Tom's Top Tips for Getting Your Building Verified as Net Zero Carbon

Thomas Greenhill

Senior Engineer, Partner

Max Fordham LLP

(c) Janie Airey

Does your organisation have a net zero commitment? Do you want to apply this to your buildings too?

Engineer Tom Greenhill has been representing Max Fordham on the UKGBC’s Renewable Procurement and Carbon Offsetting Task Group. Following workshops and consultation processes, the output is some revised guidance that now forms part of UKGBC’s Net Zero Framework for buildings seeking Net Zero Verification. Tom has since been putting this guidance into practice on Max Fordham’s forthcoming updated Net Zero Verification for our offices and shares his top tips below.

Firstly, why the UKGBC Framework? There are a few out there but we think this one is currently the best. So we’re backing it. In 2019 we made a commitment to make our offices verified Net Zero Carbon and we think you should do it for your building(s), too.

Here are a few tips to get you started on a route to verification:

  1. Wean your building off fossil fuels. To be verified as net zero carbon under the UKGBC framework, a new build cannot use fossil fuels for heating, hot water or cooking - no new gas boilers or gas CHP! For an existing building to be verified, if it's s not already all-electric there's a need to commit to phasing out the use of fossil fuels within the building over time. Four out of five of our own buildings still have gas boilers, and so we’re committing to a trajectory of phasing out their use before their next procurement cycle.
  2. Compare your building’s performance to relevant metrics to understand its energy performance. The UKGBC have released Energy Use Intensity targets for offices, which will need to be met to achieve verification. They are planning to release them for other building typologies, too, but in the meantime, you can check the RIBA 2030 and LETI targets as they are likely to be similar. In order to compare your building to these metrics, you will need to know the gross internal area (GIA) and have some meter readings. Our offices meet the current targets, but it looks like we will struggle to meet the next set of interim targets, so we are developing an appropriate action plan.
  3. Change your electricity utility company. The UKGBC framework rewards renewable energy procurement. If you manage a large estate, an off-site Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with a renewables provider might be appropriate. Any spare roof space? Got a windy site? Then perhaps you can generate some of your own renewable electricity using PV panels or wind turbines. If you are managing smaller buildings like us, then you can access renewables through a few selected energy companies. There is a lot of greenwash in the energy market, which can be very confusing – you’ll be able to see it on TV ads every day if you look. However, as outlined in the latest UKGBC guidance, only three UK suppliers have currently been recognised by Ofgem to provide greater impact in growing the UK renewables market beyond that generated by subsidy or other mechanisms: Ecotricity, Good Energy and Green Energy. So switch now! Fortunately we are already customers of Good Energy in our London office, and we’re working on trying to persuade the landlords of our other offices to switch to them too.
  4. Consider available carbon offsets. If your building does not use fossil fuels and does use renewable electricity, then your offsetting bill to achieve operational net zero carbon verification could already be zero under the UKGBC framework. Congratulations if so, but you will likely be in the minority! To offset the gas and remaining electricity usage for our offices we are considering purchasing offsets offered by UK peatland restoration projects accredited via the UK Peatland Code, which has been recognised by the UKGBC framework with the introduction of their new guidance. Peatland restoration is key to the UK’s NZC goals and we are keen to fund it as part of our NZC verification.

    Hopefully this has given you some ideas on how you can better prepare your building to be net zero verified. Get in touch if you think we can help!