NET ZERO CARBON: FOOD AND LAND USE

This week is the final part of a series that I have been doing looking into Net Zero carbon and how this can be achieved by 2050.

There was a report that came out in October 2020 called “Fit for Net-Zero: 55 Tech Quests to Accelerate Europe’s Recovery and Pave the Way to Climate Neutrality.” I thought the report was excellent, so over the last couple of weeks I have been picking out my personal highlights from the different sections that made up the report.

Net Zero Carbon – Solutions for food and land use

When it comes to climate change, we very much are what we eat. The European agro-sector generates 430.5 MtCO₂e, 395 MtCO₂e of which come from conventional agriculture. This accounts for 10% of the total European CO₂ emissions.

The first solution that stood out for me, was the idea of transforming European agriculture with sustainable farming techniques. The aim of this solution is to overcome the problem that systemic approaches to lower GHG emissions from farms exist but have not been widely adopted across Europe.

The solution that was proposed was to massively extend systemic practices while supporting continuous research that will enable Europe to reach 20% emissions abatement with no new inventions required.

The types of projects that it is envisioned being supported include conservation agriculture, innovative livestock farming systems and a carbon credit mechanism alongside other incentive-based systems.

These solutions taken together could have a big impact, in helping to avoid 60.5 MtCO₂e and create 328,000 jobs by 2050.

The next solution that stood out was the idea of reinforcing plants and boosting crop resilience to use less emissions – intensive fertilizers and inputs. This is to solve the issue that ammonia-based fertilizers rely on an energy-intensive production and environmentally harmful operations, and reduce soil quality.

The solution proposed is microbial fertilizers, combined with a better use of mineral fertilizers, which offer a desirable alternative that can be rapidly developed and deployed at farm scale. In addition, biostimulants strengthen plants and allow for lower use of fertilizers.

The main ambition is to validate the feasibility of producing on-site soil specific microbial fertilizers at large scale. Another ambition is to accelerate R&D in the field of biostimulants and increase the market penetration of these products through farm-scale research initiatives.

The engagement of stakeholders is always important for getting new initiatives off the ground, but in this case, the engagement of: agritech startups, academic researchers, competence centers, consortia, major fertilizer and biostimulants manufacturers and farmers is particularly important.

Solutions implemented under this umbrella could have a big impact, in helping to avoid 26.4 MtCO₂e and create 49,000 jobs by 2050.

The final and my personal favourite solution from the report is the idea of promoting tasty, affordable and low – emission alternatives to meat and dairy products.

The issue is that there are still only few alternative plant-based meat products and almost no cell-based alternatives. Market shares are low and and until recently they have mostly failed to imitate original products.

The solution proposed is for R&D to break down the last barriers to market and cause the acceleration of alternative meat and synthetized milk products.

The first project would be to support mature plant-based products to achieve 20% market share by 2030. The aim is to achieve this by identifying and investing in 100 promising startups that need resources to scale-up production and roll-out their plant-based products.

The second project would be to bring together industry stakeholders to launch the production of low-cost cell-based meat before 2025. The aim would be to identify synergies to promote research partnerships in order to boost progress and stabilize low-cost production processes.

The third project would be to launch research to synthetize milk. The first aim would be to validate the concept of casein imitation, a protein found in natural milk using a lab-grown plant-based substitute and precision fermentation techniques.

These solutions could have a big impact, helping to avoid 103 MtCO₂e and create 1,137,000 jobs by 2050.

What you need to know

This article was the final part in a series looking into the top breakthrough technologies from the recently released Fit For Net Zero report. This week was the turn of looking into the solutions for food and land use.

The agro-sector is responsible for a significant chunk of carbon emissions, so action taken in this area will be essential in helping to reduce carbon emissions in Europe.

There are a lot of solutions out there, some of which will be easy to commercialise and other which will require government support to become scalable.

There are significant barriers to be overcome in terms of personal choices and attitudes towards plant based alternatives. But as they increase in quality and reduce in price thanks to economies of scale, these should hopefully be overcome.

