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You are here: Home | News | Retail buildings can be zero-carbon by 2020 - but only at a cost

Retail buildings can be zero-carbon by 2020 - but only at a cost

Friday December 21st 2007

A new report by the UK Green Building Council (UK-GBC) revealed that it is possible to reduce carbon emissions from energy use down to zero in the majority of new non-domestic buildings, but that companies will have to pay above their baseline costs to do so.

The report, which is entitled "Carbon Reductions in New Non-Domestic Buildings" and is the result of several months of work by a number of companies - some of them competitors - who have agreed to share data and collaborate.

It emphasizes that to achieve zero-emissions, onsite, near-site and offsite renewable solutions must be employed and this means that costs could mount. However, these vary widely depending on the situation, with

preliminary models suggesting that the premium could range from 30 per-cent or more down to as low as five or ten percent over current baseline costs.

"This is about government and industry both taking responsibility,” said Paul King, Chief Executive of the UK-GBC. “Government needs to accept its responsibility to set good policy focusing on outcomes, and in return industry can and must respond and innovate. UK-GBC members are up for ambitious targets on sustainability.”

Indeed, the UK-GBC believes that a zero-emission deadline of 2020 is possible provided all parties work together. A key step on the way would be to construct a national database on energy use in non-domestic buildings to improve on the existing data which is incomplete and inconsistent, according to the UK-GBC.

"One of the most valuable things about this report has been the willingness of our members to work together and to work out how we can deliver zero carbon new buildings in around 10 years,” said King. “Although there are inevitably extra costs, these costs can be minimised through good design.”

A number of UK supermarkets are already actively working towards the zero-emission target. For example, Tesco has gone into partnership with Manchester University to create the Sustainable Consumption Institute, which is researching ways in which carbon emissions from buildings can be cut. The group has some pretty radical ideas.

For example, the supermarkets of the future could have a 'green roof' with trees and plants - even including organic vegetables - growing there, and generate their own electricity and hot water using on-site green energy systems.

Lead researcher Professor Geoff Levermore says there are a number of steps that can be taken to make buildings such as supermarkets more environmentally friendly, like planting more trees and plants in the immediate vicinity which would lead to lower temperatures during the summer and therefore less demand for air conditioning and refrigeration.

In addition, more solar panels and wind turbines could be used and stores

could be constructed from thermally massive materials, which store heat during warm conditions and release it at cooler times. Levermore also believes it may be possible to use phase-change materials, which are capable of storing or releasing large amounts of energy.

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Tagged as: ukgbc | nick morgan