1862225 Netzero 256627

The journey to net zero in the PBSA, BTR and PRS sectors

Sustainability has long been an advancing topic within the built environment, and with the UK Government’s strategy to deliver its emissions targets of Net Zero in 2050, and a 78% reduction from 1990 to 2035 many organisations are now introducing their own net zero targets to reduce their own, reassuring customers, investors and colleagues that they are doing what they can to tackle climate change.

So let’s start with answering the question, what exactly is net zero and why is the term so important?

According to the leading interdisciplinary research initiative Oxford Net Zero, “net zero refers to a state in which the greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere are balanced by removal out of the atmosphere.

The term net zero is important because – for CO2 at least – this is the state at which global warming stops. The Paris Agreement underlines the need for net zero, requiring states to ‘achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century”.

The Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA), Build To Rent (BTR), and Private Rented Sectors (PRS) are ideally situated to maximise the gains available by embracing the journey to net zero. Research from GreenMatch suggests that 72% of people born between 1995 and 2012 are more likely to spend more money on goods and services produced in a sustainable fashion. There are also long term commercial successes available to institutional investors by taking a more holistic and long sighted approach to development ownership and operational costs.

Within new build developments, we see many properties that are ‘fabric first’ and well-constructed delivering good insulation values, low thermal bridging and reduced air permeability. This naturally means that energy consumption within the building is lower during harsh winter periods. They have also embraced low cost energy initiatives at design stage.

Within legacy properties, the challenges are more nuanced, often these buildings make features of their heritage details. There are still ways in which older buildings can be used on the journey to net zero (indeed, it is argued that refurbishing an older building is more sustainable than replacing with a new development).

10 ways in which your FM provider can help the journey to net zero in the PBSA, BTR and PRS sectors:

  1. Switch to LED for high-energy savings

Lighting accounts for almost 5% of global CO2 emissions but switching to LED lighting achieves energy savings of between 50% to 70% compared to old technologies. Thus reducing both cost and demand on the grid. Even further efficiencies can be made by using daylight-dimming options where there is good natural light and smart technology to ensure that only those areas with occupants are active.

  1. Harness technology for intelligent buildings

Cloud-based, internet-of-things (IoT)-linked intelligent building technologies are proving a vital tool in the journey to Net Zero. Smart cities that feature intelligent smart building operating systems could achieve up to 50% savings in existing buildings that are otherwise inefficient.

  1. Remove gas boilers for energy efficiency

With the planned cut-off date of 2030 for the sale of gas and oil boilers, building operators can consult with the FM providers for their next scheduled refurbishments in order to reassess heating, cooling and hot water generation. This can be made more efficient with the introduction of energy-efficient plant such as air-source heat pumps.

  1. Introduce on-site renewables for clean power

Installing on-site renewables such as solar PV helps reduce purchased grid energy. When used in combination with green roofs, the efficiency of solar panels can be further enhanced through a cooling effect.

  1. Select recycled materials for a circular economy

Selecting materials with higher recycled content can make a big difference. The carbon impact from raw material extraction is only counted the first time the material is processed. After that, the recycled material includes only the impacts from its reprocessing. This strategy has the added value of keeping materials inside the economy and reducing the pressure for extraction of virgin materials. It also reduces negative financial and environmental factors around waste and landfill.

  1. Choose low carbon materials within projects for lower embodied-carbon

The use of more natural, low-carbon materials such as cross-laminated timber (CLT) or mass timber products can result in quicker and cleaner construction than traditional builds, with a lower embodied-carbon footprint

  1. Promote active commuting for a smaller carbon footprint

A global transition to zero-emission transport is a priority, since transportation is estimated to account for 20% of global emissions each year, so it’s wise to investigate how people are getting to and from the building. This includes visiting engineers. Is it possible for tools to be stored on site reducing the need for an engineer to drive?

  1. Keep supply chains short for reduced air pollution

A focus on supply chains local to your site can reduce transport carbon. By selecting a contractor with a national presence and a robust local supply chain, the emissions during transportation fall, and the local economy is supported.

  1. Contractual targets

Consider green objectives requiring those working on your behalf to act responsibly and sustainably (including maximising the use of sustainable materials, energy efficiency measures and minimising emissions of greenhouse gases) or even proposing a number of ‘sustainable technologies’ be proposed for each project.

  1. Partnership

It is critical that all parties are aligned when working towards net zero. This includes operators, fit out contractors, FM providers and energy consultants. This could mean hosting round tables events and involving all parties when discussing the longer term plans for your estate – Together Everyone Achieves More.