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Operational carbon
Reduction of operational carbon emissions from buildings is the primary sustainable construction driver in the UK.
Through the Climate Change Act, the Government has set an ambitious and legally binding target to reduce national
greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050 with an intermediate target of a 34% reduction by 2020 (against a
1990 baseline). In addition, the Energy performance of buildings Directive (EPBD) requires all new buildings to be
'nearly zero energy' by December 2020.

The operation of buildings currently accounts for nearly half of the UKs greenhouse gas emissions and therefore
significant improvement in new and existing building performance is required if these targets are to be met.

This article describes operational carbon assessment and targets, energy efficiency measures and low and zero
carbon technologies and presents results from a recent study. The focus is on new non-domestic buildings.

Breakdown of operational carbon emissions (by energy use) for a typical city centre office building

Introduction
Operational carbon is the term used to describe the emissions of carbon dioxide during the operational or in-use phase
of a building.

Emissions arise from energy consuming activities including heating, cooling, ventilation and lighting of the building, so
called regulated emissions under Part L of the Building Regulations, and other, currently unregulated emissions,
including appliance use and small power plug loads such as IT. These appliances are not currently regulated because
building designers generally have no control over their specification and use and they are also likely to be changed
every few years. Although building operation can include other activities including cleaning, maintenance, repair and
replacement, etc. these activities are not generally included within the definition of operational carbon. It is noted
however, that robust building Life Cycle Assessment and carbon foot-printing studies do include these activities.

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It should also be noted that operational carbon emissions are generally measured in terms of carbon dioxide (CO2)
emissions, rather than greenhouse gas emissions that include a basket of greenhouse gases which are measured in
terms of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e). Embodied carbon impacts are generally measures in terms of carbon
dioxide equivalents.

Zero carbon targets


In 2007, UK Government has announced its aspiration for new non-domestic buildings to be zero carbon in operation
by 2019; since that time, Government has investigated and consulted on the definition of zero carbon for non-
domestic buildings. As a minimum, Government stated that the zero-carbon destination for non-domestic buildings will
cover 100% of regulated emissions, i.e. a Building Emissions Rate (BER) of zero.

Hierarchical approach to defining zero carbon building standards


(Image courtesy of Zero Carbon hub)

The Government supports a hierarchical approach to meeting a zero carbon standard for buildings, as shown. The
approach prioritises, in turn:

Energy Efficiency measures - to ensure that buildings are constructed to very high standards of fabric energy
efficiency and use efficient heating, cooling, ventilation and lighting systems. The current proposal for non-
domestic buildings, following the precedent set for domestic buildings, is to set a minimum standard for energy
efficiency based on the delivered energy required to provide space heating and cooling (kWh/m2/yr). The level
for this standard has currently not been set for non-domestic buildings.
Carbon Compliance on or near site. This is the minimum level of carbon abatement required using energy
efficiency measures plus on-site low and zero (LZC) technologies or directly connected heat or coolth. The
level for this standard has currently not been set for non-domestic buildings.
Allowable Solutions a range of additional beneficial measures to offset residual emissions, for example
exporting low carbon or renewable heat to neighbouring developments or investing in LZC community heating.

The most recent government sponsored research into carbon compliance targets for new non-domestic buildings[1]
suggests that the average reduction in regulated emissions (via energy efficiency and on or near site LZC technologies
, i.e. Carbon Compliance) required to achieve the 2019 zero carbon target will be between 44% to 54%,(relative to
Part L 2006) although this is likely to vary greatly between different types of building, with the balance achieved via the
use of allowable solutions. It is noted however, that these reduction targets are not definitive government policy.

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In July 2015, the UK Government announced that, as part of its Productivity Plan, the zero carbon buildings policy was
to be dropped to reduce regulation on house builders. In particular, government has stated that it does not intend to
proceed with the zero carbon Allowable Solutions carbon offsetting scheme, or the proposed 2016 increase in on-
site energy efficiency standards. Government will keep energy efficiency standards under review, recognising that
existing measures to increase energy efficiency of new buildings should be allowed time to become established.
This effectively means that the 2016 zero carbon homes target has been dropped, as has the 2019 target for non-
domestic zero carbon buildings. It also means that there will be no further changes to Part L in 2016.

It has been clear for some time that the offsetting elements of the Allowable Solutions scheme did not fulfil the
requirements of the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, under which the UK has to deliver nearly zero
energy buildings from 2021 (and 2019 in the public sector). The challenge for UK Government therefore is how to
comply with the requirements of the Directive in the absence of any policy.

GLA and the London Plan


The London Plan requires each major development proposal to submit a detailed energy assessment. The purpose of
an energy assessment is to demonstrate that climate change mitigation measures are integral to the schemes design
and evolution, and that they are appropriate to the context of the development.