Overall, there are lots of opportunities for reducing carbon emissions from this sector. But there are equally as many sources of emissions, so many solutions will be required to decarbonise this sector.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to make net zero 2050 a reality?

 Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

NET ZERO CARBON: TRANSPORT

This week is the fourth part of a series that I am doing looking into Net Zero carbon and how this can be achieved by 2050.

There was a report that came out in October 2020 called “Fit for Net-Zero: 55 Tech Quests to Accelerate Europe’s Recovery and Pave the Way to Climate Neutrality.” I thought the report was really good, so over the last couple of weeks I have been picking out my personal highlights from the different sections that made up the report.

Net Zero Carbon – Solutions for Transport

I was surprised to learn that transportation is responsible for over 1,200 MtCO₂ per year, which is 30% of total emissions in the EU.

There were lots of great transport solutions in the report. The first that stood out was the idea of scale up green n-liquid ammonia production and logistics infrastructure for long-distance shipping.

The issue is that ammonia is a promising zero-emissions fuel for shipping, but is still produced mainly from grey hydrogen and remains much more expensive than traditional fuel. The solution the report proposes is to test and deploy at scale production facilities of green ammonia for use as e-fuel for maritime shipping.

There has been a lot of interest in ammonia as a fuel recently. This is driven by the fact that its use does not emit CO₂ due to the lack of a carbon atom in the NH3 molecule. However, to achieve net zero, ammonia production needs to be carbon-neutral, using green hydrogen obtained from electrolysis. Nowadays, ammonia production heavily relies on fossil fuels and is far from carbon-neutral.

This was calculated to be a powerful solution, with the potential to avoid 54.3 MtCO₂e and create 12,000 jobs by 2050.

The next solution that stood out was the idea of developing hydrogen usage for heavy-duty road freight. The issue is that widespread implementation of hydrogen in road transport is limited by poor infrastructure penetration and reliability. The solution the report advocates for, is building a ‘spine’ based on high-utilization freight, which would  lay the foundation for expansion into passenger transport.

These freight hydrogen corridors will consist of large stations ensuring hydrogen refuelling as well as production on site with small electrolyzers and photovoltaic panels.

For this solution to work, the early engagement of relevant stakeholders is essential. These include developers and manufacturers of hydrogen generation and fuel cells products, trucking specialists, as well as shipping, rail freight and renewable energy providers.

Amazingly, currently there are only 120 hydrogen refuelling stations in Europe. So, initiatives such as the one outlined above are necessary in order to jump start the adoption of this technology. This would also be an impactful solution, with the potential to avoid 166.3 MtCO₂e and create 176,000 jobs by 2050.

The next solution that stood out was to electrify short-distance truck transport, including waste collection and urban buss fleets.  

The issue is that over 70% of goods used daily are transported within and between cities via heavy duty trucks that are large CO₂ emitters. The solution proposed is to develop heavy-duty electric vehicles, such as  trucks, busses, waste collection vehicles and to demonstrate the feasibility of reliable deployment to gain scale and reduce costs.

One of the strategies would be to pioneer inspirational technologies, such as Volvo’s FL truck, which has a 16 tonne capacity and a range of 300 km. Cities must also begin to initiate tenders to replace ageing HGV fleets and incentivise vehicle manufacturers to increase supply. This is especially important for urban areas, as this would be a solution that will improve local air quality and address climate change at the same time.

This could have a big impact, with the potential to avoid 23.9 MtCO₂e and create 222,000 jobs by 2050.

The next solution stood out for me as being really important. The idea is to create a 100% circular battery economy in Europe. This is essential, as it is important that the electric vehicle industry that replaces the internal combustion engine industry learns from the lessons of the past to address environmental issues before they become problems.

By recycling EV batteries, this will reduce the environmental impact of the production of new batteries. The solution is to create large scale battery recycling facilities across Europe to ensure reuse of these components and limit environmental impacts.

