How can Offices Reduce Carbon Emissions?

To mark Earth Day, JLL has announced the approval of its science-based target by the Science Based Target initiative (SBTi,) as aligned to the 1.5C ambition of the Paris Agreement. This means that JLL will reduce its scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by 68% by 2034. 

With the target covering emissions from more than 400 offices, Rita Dimitri, senior consultant with JLL’s Upstream, discusses how the spotlight is on as the property sector, particularly offices, as it continues to work towards reducing their carbon emissions as the demand for action on climate change grows.

The UK has pledged to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, and with the built environment contributing to around 40% of the UK’s total carbon footprint, the pressure is on businesses to improve their office operation.

Some businesses have started taking steps towards cutting carbon emissions, with others taking strides towards making their office portfolios net-zero. Some businesses are focused on energy saving schemes and incorporating renewable energy, to achieve the UK Green Building Council’s (UKGBC) net zero standard.  However, this is just one route companies are taking on the path to lower their carbon emissions for which steps are to be considered.

The first step is to look at how to reduce energy use through design considerations, and operational systems and services. “A first approach to identifying energy waste in a building would be to carry-out data analysis and surveys.” says Rita Dimitri, senior consultant with JLL’s Upstream team. “This provides a better understanding whether the building is operated as intended, eliminating excessive energy consumption.”

Following this, it’s looking at maximising the use of renewables. Then finally, there’s offsetting, which is usually considered once the above have been addressed, for example backing a tree planting scheme.

Reducing energy use

When looking at reducing energy use, there are 3 main factors where a theoretically efficiently-designed building can become energy consuming:

  1. The detail in the construction is poorly carried-out, causing the building to leak and therefore consume more power to keep warm or cool.
  2. The installed systems are either inefficient or are not compatible and cause clashes resulting in an overworked building.
  3. The manual operation of a building management system is not aligned with the primary use of the space.

In terms of the installed systems, heating and cooling systems are, more often than not, the number one emitter of carbon in modern workplaces, as the gas is more difficult to decarbonise than electricity. In order to address this, predictive maintenance tools can be added to existing systems that flag issues as they arise, alternatively installing new energy efficient systems or, where offices have separate heating and cooling systems, integrating the two can prove beneficial.

With the manual operation of building management systems causing inefficiencies, having data-tracking tools built into the systems can help. The data that’s collected allows businesses to carry out in-depth analyses on their usage patterns to pinpoint areas where they can make the biggest cuts to their carbon footprint. “Data collecting is crucial to track building performance over time.” says Dimitri. “Unusual patterns may be addressed immediately though short-term actions such as installing energy efficient equipment, or building-wide changes like adjusting the operational schedule of light and ventilation system.”

Green design

Design features are an important part of helping companies achieve their net zero carbon goals. At JLL’s Manchester office a living wall helps to improve air quality, while recycled furnishings equate to less waste. Lessening wastage helps businesses in becoming carbon neutral as when discarded materials are recycled, they provide industry with an alternative source of raw materials from which to make new products. Many companies are now embracing the circular economy and taking steps to cut the waste produced by offices throughout their life cycle, whether it’s providing recycling facilities, running educational campaigns or swapping to office cutlery made from food waste.

Evidently, there are good examples coming out of the property sector to showcase how businesses are taking steps to make their office spaces more energy efficient, and there are also some clear ideas and steps that can be taken to help any business achieve their net-zero goals. It’s important to remember that all steps taken to reduce the amount of carbon an office emits can make a sizeable difference.

Dimitri concludes “The UK government’s decision to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 has spawn multiple working groups across built environment professionals to produce a comprehensive roadmap. As a result, organisations such as the Better Building Partnership and the UK Green Building Council have published frameworks to facilitate the real estate sector’s transition.

We are all facing an unprecedented global challenge in COVID-19, but we can’t lose focus on real estate industry’s long term carbon impact. It’s crucial that, as an industry, we take collective action to mitigate the impact of climate crisis and take urgent action to decarbonise our building environment.”

Like what you read?