Improvement is needed

Britain’s commercial, industrial and public buildings need to improve from an average of an E energy rating today to C by 2020 and A by 2050 in order for the UK to meet its national carbon reduction obligations, according to a new report released by the Carbon Trust.

‘Building the Future Today’ confirms that an urgent focus on the non-domestic building sector is needed to keep the UK on track to deliver carbon reductions of 80% by 2050.  Currently, 18% of the country’s emissions can be attributed to the non-domestic building sector and these emissions have remained static for the last 20 years.

If the right strategy is followed, the carbon footprint of non-domestic buildings can be reduced by more than one third by 2020 and a net benefit of £4billion can be delivered to the UK economy through energy savings, the report finds.

Central to this strategy is the roll out of Display Energy Certificates (DECs) and Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) to all non-domestic buildings by 2015 to provide transparency of energy performance across the sector.

The Carbon Trust also proposes that all cost effective energy efficiency measures, such as lighting and heating controls, must be implemented across all 1.8 million non-domestic buildings in the UK within the next ten years. Beyond 2020, more costly measures – such as triple glazing and ground source heat pumps – must become standard in both new and existing buildings, alongside continued decarbonisation of the UK’s electricity grid.

Designers and developers of new buildings will need to take a more holistic and integrated approach, reducing energy demand by making better use of natural light and ventilation. The scenario presented by the Carbon Trust requires urgent action and a clear sense of purpose. However, it also identifies barriers that must be overcome such as energy costs being seen as marginal by building developers and operators, non-compliance with building regulations and the landlord-tenant divide.

Stuart Farmer, Head of Buildings Strategy at the Carbon Trust and lead author of the report said: “Commercial and public buildings offer the UK a big bang for its carbon reduction buck. But it won’t just happen on its own; energy efficiency needs to be the first and second priority. For policy makers and businesses, rolling out Display Energy Certificates to all non-domestic buildings must be the foundation stone to deliver not only better buildings, but better use of buildings too.

“Policymakers and businesses need to work together to capture this opportunity. Policymakers need to set a clear direction, show leadership and provide the necessary policy and regulatory support. In return, the building industry needs to respond by moving from niche exemplars of good practice to large scale, mass market implementation as standard.”

‘Building the Future, Today’ sets out a strategy to reduce carbon emissions from non-domestic buildings by 35% by 2020. It also includes a range of policy options for policymakers to consider which the Carbon Trust believes will help catalyse the market into action by improving the quality of buildings and encouraging more energy efficient use of them by building owners and occupiers.

The findings of the Carbon Trust report have been welcomed by key players in the buildings industry, Paul King, Chairman, UK Green Building Council, said: “The government has put some excellent carbon reduction targets and policies in place for new homes and buildings. But so far we have collectively failed to grasp the scale of the opportunity – in terms of innovation, investment, efficiency, jobs and benefits to occupiers – of radically improving our existing non-domestic buildings. To achieve the carbon reductions we need by 2020 and beyond, we need to start today, and embrace a revolution in energy efficient refurbishment.”

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