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Energy demand cuts identified as priority for UK office decarbonisation

A new paper published by the UK Green Building Council has set proposed new standards specifically for curbing energy use in offices

The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) has recommended office buildings curb energy demand on average by 60 per cent from current levels up to 2050 to support national decarbonisation efforts.

Calls for a drastic rethink of energy use in buildings have been made in a paper released following engagement with industry and ongoing analysis by the organisation over how best to reform future office design. The paper has also considered how existing properties are retrofitted concerning energy use.

Any efforts to create net zero carbon offices across the UK cannot be met by focusing solely on decarbonisation of the electrical grid, according to the organisation’s strategy paper. A concerted effort must also be made to reduce energy demand in buildings, it added.

The UKGBC said that offices attempting to become net zero carbon should look to commit to meeting the 60 per cent energy performance reduction target, potentially over a 15-year period. Any outstanding energy demand should then be met as much as possible through renewable energy, with the resulting carbon emissions after this then being offset, the recommendations added.

The UKGBC added, “This data should then be independently verified and publicly disclosed on an annual basis to demonstrate how the net zero balance has been achieved.”

UKGBC senior policy advisor Richard Twinn said that drastically reducing overall energy demand should be viewed as the most important priority in office decarbonisation plans at the start of the current decade.

He said, “This will be crucial to decarbonising our energy systems in the most cost-effective way, and ensuring that buildings only use their ‘fair share’ of energy in a net zero carbon economy.

“The net zero carbon buildings framework was introduced to bring consistency about what net zero carbon means in practice. The industry is already starting to use the framework to meet net zero, but these targets will begin to raise the bar for offices, placing much greater emphasis on energy efficiency before renewable energy and offsets. They will challenge the offices sector and show the way towards buildings that are truly fit for 2050.”

Publication of the ‘energy targets for offices’ paper follows on from the release last year of a framework developed by the UKGBC to outline new standards for construction groups and building owners focused on managing energy demand to net zero carbon standards.

The proposals in the framework are intended to apply to both new and existing buildings to ensure they can meet the aims of the Paris Climate Agreement.

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