The Greater London Authority (GLA) provides guidance to accompany strategic planning applications. Each
assessment is required to demonstrate how the targets for regulated CO2 emission reduction over and above 2013
Building Regulations will be met using the Mayors energy hierarchy.

In October 2016 the GLA introduced a zero carbon standard for new residential developments. The Housing SPG
defines Zero carbon homes as homes forming part of major development applications where the residential element
of the application achieves at least a 35% reduction in regulated carbon dioxide emissions (beyond Part L 2013
requirements) on-site . The remaining regulated carbon dioxide emissions, to 100%, are to be offset through a cash-in-
lieu contribution to the relevant borough to be ring-fenced to secure delivery of carbon dioxide savings elsewhere.

For commercial development whilst the GLA target sets the Building Regulations as the target, Part A of the policy
seeks to minimise carbon dioxide emissions and GLA monitoring indicates that a 35% reduction target is achievable
for new, non-domestic buildings. Given this evidence, GLA will continue to require that non-domestic development
seek to achieve a 35% reduction against Part L 2013 requirements.

Energy performance of buildings directive (EPBD)


The original Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD-1) was a core response by the EU to greenhouse gas
reduction targets agreed under the Kyoto protocol. When the Directive was adopted in December 2002 there were 160
million buildings in the EU, and it was anticipated that the Directive could deliver 45 million tonnes of carbon dioxide
reduction by 2010.

By 2007 the EU had committed to even more stringent targets - in particular to a reduction of 20% in the EUs total
energy consumption by 2020, and a binding target for renewable energy of 20% of total supply by the same year.
Individual Member States had also set their own national targets.

It was clear therefore that there was a need to strengthen the provisions of the Directive and have a more thorough
and rapid implementation. At the same time, it was acknowledged that there had been a wide range of responses from
Member States to the provisions of the original Directive, and that this variability should not be allowed to continue.
Hence the second directive (known as the recast EPBD or EPBD-2[2]) was drafted and adopted in May 2010,
effectively replacing the original. It generally tightened up the performance standards, reduced the building size
thresholds which trigger certain actions, and strengthened the requirements for display of information and inspection
of plant.

EPBD-2 contains a number of articles. These include:

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Article 3 there must be a national calculation methodology


Article 4 minimum energy performance requirements must be set
Article 5 the EC will establish a framework for assessing cost-optimality
Article 6 all new buildings must consider low and zero-carbon technologies
Article 7 all existing buildings (and individual building elements) must meet the standards of Article 4 when
renovated
Article 9 all new buildings should be 'nearly zero energy' by December 2020
Article 11 energy performance certificates (EPCs) must be issued at key stages of a buildings life; public
authorities must implement the recommendations
Article 12 EPCs must be issued for construction, selling or renting, and in any case for public buildings. All sale
and rental advertisements must include the headline energy performance indicator
Article 13 public buildings (including smaller ones) must display their EPCs
Article 14 larger boilers must be inspected, or advice given on replacement, modifications, etc
Article 15 larger air-conditioning systems must be inspected, or advice given on replacement, modifications,
etc
Article 27 penalties for non-compliance must be introduced.

Building Regulations Part L


In England, the Government issues and approves Approved Document L (Conservation of fuel and power) to provide
practical guidance on ways of complying with the energy efficiency requirements of the Building Regulations. In Wales,
similar Approved Documents are published by the Welsh Government.

Approved Document L has evolved over recent years to implement the requirements of the EPBD at a national level
and has a key role to play in defining suitable intermediate steps on the trajectory towards zero carbon buildings.
Approved Document L is currently updated on a three year cycle with the next revision due in 2016 (although a
Government statement in July 2015 indicated that no changes will be made at that time).

The intention of Approved Documents is to provide guidance on compliance with specific aspects of Building
Regulations for some of the more common building situations. They set out what may be considered as reasonable
provisions for compliance with the relevant requirements of the Building Regulations to which they refer. If Approved
Documents are followed then there is a presumption that the requirements of the Building Regulations have been met,
although this can be overturned. Approved Documents generally include a disclaimer that they may not be suitable for
unusual buildings and also state that there is no requirement to adopt the solutions if it can be shown that the
requirement of the Building Regulations can be met in other ways. Nevertheless, the great majority of buildings are
designed to comply with the Building Regulations via the processes outlined in Approved Documents.

