarantee thermal efficiency and net zero capabilities in new buildings. Specifying offsite components such as SIPs for the building structure gives you better control over thermal insulation, airtightness and carbon reduction.

These are important factors in eliminating the performance gap between modelled and actual energy efficiency. The precision of a modern manufacturing environment helps take carbon reduction from a theoretical gain and into the real world.

Everything outlined above is a practical step that can be taken right now to reduce carbon emissions from the construction sector. This is how we can start building a zero carbon future today.

For more information about Osborne’s approach to lower carbon construction contact Richard King (richard.king@osborne.co.uk).