The project aims to create an additional annual recycling capacity of 3.6 million tons of car batteries in major European regions by 2030, tis compares to a current capacity of  around 46,000 tons.

By recycling EV batteries, this decreases the need for the extraction of valuable raw materials, such as: lithium, cobalt, manganese and nickel. Thus reduces the cost and environmental impact of their extraction for the manufacturing of future batteries and avoids the pollution of landfills.

This solution has the potential to make a big impact, with the possibility of avoiding 57.7 MtCO₂e and creating 300,000 jobs by 2050.

The final solution that stood out to me, highlighted the incredibly important role of technology in solving pressing environmental challenges. The solution involves leveraging shared autonomous vehicles to reduce the number of cars in an increasing number of European cities by 30%.

The aim is to promote the use of shared autonomous mobility in medium and large cities. The solution is to launch pilot projects of shared autonomous vehicles (taxis or minibuses) across ten one-million-inhabitant European cities by 2030.

The pilot projects would have an aim to reduce individual car use by 30% in 2030. A key enabler of this is to ensure the redesign of the urban realm necessary to reach the adequate safety standards for autonomous vehicles, this includes factors such as: local regulation, high-fidelity 3D mapping, optimised infrastructure and traffic rules.

This solution could avoid 4.0 MtCO₂e and create 163,000 jobs by 2050.

What you need to know

This article was the fourth part in a series looking into the top breakthrough technologies from the recently released Fit For Net Zero report. This week was the turn of looking into the solutions for transport.

Transport is a key feature of the race to Net Zero, making up 30% of total emissions in the EU. It is therefore a crucial arena for breakthrough technologies to decarbonise this sector.

The high energy density and portability of fossil fuels made them ideal for transportation. The fuels that look to replace fossil fuels for transportation will need to have these same properties.

It is encouraging that there are a number of emergent technologies that look like they have the potential to scale up and meet this challenge.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to make Net Zero 2050 a reality?

 Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

NET ZERO CARBON: BUILDINGS

This week is the third part of a series that I am doing looking into Net Zero carbon and how this can be achieved by 2050.

There was a report that came out in October 2020 called “Fit for Net-Zero: 55 Tech Quests to Accelerate Europe’s Recovery and Pave the Way to Climate Neutrality.” I thought the report was really good, so over the last couple of weeks I have been picking out my personal highlights from the different sections that made up the report.

Net Zero Carbon – Solutions for Buildings

I was amazed to learn that more than 40% of all residential buildings in Europe were constructed before 1960, when energy efficiency and other regulations were very limited. Equally important is the fact that 75% of today’s building stock will still exist in 2050. This makes renovation to the existing building stock a priority if Europe is to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

One solution that the report recommends is a deep renovation of residential buildings. The current rate of building renovations in Europe is 0.2%, which is too low to meet the demands of reaching net zero by 2050.

The report recommends to massively replicate successful renovation programs and regional initiatives at scale, using standard methodologies and industrialized components to reduce investment per m2.

This is a powerful solution, with the potential to avoid 139.3 MtCO₂e by 2050 and create 2,109,000 jobs over the same time period.

The next solution highlighted in the report was developing next generation equipment to increase the performance of deep renovations.

The up-front cost of new technologies in insulation and building renovations are too high and are proving to be prohibitive. The report suggests boosting the development of early technologies improving insulation and renovation performance with new standardised materials and high-performing electric equipment at lower costs.

Technologies that they recommend for additional support include the following:

  • Bio-aerogel panels integrated with PCM
  • PV vacuum glazing windows
  • Roof and window heat recovery devices
  • Solar-assisted heat pumps
  • Ground source heat pumps
  • Evaporative coolers
  • Integrated solar thermal/PV
  • Systems and lighting devices

All of these systems can benefit from extensive prefabrication off site and so can arrive at residential settings ready for installation.