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Approved Document L2A

For new buildings, the main documents are, for England:

Part L1A 2013 Conservation of fuel and power in dwellings[3]

Part L2A 2013 Conservation of fuel and power in buildings other than dwellings[4]

For Wales (in effect since 31 July 2014):

Part L1A 2014 Conservation of fuel and power in dwellings for use in Wales[5]

Part L2A 2014 Conservation of fuel and power in dwellings for use in Wales[6]

In Scotland the equivalent documents are:

2016 Technical Handbooks - Non Domestic Section 6 Energy[7]

2016 Technical Handbooks - Domestic Section 6 Energy[8]

For Northern Ireland:

DFP Technical Booklet F1: 2012[9]

DFP Technical Booklet F2: 2012[10]

DFP Amendments to Technical Booklets F1 & F2: 2014[11]

And for Ireland:

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Part L - Conservation of Fuel and Energy - Buildings Other Than Dwellings[12]

Technical Guidance Document Part L - Conservation of Fuel & Energy - Dwellings [13]

Although these regulations set slightly different targets, they all use a similar methodology for setting those targets.
Part L (England) includes the following requirements:

Maximum allowable calculated CO2 emissions rate


Maximum allowable U-values for planar elements
Maximum allowable airtightness
Guidance to reduce non-repeating thermal bridging
Checks to ensure control of solar gain and overheating.

Throughout the remainder of this article, it is the English versions of the Approved Documents (or ADs) that are
referred to.

It is noted that under the 2013 Part L Regulations, the Approved Document covering new, domestic buildings in
England (Part L1A, 2013[3]) includes Fabric Energy Efficiency Standards (FEES) alongside the existing CO2 emissions
targets. This FEES target is set at approximately the interim FEES level as recommended by the Zero Carbon Hub[14].
It is not clear whether this approach will be extended to non-domestic buildings in the future. Government currently
considers that the range of non-domestic building types is too large to develop absolute or mandatory fabric energy
efficiency targets at this stage.

Part L criterion 1, compliance modelling is not meant to accurately predict the energy consumption of a building, but
rather to assess its carbon emissions on a comparative scale. The modelling method that must be used is prescribed
by the National Calculation Methodology (NCM).

The NCM allows the calculations to be carried out either by dynamic simulation software approved by the Department
of Communities and Local Government (CLG), or the Simplified Building Energy Model (SBEM), a simplified tool
developed by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) purely for Part L compliance analysis. The purpose of
SBEM is to produce consistent and reliable evaluations of energy use in non-domestic buildings for Building
Regulations Compliance and for Building Energy Performance Certification purposes.

The selection of tools is open to the designer but it is recognised that SBEM is relatively limited and is unable to model
a number of options.

Energy/CO2 targets (Part L2A[4] Criterion 1)

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Dynamic thermal simulation model, One Kingdom Street, London.


(Image courtesy of AECOM)

The main requirement is that the calculated (predicted) CO2 emissions rate from the building as built (BER), is less
than or equal to the Target CO2 Emissions Rate(TER).

The calculated emission rate of CO2 is based on the annual energy requirements for space heating, water heating and
lighting, less the emissions saved by renewable energy generation technologies and makes use of standard sets of
data for different activity areas and call on common databases of construction and service elements.

For non-domestic buildings, the Building CO2 Emissions Rate (BER) must be less than the TER. The BER and TER
are calculated using a monthly quasi-steady state energy balance methodology SBEM (Simplified Building Energy
Model) based on ISO 13790[15], with lighting from BS EN 15193[16], or by using approved dynamic simulation
modelling software such as IES-VE or TAS.

The SBEM software package produces a virtual model of the building. Standard operating conditions for each building
type are defined in the National Calculation Methodology (NCM) and are applied to the building being assessed.

Recent changes to Part L requirements

The 2006 revisions to Approved Document L2A[17] required a 23.5% saving (in regulated emissions) over the 2002
standards for fully naturally ventilated spaces and 28% savings for mechanically ventilated and cooled spaces.
Revisions to Part L2A in 2010[18] required a further 25% (average) reduction in regulated emissions over the 2006
requirements for non-domestic buildings. In recognition of the variation in energy demand profiles in different non-
domestic building types and hence the cost-effectiveness of achieving carbon emission reductions in different building
types, Part L2A (2010)[18] adopted an aggregate approach for non-domestic buildings. Under this approach, different
building types are required to achieve larger or smaller operational carbon emission reductions than the average
25%. Targets are set based on predicted new build rates for different building types over the assumed 10-year policy
period.

The carbon reduction targets in the 2013 (England) regulations are less than initially proposed during the consultation
period. For new homes, Part L 2013 represents a 6% aggregate uplift in CO2 targets compared to the 2010
requirements. For new non-domestic buildings, the regulations represent a 9% aggregate uplift, significantly lower
than the 20% improvement initially proposed (mainly in response to Governments deregulatory and growth agendas).
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Although the aggregate CO2 emissions uplift or improvement for new non-domestic buildings is 9%, this varies, by
building type, between 3% for small warehouses to 13% for a shallow plan office.

Model designs are provided in Approved Document L2A (2013)[4] for toplit and side-lit buildings. Parameters of the
concurrent specification that meet the CO2 emissions target (TER) include:

Roof U-value 0.18 Wm-2K-1


Wall U-value 0.26 Wm-2K-1
Floor U-value 0.22 Wm-2K-1
Window U-value 1.6 Wm-2K-1
Air permeability 5 m3m-2hr-1 in side lit and 7 m3m-2hr-1 in toplit buildings for buildings with a gross internal area
of less than 250 m2 air permeability targets for larger buildings are lower.

