Net Zero Ready – The First Piece of The Puzzle

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  • Net Zero Ready – The First Piece of The Puzzle
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Frank Fitzgerald

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Frank Fitzgerald

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Net Zero Ready For Industrial and Logistics:

Like many other sectors, the past decade has seen the Industrial & Logistics (I&L) arena really push on with and embrace a whole raft of important initiatives aimed at improving our buildings energy efficiency such as adoption and delivery of EPCA rated buildings along with a range of renewable and sustainable technologies.

Carbon reduction is a red hot topic that is coming ever more to the fore through national and local legislation and is now changing the older norms of ‘Institutional Standard’ for warehouse development.  

Industrial and Logistics has a huge and varied range of occupiers and end users which means a simple one track approach to respond to this just isn’t appropriate or feasible for a speculatively developed unit. At RLB we work with clients that provide I&L space for a broad spectrum of these occupiers and end users and here we share some of our expertise and experience to show how a base building can embrace a net zero ready approach ensuring flexibility for future occupiers and end users and act as spring board from which they can design their operation and fit out to realise net zero in use.

Evolution rather than Revolution

The good news from what we are seeing whilst working with our clients through this push is that net zero doesn’t necessarily need to be a revolution from their established specifications and product, but more of an evolution. Much of the groundwork for warehouse buildings to become highly efficient and embrace key technologies that play a role in achieving net zero have been ongoing since the adoption of EPC A rated buildings as an industry standard and also driven by local and national policy.

Taking a speculative built industrial warehouse and assessing it against the UK Green Building Council Net Zero Framework we are able to look at the key elements which are required to create a Net Zero Ready building. One that is enabled and ready for occupiers to move into and achieve a bespoke net zero building solution that works best for their needs and without giving them significant or unworkable constraints.

Looking at carbon and energy use for a typical B8 distribution unit RICS published data shows that approximately 47% of whole life carbon is realised in construction up to practical completion of the building. This coupled with our understanding of the main specification elements for industrial and logistics warehouses (chiefly aggregates, concrete, and steel) means clients and design teams can make an early but highly accurate assessment and take steps to significantly reduce carbon at the very first stages of the design process. 

Already we can see in this early stage process there are many practical opportunities to make relatively small changes that will reduce carbon in construction and give best potential to reduce in whole life use such as:

  • Steel selection for recycled content – given steel makes up such a large portion of speculative unit as part of the structural frame, rebar / reinforcement in slabs and foundations, and the key constituent of cladding and the like we can accurately quantify the amounts in a building and through supply chain sourcing find suppliers which can certify significant recycled content in their products (20% or more).
  • Concrete and aggregates selection, sourcing locally and ideally maximising recycled generation is an ideal way to reduce embodied carbon. There are also a number suppliers offering low carbon concrete alternatives which offer significant reductions compared to their traditional mix products.
  • Use of on-site concrete batching and production facilities for larger scale development provides a huge reduction in vehicle trip rates and helps ensure supply and quality standards are protected throughout the build.
  • Balanced earthworks strategies with capping replacement and other similar techniques where viable allow a significant reduction in imported and exported material with a significant reduction in carbon over and above a tradition sub-base solution.
  • Modern unit construction with thermally efficient envelopes and M&E systems need only a few relatively minor adjustments such as all electric buildings with local electric heating and air source heat pumps rather than traditional gas heating systems as standard.
  • 100% LED lighting adoption internally and externally.
  • PV ready buildings with structures sized to accept the arrays and work done to undertake PV analysis for the buildings to ensure rooflight positioning and content are site bespoke ready to enable retrofitting of the most efficient arrays by end users and tenants.
  • Adoption of key infrastructure enhancements including PV connectivity built into the base build as well as dedicated space provision for the newly emerging battery storage technologies provided as standard.
  • Simple early engagement and selection of materials / products with supply chain can have a significant positive impact.
  • Adoption of a joined up approach to sustainable travel on developments that makes public transport, cycling, and walking opportunities for future end users a realistic and attractive proposition.
  • EV charging infrastructure and connectivity to car parking as standard.
  • Procuring locally to reduce material and labour travel distances.
  • Implementing landscaping schemes that create habitats and amenity spaces for local wildlife and communities
  • Adoption of high quality and local carbon offsetting schemes where possible with maximum visibility of how your contribution is being used.

Of course, this list of measures is not exhaustive but the above suggestions demonstrate that by adapting existing specifications and adopting good practice we are able to realise developments that are ready and able to achieve net zero ready status and have better impacts economically, environmentally, and socially throughout the construction process.

Net Zero Ready buildings are just one part of the bigger jigsaw ensuring developers are able to bring product to the market with a clear benchmark that can demonstrate high standards are being achieved including net zero in construction whilst offering flexibility to suit a wide array of future uses and occupiers ready for onward adaption to Net Zero in Use.

There is still development needed in the Built Environment to crystallise the Net Zero Standards but we believe that the Industrial and Logistics sector is positioned to play a leading role in adoption and innovation at a truly pivotal time for the construction industry as a whole.

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