This was another powerful suggestion, that has the potential to avoid 61.9 MtCO₂e by 2050 and create 211,000 jobs over the same time period.                                                                                                                                           The next solution that stood out was automating, digitizing and streamlining construction processes and methods for renovations and new builds. This is yo address the major problem of the slow uptake of modern, efficient digital construction processes.

The report’s solution is to demonstrate the benefits of various technologies using five clusters and coordination between the clusters to spread skills in a collaborative way.

Digital solutions that the report identifies as being able to provide carbon savings include the following:

  • Scan to BIM using Lidar or drones, etc.
  • BIM 6D features to integrate lifecycle information.
  • Integration of BIM data with building sensors to improve energy and indoor environmental performance.
  • EnerBIM/BIMsolar solutions which integrate solar panels sizing with ROI information.
  • Open BIM approaches to ease software interoperability, as promoted by BuildingSMART at the global level.
  • Digital twin technology for at least five projects, inspired by SPHERE project which gathers 20 partners from 10 EU countries (target -25% GHG emissions, -25% construction time).
  • Digital building pass gathering all key information on the building lifecycle (like CN BIM).

This cluster of solutions has the potential to avoid 121.3 MtCO₂e and create 211,000 jobs by 2050.

The final solution that stood out was a programme of massive electrification of heat with low cost heat pumps. This is to address the problem that heat pumps have a higher upfront investment requirement than gas boilers. Their solution is to industrialize heat pump manufacturing to decrease investment requirements.

Their concept is to build 36 heat pump megafactories by 2030, each with ~150,000 units per year capacity. This scheme will also require support through funding schemes, subsidies, or tax reductions.

This is a powerful solution with the potential to avoid 481.4 MtCO₂e and create 604,000 jobs by 2050.

What you need to know

This article was the third part in a series looking into the top breakthrough technologies from the recently released Fit For Net Zero report. This week was the turn of looking into the solutions for buildings.

A lot of the solutions for buildings were already covered in the industry section, but there were a lot of good solutions in this part of the report.

With buildings accounting for around 40% of EU energy use of which about half is required for heating and cooling, action taken in this arena will decide whether the EU is able to mount an adequate response to climate change.

The positive news is that there are lots of solutions. Some of which require government support to encourage their adoption, others are market ready and should be adopted by companies working in the built environment sector out of self-interest.

Many low carbon solutions also have the potential to create enormous numbers of well-paid jobs, which could be an extra contributing factor in government support for decarbonisation of this sector.  

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to make net zero 2050 a reality?

 Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

NET ZERO CARBON: INDUSTRY

This week is the second part of a series that I am doing looking into net zero carbon and how this can be achieved by 2050.

There was a report that came out in October 2020 called “Fit for Net-Zero: 55 Tech Quests to Accelerate Europe’s Recovery and Pave the Way to Climate Neutrality.” I thought the report was really good, so over the next couple of weeks I will be picking out my personal highlights from the different sections that made up the report.

Net Zero Carbon – Industrial Solutions

Within the EU, industry is responsible for 30% or 1,201 MtCO of greenhouse gas emissions. This is generated by energy use, such as burning fossil fuels to obtain high-grade or low-grade heat or using non-renewable electricity. There are other direct emissions from processes, such as the chemical reaction involved with cement production, which generates CO₂ as a by-product.

Achieving a low carbon industry is of paramount importance if the EU wants to make a successful response to tackling climate change.

The first solution that stood out was to reduce the need for concrete thanks to better design and alternative concrete for equivalent usages. Cement production accounts for around 2% of global CO₂ emissions. Low-carbon alternatives exist but thus far have not broken out and penetrated major markets yet.

The solution proposed is to boost the use of biobased concrete, starting with 10,000 tons in 2030. The impact of this would be to avoid 5.9 MtCO₂e by 2050 and create 126,000 jobs by the same time period.

The next solution to stand out was another cement solution. This was to replace the use of concrete with carbon sink materials in new buildings. The construction of new buildings can be a carbon intensive process, with high carbon materials and high energy needs for transportation and operation of plant and equipment.