Energy efficiency measures


Energy efficiency measures can be broadly defined as changes to the building which will reduce the demand for
energy and in so doing reduce operational carbon emissions. In general, they include measures to improve the thermal
performance of the building envelope and improvements to the buildings services. The table gives an overview of the
various types of energy efficiency measures most often considered for improving the operational energy efficiency of
new, non-domestic buildings.

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Common energy efficiency measures used in non-domestic buildings

Category Description of measure

Air tightness Improved air tightness

Thermal bridging Enhanced thermal bridging

Improved envelope thermal Roof


insulation
Ground floor

External walls

Glazing Optimised glazed area (windows and/or rooflights)

Improved thermal performance of glazing

Optimised building orientation

Solar shading, e.g. Louvers, brise soleil

Solar control glass

Heating cooling & ventilation Improved boiler seasonal efficiency


efficiencies
Improve cooling efficiency (SEER)

Improved Specific Fan Power

Heat recovery

Lighting Improved lighting efficiency

Occupancy sensing lighting controls

Daylight dimming lighting controls

Miscellaneous Green Roof

Passive/active chilled beams

Radiant heated/chilled ceiling slabs

Mixed mode ventilation

Water cooled/heated slabs

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The graph shows the predicted (modelled) reductions in operational carbon dioxide emissions achieved by introducing
a number of individual energy efficiency measures into a large, air-conditioned, city centre office building. It is noted
that the measures yielding the greatest reductions are not necessarily the most cost effective. The results are from the
Target Zero research programme.

Reduction in carbon dioxide emissions achieved by introducing energy efficiency measures (city centre office building)

The graph shows that, in this case, the measures with the greatest predicted impact are those related to space cooling
and fan and lighting efficiencies. Most of the building fabric improvements are predicted to yield only small reductions
in carbon dioxide emissions.

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Breakdown of operational carbon emissions (by energy use) for a typical city centre office building

The pie chart shows the predicted breakdown of carbon dioxide emissions, by energy demand, for the same office
building.

Energy efficiency measures which affect the heating/cooling balance of buildings can be difficult to optimise. This is
because the proportion of annual carbon emissions from space heating and cooling are often very similar; as is the
case for this office building. As a consequence, energy efficiency measures which tend to reduce fabric heat losses or
increase solar gains will reduce the emissions from space heating, but also increase those from cooling. Similarly
measures which increase heat loss or reduce solar gain will increase the emissions from space heating but reduce
those from cooling. The net effect can be very small.

Energy efficiency measures generally incur a capital cost premium. An exception to this is reduced glazed area which
can yield a capital cost saving. It is important therefore that the capital cost of energy efficiency measures is balanced
against the operational cost savings, i.e. through lower utility bills. This approach is consistent with the targets being
set in Governments hierarchy for defining zero carbon non-domestic buildings.

The figure shows the cost effectiveness of the same set of measures as shown above. Their cost-effectiveness has
been calculated based on a 25-year NPV per kg of CO2 saved per year and measures have been ranked in order of
cost-effectiveness. The NPV (Net present value) includes all capital, maintenance and replacement costs and
resulting energy savings, over a 25-year period. All ongoing costs are discounted back to their current present value. A
discount rate of 3.5% has been used.

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Comparison of NPV cost effectiveness of modelled energy efficiency measures (city centre office building)

The figure shows that the energy efficiency measures involving an improvement to the fabric thermal insulation
performance of building elements (green bars in the figure) are generally not very cost effective, i.e. they have a high
NPV cost per kgCO2 saved. This is, as has been previously discussed, largely because the addition of thermal
insulation increases the cooling load in summer as well as reducing the heating load in winter. Therefore the net
carbon saving from such measures is relatively small and hence their cost effectiveness is relatively low.

When a range of different energy efficiency measures is to be employed, it is important that their compatibility is
established. For example, more efficient lighting will generate less heat and therefore the heating demand will be
increased and the cooling load could be reduced. The interaction of these different effects is complex and therefore
expert advise, supported by dynamic thermal modelling, should be employed.

Further, more detailed, information and guidance on energy efficiency measures is provided in the Target Zero design
guides.

Low and zero carbon technologies


Low and zero carbon (LZC) technologies can be broadly defined as technologies which meet building energy
demands with either no carbon emissions, or carbon emissions significantly lower than those of conventional methods.
There are, however, a number of grey areas in this definition such as ground source heat pumps which are generally
classed as low carbon technologies but which can be less efficient than modern high efficiency conventional cooling
plant.

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An overview of the various types of generic LZC technologies most often considered for use on new, non-domestic
buildings is shown.

