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Carbon Blog Series #10

14.04.22

A note on: Decarbonising Buildings, Achieving Zero Carbon Heating and Cooling

March 2022

The four key structures to decarbonising the building sector heating and cooling are technology, minimum energy performance standards, financing and shifting actors.


Technology

 - Diffusion of low carbon technologies to reduce heating and cooling emissions.
      - Hybrid heat pumps and their adoption need to be furthered in order to abide by the goals set in the Paris Agreement.
      - Windows are considered the weakest link in a thermal envelope. Therefore, it is critical to consider the challenges faced across varying climatic conditions. This is especially true in regards to retrofitting windows or new build design decisions for window to wall ratios (WWR). Low-E tinting, double and triple glazing, and lowering WWR all provide potential energy efficiency benefits.
      - District heating needs to be adopted in order to reach 20% final energy demands for space heating by 2050, however early upfront costs to the infrastructure means viability is often conditional. This leads to hesitancy in investing in such systems.

While adopting technology which reduces carbon of heating and cooling. Some issues arise with this process. This includes, the cost barrier and financial (de)incentives; climatic variations and technical requirements; supply chain and establishing localised industry; holistic approaches to carbon reduction and government intervention.

 

Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS)

 - MEPS are the most effective policy instruments to reduce energy demand and emissions of buildings.
      - There are two forms, prescriptive or performance-based approaches.
      - Prescriptive sets minimum energy requirements for each building component.
      - Performance is a holistic assessment of a building's energy performance through either energy intensity per floor space or emissions intensity per floor space.
      - MEPS are context driven, because the local climate influences thermal comfort and energy demands of a building.
      - They're applied to varying levels of intensity acros the industry, with more than 40% of countries having regulated energy-related aspects of new building. Existing buildings don't face the same scrutiny, with most coming under consideration during the retrofitting process.

 

Financing

 - Decarbonising space requires large and timely financial investments.
      - Such a shift in financial flow would reap both energy cost savings and investment returns. Returns through higher rent prices on lower carbon properties.
      - Tenants play a critical role in the decarbonisation of the building sector. Through purchasing heating and cooling systems in properties which do not provide them. Through paying for energy bills, and for choosing rental properties which enable zero carbon lifestyles at their increased rent cost.
      - Currently, debt, (green) bonds and contract financing schemes all aid in supporting the decarbonisation of the industry.
      - Financing is not without its barriers. Currently there are challenges in paying the upfront costs, lack of access to finance and high capital cost and fluctuating energy costs. All of which disincentivise the financial investment into the decarbonisation of the industry.
      - It is critical to use grants to nascent industries and technologies off the ground until cost parity is reached.
      - Support compliance with building codes by making compliance more affordable through improving access to low-interest loans or grants.
      - Carbon taxing fossil fuels can be used to increase the competition between low carbon technologies.
      - Modify regulations to allow for innovation to occur within the financing processes.

 

Shifting Actors

 - The high number of stakeholders with vested interest within the building industry makes it an increasingly complex sector to decarbonise. It is critical therefore, to apply the financial, governmental and technological advances in ways that encourage engagement with sustainable practice.
      - Splitting the actors into three distinct groups allows for more detailed understanding of each group's applicable engagements. Institutional, financial and built environment groups.
      - Institutional groups, like local or national governing bodies can educate, facilitate or advocate for the development of the built environment through legislation and (de)incentivisation schemes.
      - Financial actors, when successful, can redirect money where it is most effective in order to maximise the overall financial goals of the group. This includes, but not limited to, higher investment returns over the building life, lower energy cost for tenants, lowered initial cost of construction through schemes.
      - Built environment actors can enhance wider knowledge and encourage developmental direction of technologies within the industry. While this is often directed bottom up, it is critical to present accurate payback periods to developers in order to lower carbon levels in building investments.

Read more here... https://climateactiontracker.org/documents/1018/CAT_2022-03-09_Report_DecarbonisingBuildings.pdf