The solution is to upscale alternative comprehensive construction materials and approaches, using electric equipment, geothermal energy and green areas. The aim is to build 500 buildings in each European country by 2025 using low GHG-intensity materials and construction methods, with construction materials split between wood and low-GHG emitting cement. This solution has the potential to avoid 42.8 MtCO₂e by 250 and create 3,753,000 jobs over the same time period.

Next to stand out was another cement focussed solution, highlighting the importance of decarbonising this industry. This is to reduce the share of portland clinker in cement and develop new alternative clinkers.

As already mentioned, cement production accounts for 2% of EU CO₂ emissions, and processes (excluding energy emissions) from clinker production alone are responsible for 66% of those emissions.

This solution involves replacing clinker with substitutes (less clinker per unit of cement), which can reduce emissions by 18%. There are also alternative clinkers (to replace the classic Portland clinker) which can achieve a 17% cut in CO₂ emissions. This solution could have a big impact, by helping to avoid 6.8 MtCO₂e and create 78,000 jobs by 2030.

Next up was another cement focussed solution. This involves industrializing the use of carbon capture and usage to deliver ultra-low carbon cement production.

The calcination phase in the cement industry is responsible for 66% of cement emissions. This solution involves capturing unavoidable process emissions and reusing the CO₂ in industries such as concrete or petrochemicals.

The aim is to scale up and industrialize carbon capture at cement kilns and CO₂ usage in the cement and concrete industry to capture 14% of cement production emissions by 2030 and 56% by 2050. This could also have big impact, by helping to avoid 4.9 MtCO₂e and create 16,000 jobs in 2030.

The next solution which stood out related to refrigerants. This involves reducing the GHG impact of refrigerants.

The issue is that to achieve the phase-out of EU HFC (hexafluorocarbons) by 2030 requires further support, especially in the development of alternative refrigerants. To solve this problem requires a program to support industries to use new low-GHG refrigerants.

If acted upon, this could have a significant impact, in helping to avoid 87.1 MtCO₂e by 2050 and create 53,000 jobs by 2050.

What you need to know

This article was the second part in a series looking into the top breakthrough technologies from the recently released Fit For Net Zero report. This week was the turn of looking into the industrial solutions.

As we can see, the cement industry is a real hotspot of carbon emissions. But it is positive to see a lot of solutions coming to the forefront to help to reduce the carbon intensity of this sector.

Then refrigeration is also a significant hotspot of carbon emissions and more work is required to reduce the carbon intensity of this activity.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to make net zero 2050 a reality?

 Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

NET ZERO CARBON: ENERGY

This week is the first part of a series that I will be doing looking into net zero carbon and how this can be achieved by 2050.

There was a report that came out in October 2020 called “Fit for Net-Zero: 55 Tech Quests to Accelerate Europe’s Recovery and Pave the Way to Climate Neutrality.” I thought the report was excellent, so over the next couple of weeks I will pick out my personal highlights from the report.

Net Zero Carbon – Energy Solutions

There is no pathway to net zero carbon by 2050 that does not involve significant decarbonisation of the energy sector.

The report’s energy section opens with an ominous statistic on performance in Europe:

In 2017, fossil fuels still accounted for 73% of Europe’s energy consumption, with renewables at just 14% (despite their rapid recent growth), followed by nuclear at 13%.”

This shows just how much work there is to be done to transform the energy sector.

The first energy technology that was highlighted was giga-scale manufacturing capacities of new generation solar modules. This involves building gigafactories based on perovskite and III-V multi-junction high efficiency cells by 2030.

In layman’s terms, the efficiency of crystalline silicon cells is reaching its technical limits. There is also the problem that in the last 15 years, China has produced most of the world’s solar PV. So this would present an opportunity for bringing new jobs to Europe.

This was ranked as a very powerful solution, as it is estimated that by 2030 37.9 MtCO₂e could be avoided and by 2050 253.2 MtCO₂e could be avoided.