Overview of current LZC technologies commonly used in non-domestic buildings

Category Technology

Wind Building mounted (1 to 6kW turbine)

Large offsite turbine up to 5MW

On-site ground-mounted turbine (20 to 330kW)

Solar Solar Thermal Hot Water (STHW)

Photovoltaics

Heat pumps Open-loop Ground Source Heat Pump - Single or


reverse cycle

Closed-loop Ground Source Heat Pump - Single or


reverse cycle

Air Source Heat Pump - Single ore reverse cycle

Biomass boilers Biomass heating

Combined Heat & Power CHP Large biomass CHP

Fuel cell CHP

Gas-fired CHP

Anaerobic digestion CHP

Combined Cooling Heat & Power CCHP Biomass CCHP

Fuel cell CCHP

Gas-fired CCHP

Anaerobic digestion CCHP

Waste Energy from waste

Waste process heat

Miscellaneous Refrigeration heat recovery system

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The suitability of different LZC technologies to different building types and locations can vary significantly and, as for
energy efficiency measures, it is important that whole life costs are assessed to arrive at optimum solutions for a
specific building. This assessment is further complicated by the introduction and changes to subsidies such as Feed-
in tariffs (FITs) and the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).

It is important, when choosing on-site LZCs, that their compatibility with energy efficiency measures and any other
LZCs is probably considered.

The Target Zero programme gives detailed guidance on the most cost effective routes, i.e. combinations of energy
efficiency measures and LZC technologies, to achieve future likely Carbon Compliance targets and true net zero
carbon buildings.

Breakdown of energy use in buildings


An understanding of the breakdown of operational energy use (and associated carbon emissions) in buildings is
important to focus the designers attention on where the greatest improvements or savings can be achieved. Although
all buildings are different and actual performance will differ from predicted performance, the pie charts give the
breakdown in operational carbon emissions (by energy use) in four of the five non-domestic buildings studied in the
Target Zero programme. The 5th (office) building breakdown has been previously described. All buildings were
designed to meet the minimum requirements of Part L2A 2006.

Secondary school building Large distribution warehouse

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Mixed-use building (office and hotel)


Supermarket

From the pie-charts, the following is noted:

Unregulated or small power demands represent a significant proportion of total emissions in all building types
Lighting is the greatest regulated energy use in four of the five buildings
Heating and cooling emissions are very similar in the office, supermarket and mixed-use buildings.

Further, more detailed, information and guidance on the breakdown of operational carbon emissions in non-domestic
buildings is provided in the Target Zero design guides.

Optimum solutions for low and zero carbon buildings


Development of optimum solutions for low and zero carbon non-domestic buildings is complex. Optimum solutions
require collaborative and early involvement of all parts of the design team. The flowchart gives guidance on how to
develop cost-effective solutions for low or zero carbon buildings. This example is specifically tailored to commercial
office buildings but is equally applicable to other non-domestic building types.

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Guidance flowchart for delivering low and zero operational carbon office buildings

The Target Zero design guides provide detailed guidance and information on optimum solutions to achieve current
and future possible low and zero carbon targets.

Recommendations for developing low and zero operational carbon solutions

Key recommendations for developing low and zero operational carbon solutions are set out below.

Client and brief

Client commitment to achieving sustainable and low and zero carbon targets should be captured in terms of a clear
brief and target(s), for example, a 70% improvement in regulated carbon emissions or an Energy Performance
Certificate (EPC) A rating.

The brief, and any operational carbon targets, should specify the contribution to be made from on-site LZC
technologies and whether the client is prepared to connect to offsite technologies. This should also take account of any
funding or local planning requirements, such as a policy requiring a minimum proportion of a buildings energy needs
to be met using renewable energy.

Undertaking the relevant analyses and integration of design early enough on a project is key to ensuring that the
design is maximising its potential for low carbon emissions at minimum cost.

Cost
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The provision of easy-to-understand, accurate cost advice early in the design process is key to developing the most
cost-effective low and zero carbon solution for any new-build building.

When looking at the costs of energy efficiency measures and low and zero carbon technologies it is important that:

Life-cycle costs are investigated (as opposed to just capital costs)


Benefits from energy cost savings are taken into account
Benefits from sales of renewable obligation certificates (ROCs), renewable heat obligation certificates, feedin
tariffs, renewable heat incentive, etc. are considered
Potential savings from grants are considered and the potential costs of Allowable Solutions taken into account
The cost implications to the building structure/fabric are considered. For example, a PV array installed on a flat
roof requires additional supporting structures whereas PV laminate on a low-pitch roof does not.

Design team

All members of the design team should understand the operational carbon targets set for a project and their role in
achieving them. Targets should be included in their briefs/contracts with a requirement to undertake their part of the
work necessary to achieve the target. It can be useful to appoint a carbon champion on the project who would be
responsible for delivering the target. This is often the role taken by either the building services engineer or the
BREEAM assessor.

