How can business step up to the net zero challenge?

By Chris Ireland, UK CEO, JLL

November 05, 2019

Earlier this year, the UK Government legislated to achieve a net zero carbon economy by 2050, setting the scene for companies to rethink priorities.

With the operation of buildings responsible for 29 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, there is a clear opportunity for the wider business community to step up to this challenge. Reviewing our approach has the potential to not only create healthier working environments and add value for owners, but also offers the chance to improve the employee experience.

Increasingly, the focus will need to shift to ensure sustainability is incorporated into the earliest stages of workplace design, construction and operation. Tools such as the World Green Building Council’s Advancing Net Zero Framework, are making the pathway to achieving net zero carbon clearer.

At JLL, we’re aware of the need to act now and have set our own ambitious target to achieve net zero carbon for our own UK workplaces by 2030.

We will all need to consider how we run buildings more efficiently and use fewer materials with lower embodied carbon. Simple choices such as using recycled concrete and steel or low carbon options such as cross-laminated timber (CLT) can have a big impact. Efficient energy systems and changes to lighting, interiors and facades all need to be considered to reach net zero goals across new developments and existing stock.

While these might seem achievable for new developments, innovative and circular solutions will need to be explored to reach the 2050 target for existing stock. It seems a long way away but, with a maximum of two building refurbishment cycles between now and 2050, there is an urgent need for a fresh approach.

Making net Zero carbon a reality

We’re already seeing examples of innovative solutions. Hammerson and Costa’s Eco Coffee Pods are net zero carbon coffee shops, which use onsite renewable energy efficient systems and low embodied carbon materials. Interface provide flooring products that are carbon neutral across the product lifecycle, while Lendlease’s 25-acre Elephant Park development includes a net zero carbon combined heat and power plant to support their target to be carbon negative by 2025.

There’s no doubt that the value of property will be increasingly linked to operational efficiency. Those businesses which act now will be able to mitigate some of the risk by using innovative solutions.

To enable all of us to reach our targets, we will need to collect, aggregate and analyse accurate data in order to effectively reduce emissions and run buildings efficiently. For investors, there will be an increased reliance on such data to help determine where they will invest. This detailed insight and analysis and performance-focussed approach helps set the standard for increasingly bold ambitions. 

Bold carbon ambitions

Companies like Hammerson have already committed to going one step further and becoming net positive in carbon, water, waste and socio-economic impacts by 2030. Through frameworks such as the Better Buildings Partnership Climate Change Commitment, businesses are taking significant action, and we anticipate drastic change will be needed.

Reports, such as one from the Committee on Climate Change suggest there’s little more than a decade to save the planet, and there’s no doubt that the property sector has a significant role to play. Now is the time to look at workplace strategies and implement those changes so we can all begin to see a tangible, positive impact on our environment.


This article was originally published by the CBI.

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