The next solution was another solar power innovation, this involves generating 30% more electricity per m2 with bifacial solar panels. This would help to solve a pressing problem, in that current PV efficiency reaches its limits and its deployment can be hampered by land use constraints.

This solution would make a big difference as bifacial solar plants harvest light reflected from the ground via the Albedo effect to increase efficiency by 9% and generate up to 40% more power when combined with tracking systems.

Despite what from the outside seems like a simple solution, it is estimated that by 2030 18.9 MtCO₂e could be avoided and by 2050 162.5 MtCO₂e could be avoided.

The next solution was more large-scale floating offshore wind. Projects developed to support this goal could unlock 80% of Europe’s offshore wind potential through a rapid scale-up of new generation floating wind structures.

This would help to solve a significant problem that the nearshore shallow seas are already saturated with industrial activities, while 80% of Europe’s offshore wind resource potential is located in water more than 60 m deep, which is too deep for conventional offshore wind installations.

The solution is for large scale floating wind turbine projects to drive down costs on offshore wind farms. This would have a big impact in helping to avoid 48.6 MtCO₂e by 2030 and 331.1 MtCO₂e by 2050. Amazingly, it is also anticipated that it could support 1,278,000 total jobs by 2050.

The next solution which stood out to me was 24/7  availability of electricity from combined solar generation, storage and grid. The idea is to build a trans-Mediterranean grid and electricity daytime baseload with Concentrated Solar Power (CSP).

This helps to solve the problem that solar plants provide only intermittent power, which is not solved with Li-ion battery storage that only provide one to four hours of storage. The solution proposed is for Large scale CSP in EU and North Africa with AC-DC grid, with 15-18 hours storage to provide base production (90-100% load factor) at €50/ MWh in 2030.

This ambitious solution showed that 30 MtCO₂e could be avoided by 2030 and 66.4 MtCO₂e could be avoided by 2050.

What you need to know  

This article was the first part in a series looking into the top breakthrough technologies from the recently released Fit For Net Zero report. This week was the turn of looking into the energy solutions.

Energy is a key enabler of a net zero carbon future, as it is very hard to have net zero carbon transportation or buildings without it.

On the negatiove side, a lot of time has been wasted, and there is still much to do to decarbonise this sector.

On the positive side, there is an alignment of breakthrough technologies, commercial interests and government support, that should allow this sector to make significant strides in decarbonisation between now and the key 2030 and 2050 milestones.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to make net zero 2050 a reality?

 Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

CIRCULAR ECONOMY PRINCIPLES PART 3

This article looks into circular economy principles. This is the final part in a three-part series looking into this topic.

It is based on the work of David Cheshire and his book Building Revolutions.

In part one, which you can find here, we looked into the principle of designing out waste. In part two, which you can find here, we looked into the principle of building to last and adapt. Both are crucial to delivering the circular economy within the built environment.

Principle 3: Obey the technical or biological cycle

This principle is about selecting building components that flow in either a technical or biological cycle. This will vary depending on their expected lifespan, what they are being used for and what is available.

Materials that are part of the technical cycle are durable and are suitable for reuse, remanufacture and disassembly.

Materials that are part of the biological cycle are less durable but are simpler to return to the biosphere at the end of their useful life.

The key is to select materials with the right lifecycle for the intended purpose.

Designing for disassembly is something that would make a really big difference for advancing the circular economy within the built environment. However, it is still something that there is a lot of room for improvement on. In Building Revolutions, David Cheshire had the following to say:

“It is conceivable, though rarely done, to have a strategy for reclaiming components and materials at end-of-life, and to enable disassembly of the building.

It is understandable why this is not seen as a priority. As when you are constructing a new building, the primary focus is on how it will perform for its primary function and the costs of doing so. But for achieving circularity in the built environment it is important that more emphasis is put on design for disassembly.