It is important to understand the breakdown of energy use within the building so that measures can be targeted where
the greatest reductions are achievable.

The likely occupancy pattern of the building should also be considered early on in the design process since this will
affect the energy demand profile of the building. For example, a large commercial office building operating 24 hours a
day will have a far higher lighting and heating demand than one only operating during normal business hours. The
National Calculation Methodology (NCM) which is used for Part L compliance, applies a standard activity schedule to
different building types and therefore cannot take into account different occupancy patterns. This is a limitation of the
NCM and is an example of where operational carbon compliance modelling is not able to accurately model/predict
actual emissions.

Site factors

Site constraints, including building orientation, can have a major effect on a buildings operational energy requirements
and on the viability of integrating LZC technologies. Site selection can therefore be a key issue. Most site constraints
for large city centre buildings are far more onerous than for other non-domestic building types such as schools, retail,
industrial and leisure buildings which are more typically (although not exclusively) located outside city centres.

The design team must therefore be fully aware of the viability of available LZC technologies and the constraints
imposed by the site. They will also need to look beyond the site boundary for opportunities to integrate with other
offsite LZC technologies and other buildings and networks.

The ability to integrate into (or initiate) a low-carbon district heating system, for example, may have a large positive
impact on the cost-effectiveness of constructing low carbon, city centre commercial buildings and therefore should be
given due consideration early in the design process.

Building form and fabric

Although energy efficiency measures can deliver significant carbon savings, in most new non-domestic building types,
the glazing and solar shading strategy is likely to be the most effective means to deliver cost effective carbon savings.

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The glazing strategy will have a significant impact on the cooling load, the requirement for artificial lighting and the
energy required for space heating. East and West facing glazing should be minimised with an emphasis on North and
South facing glazing. Glazing with a sill height less than around 1m does not generally provide much useful daylight,
but does increase the cooling load in summer and heating requirements in winter. South facing glazing should have
external solar control measures to block high-angle sunlight in summer whilst allowing the useful low-angle sunlight to
enter the building in winter.

Lighting

Improving lighting efficiency is often important to deliver cost effective carbon savings. Lighting typically contributes
over a quarter of the carbon dioxide emissions of commercial buildings and over 70% in warehouse buildings.
Therefore optimising the lighting design in conjunction with the glazing strategy can reduce energy use significantly
without major capital cost implications.

Lighting energy use can be dramatically reduced through good design involving efficient lighting layout and use of low
energy lamps and luminaires with high light output ratios (LOR). Lighting controls should also be carefully designed in
order to facilitate efficient use of the system. Well placed user controls combined with automatic controls including
daylight dimming and occupancy-sensing controls can have a dramatic impact on lighting energy use particularly
when combined with a well-designed glazing strategy. It is important however that these systems are designed to suit
the building users otherwise there is a tendency to override automatic controls, leading to greater energy
consumption.

Heating, cooling and ventilation

Heating, cooling and ventilation system energy demands can be reduced by:

Providing heat recovery to provide fresh air whilst minimising heating loads
Providing large diameter air handling units to minimise fan energy
Using waste heat from space cooling to provide hot water.

The energy required by ventilation systems can be significant in commercial buildings. This can be reduced through
the use of low energy fans and pumps. The positioning and size of plant rooms can have a dramatic effect on the
energy used in ventilation systems.

The amount of energy used by fans increases as ductwork becomes longer, narrower and includes more bends and
therefore structural and M&E engineers have a role to play in designing more efficient ventilation systems.

The choice of delivery system for heating and cooling can have a dramatic effect on the performance of a building.
Chilled beams lend themselves to the thermal characteristics of heat pumps allowing the two technologies to offer a
greater overall efficiency when linked together than when used separately.

An alternative to chilled beams is to integrate the heating/cooling system into the structure of the building, so called
water-cooled/heated slabs. By embedding the pipework into the floors, a similar performance to chilled beams can be
achieved without the visual intrusion.

Low and zero carbon (LZC) technologies

Once energy demands have been reduced and efficient baseline HVAC systems selected, the introduction of LZC
technologies should be considered. The Target Zero guides give detailed guidance on the cost effectiveness of
different generic LZC technologies for different non-domestic building types.

Many LZC technologies will require larger plant space (than conventional heating and cooling systems) and some
require access for fuel delivery and storage; this needs to be considered in the design. Once LZC technologies have
been selected they should be integrated into the design at the earliest opportunity to enable efficient integration and
reduce capital expenditure. If the building is to be connected to a district heating system then the capital cost can be
reduced if plant rooms for heating systems are kept close to street level. If biomass fuel is to be delivered to site then
delivery access will be important and should be considered very early in the design process.
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The cost effectiveness of LZC technologies which provide heat rely on there being a sufficient heat demand. Therefore
the effectiveness of low carbon heating technologies is reduced when they are used on highly insulated buildings.

The size of wind turbines that can be installed on-site will be restricted by site and other, e.g. planning, constraints. As
a general rule however, where on-site wind turbine are viable, the most cost effective approach will be to install the
largest possible turbine.
Impact of structural form on operational carbon
The impact of structural form on the operational carbon emissions from non-domestic buildings is generally small. The
table gives the results from dynamic thermal modelling of different structural forms of five different non-domestic
building types. The perceived wisdom is that heavy weight solutions are generally more energy efficient, however the
variation is 1% or less in all cases.

Influence of structural form on operational carbon emissionsFrom Target Zero

Building type Structural form Building emissions Difference


rate (%)
(kgCO2/m2yr)

Secondary school Steel frame supporting precast hollow core 27.3 0.7
concrete units

In-situ 350mm concrete flat slab 27.1

Supermarket Braced frame supporting structural metal 55.5 0.4


decking

Glulam rafters and columns supporting 55.7


structural metal decking

Distribution Steel portal frame 23.9 0.4


warehouse
Glulam beams and purlins supported on 23.8
concrete columns

Office building Cellular steel beams supporting a 31.4/31.51 0/1.01


lightweight concrete slab on a profiled steel
deck

350mm thick post-tensioned concrete flat 31.4/31.21


slab

Mixed-use Steel frame with shallow floor system 42.8/42.61 0.5/0.21


(hotel and office)
Concrete flat slab 42.6/42.51

1
The values are with/without ceiling tiles

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Buildings with high thermal mass are constructed from materials which have a large capacity to absorb and store heat.
Careful utilisation of this effect can help to stabilise internal temperatures and reduce summer cooling loads. However,
it can also have the effect of increasing the energy required for space heating if, by exposing the floor soffits, the
volume requiring heating is increased. The interaction of these impacts is complex and depends on the balance of
heating and cooling in the building in question.

Where it is decided to utilise thermal mass in a building, studies have shown that, at most, it is possible to mobilise
about 75-100mm of the structural depth of the exposed soffit. This is available in all common steel floor systems.

Thermal mass is only really effective when it is directly exposed, most commonly by leaving the soffit of the floor above
the occupants exposed. Frequently this does not occur in modern buildings which often have false ceilings that isolate
the thermal mass. Exposing the thermal mass can also have detrimental impacts on aesthetics and acoustics which
can be costly to overcome.

Thermal mass is only effective at providing a stable internal temperature if the heat stored in the fabric during the day
is dissipated at night. Modern buildings are required to be well insulated and so this dissipation of heat cannot happen
unless external air is allowed to circulate inside the building; so called night cooling or purging. If this does not take
place then each morning the building will still be warm from the previous day and so a steady build up in temperature
can occur during prolonged periods of hot weather.

Night cooling can be provided either mechanically or naturally. It can be as simple as leaving windows open to allow
cool night air to circulate inside the building. However this approach is often difficult to achieve due to the associated
security risk. An alternative is to provide mechanical ventilation which runs through the night although this can
consume considerable electrical energy and hence be counter productive.

Unless the energy consumed in cooling the building is a significant proportion of its total energy demand then the
benefits of thermal mass are generally small and may even increase the buildings carbon dioxide emissions unless
the ventilation is carefully controlled to maximise night cooling.

There are situations where it may be appropriate to consider a naturally ventilated, thermal mass solution to reduce
operational carbon emissions. However, there are often other important factors that can mitigate against this.
Furthermore, any presumption of improved operational energy performance of a heavyweight building should be
tested using dynamic thermal modelling.

The choice of structural option often affects the envelope area of the building. Buildings with a greater surface area will
experience a larger amount of heat loss; this will increase the heating energy requirement in winter, but may also
reduce the cooling load in summer.

It is important to consider the impacts of introducing LZC technologies and certain energy efficiency measures on the
building design. Examples include:

Changes to the roof or cladding elements, such as increases in insulation or the introduction of a green roof
may require enhancement to the building foundations or structure
The impact on space planning. For example, variation in plant location and space requirements
Programming implications: both onsite and supply. CHP systems, for example, might have a long lead-in time.

Plant room size will vary according to the LZC technologies that are to be used in the building. For example, biomass
boilers will require additional storage space for wood chip fuel and for ash as well as access for fuel deliveries and
waste collections. For buildings connected into district heating schemes, plant room size could be much smaller than
required for traditional plant particularly if no backup plant is required. Similarly, the use of on-site technologies such
as ground source heat pumps can result in smaller plant rooms, if no backup or supplementary heating or cooling plant
is required.

Embodied vs operational carbon

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As regulations are tightened to reduce operational carbon emissions from new buildings, the relative importance of
embodied carbon impacts increases.

The table shows the ratio between the embodied carbon and the annual predicted operational carbon emissions for
five different non-domestic building types and for different possible future operational carbon reduction targets. The
buildings are those studied under the Target Zero programme and therefore the base line is a Part L2A (2006)[17]
compliant building.

The table shows for example, that for the Part L2A (2006)[17] compliant school building, the embodied carbon in the
building is exceeded by the operational carbon emissions after 8.4 years of building operation. This ratio increases to
44.2 years under the scenario of a 100% reduction in regulated carbon emissions. These results are indicative only
however since, as UK energy production is decarbonised in the future, the embodied carbon of buildings should also
reduce.

Ratio of embodied vs operational carbon for non-domestic buildingsFrom Target Zero

Operational Ratio Annual operational carbon: Embodied carbon (years)


carbon
reduction Distributio Supermark Secondary Office Mixed-use
target n et school
warehouse

Part L 2006 7.8 5.0 8.4 10.3 7.5


compliant base
case building

25% reduction 9.9 6.3 10.5 12.4 8.9


in regulated
carbon
emissions (Part
L 2010)

44% reduction 12.5 7.7 13.0 14.6 10.2


in regulated
carbon
emissions

70% reduction 19.4 11.3 19.4 19.6 13.0


in regulated
carbon
emissions

100% reduction 53.8 24.0 44.2 32.1 18.9


in regulated
carbon
emissions

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The most recent government sponsored research into Carbon Compliance targets for new non-domestic buildings[1]
suggests that the averaged reduction in regulated emissions (via energy efficiency and on or near site LZC
technologies) required to achieve the 2019 zero carbon target will be between 44% to 54% (relative to Part L 2006)
with the balance achieved via the use of allowable solutions. At these levels of reduction, the predicted ratio of
embodied:operational carbon for these buildings over a 60-year design life is between 1:4 and 1:8 suggesting that
even in 2019, when designing new 'zero carbon' buildings, designers can still make the greatest impact by addressing
operational carbon rather than embodied carbon.

A simplified carbon footprint tool for buildings is available.

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References
1. 1.01.1 Zero carbon for new non-domestic buildings; Phase 3 final report. Department for Communities and
Local Government, July 2011
2. Directive 2010/31/Eu Of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 May 2010 on the energy
performance of buildings (recast)

3. 3.03.1 Approved Document L1A (Conservation of fuel and power in new dwellings) 2013 Edition incorporating
2016 amendments. Department for Communities and Local Government

4. 4.04.14.2 Approved Document L2A (Conservation of fuel and power in new buildings other than dwellings)
2013 Edition incorporating 2016 amendments. Department for Communities and Local Government
5. Approved Document L1A,(Conservation of fuel and power (New dwellings) 2014. Welsh Government
6. Approved Document L2A,(Conservation of fuel and power (New buildings other than dwellings) 2014. Welsh
Government
7. Technical Handbooks 2016 Non Domestic Energy, The Scottish Government.
8. Technical Handbooks 2016 Domestic Energy, The Scottish Government.
9. DFP Technical Booklet F1: 2012 - conservation of fuel and power in dwellings, Department of Finance and
Personnel.
10. DFP Technical Booklet F2: 2012 - Conversation of fuel and power in buildings other than dwellings,
Department of Finance and Personnel.
11. DFP Amendments to Technical Booklets F1 & F2: 2014, Department of Finance and Personnel.
12. Building Regulations 2008 Conservation of Fuel and Energy - Buildings other than Dwellings Technical
Guidance Document L, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, 2008.
13. Building Regulations 2011 Conservation of Fuel and Energy - Dwellings Technical Guidance Document L,
Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, 2011.
14. Fabric energy efficiency for zero carbon homes - A flexible performance standard for 2016. Zero Carbon
Hub.
15. ISO 13790:2008. Energy performance of buildings - Calculation of energy use for space heating and cooling.
International Standards Organisation
16. BS EN 15193:2007. Energy performance of buildings. Energy requirements for lighting. BSI

17. 17.017.117.2 Approved Document L2A (Conservation of fuel and power in new buildings other than dwellings)
2006 Edition. Department for Communities and Local Government

18. 18.018.1 Approved Document L2A (Conservation of fuel and power in new buildings other than dwellings) 2010
Edition. Department for Communities and Local Government

Resources
SCI P367 Energy efficient housing using light steel framing
Carbon footprint tool for buildings
Target Zero Cost effective routes to carbon reduction

Target Zero design guides:

Guidance on the design and construction of sustainable, low carbon office buildings
Guidance on the design and construction of sustainable, low carbon warehouse buildings
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Guidance on the design and construction of sustainable, low carbon supermarket buildings
Guidance on the design and construction of sustainable, low carbon mixed-use buildings
Guidance on the design and construction of sustainable, low carbon school buildings

See also
Target Zero
Thermal mass
BREEAM
Sustainable construction legislation, regulation and drivers

CPD
Sustainability and steel construction
Sustainable steel buildings

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