In a survey of demolition contractors, they point out that techniques such as having mechanical and reversible not chemical connections, ease of access to connections, independent a separable building elements and not using resins, adhesives or coatings on the elements can go a long way to making the deconstruction of the building simpler.

There are two really good examples in Building Revolutions. One is of the F87 Efficiency House Plus in Berlin by Werner Sobek, which is pictured below.

This project took the technical and biological materials cycle philosophy to the limit, meticulously selecting the correct material for its intended end use.

For materials that are recyclable at the end of their life, this included: cellulose insulation, recycled rubber as protective matting, wooden bearers for the structure of the roof and upper floors, hemp insulation and cork board.

At the end of the construction period, a manual was prepared that detailed the various materials that were used and the potential for reclamation or recycling.

Another example was project XX in Delft, which is pictured below.

The aim was to design an office building with a 20-year lifetime, on the basis that such buildings often undergo a major refurbishment roughly around this time.

The following criteria were used to select materials; they should be simple to reclaim as uncontaminated raw materials. They should be reusable without any alteration. They should be fully seperable and recyclable.

Interestingly on this project, they used ventilation ducts made of cardboard, which I have never seen or heard of before, with sand fill used on the first floor for sound insulation. It has proven to be very popular with occupants, showing that the focus on sustainability and circular principles enhanced value.

What you need to know

This article looked into circular economy principles.

This week we looked into biological and technical cycles and why it is important to select the correct material for a specific purpose.

No building is designed to last forever, so it is sensible to design buildings so that they can be demolished easily, and the parts sent for recycling and recovery to the greatest extent possible.

We looked at two highly successful, sustainable buildings which prove if circular economy principles are acted upon, that the result is a building that is highly desirable and sustainable at the same time.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to make the circular economy a reality in the built environment?

 Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

CIRCULAR ECONOMY PRINCIPLES PART 2

This article looks into circular economy principles. This is the second part in a three-part series looking into this topic.

It is based on the work of David Cheshire and his book Building Revolutions.

In part one, which you can find here, we looked at how the principle of designing out waste is fundamental to achieving a circular economy within the built environment.

Principle 2: Build to Last & Adapt

The second principle is about creating structures that are built to last and that are adaptable. This should be no surprise, as if we go back to the original meaning of sustainability, it is about the capacity to endure or continue.

The adaptability part is probably what is less common, as it is probably not something that a significant amount of attention is paid to when the structure is being designed and built. This will have to change if progress is to be made on the circular economy within the built environment.

 Something that I found really interesting in the book was the Multispace concept. This is an idea where you construct a building with a set of parameters, so that it would be suitable for retail, leisure or office space, should that be required during the building’s lifetime.

Most of the building uses had pretty similar floor-to-ceiling height requirements, except retail, which had larger requirements. This can be accommodated by putting a higher ceiling on the ground floor, as that is the floor that is most likely to be converted to retail, if required.

In order to build buildings that can be reconfigured during their lifetimes, they need to be designed to be adaptable from the outset. David points towards a layered approach, which can help to make this possible:

“The use of a layered approach allows buildings to be flexed and adapted more readily. In particular, a separation between the primary structure, the facades, the services and the interiors of the building allows the structure to be retained whilst the façade is replaced, or the interiors be changed into new layouts whilst not being dictated by structural walls in awkward location.”

This seems like a sensible approach, that can prevent buildings being demolished well inside their lifecycle because of lack of planned in adaptability.

But although this is an approach which many would assume is intuitive, there are reasons and challenges for why this is not the case, which David alludes to:

“Designing for adaptability or deconstruction is hard to justify and is unlikely to happen unless it is part of a wider story that starts with reducing construction time on site, continues with the ability to retain value by adapting buildings to changing markets and concludes with the attractive idea of providing residual value rather than demolition costs.”

I thought this was nicely put by David. Overall, designing buildings that are built to last and be adaptable, is but one part of an overall strategy, that should look to take advantage of modern methods of construction and put sustainability at the heart of decision making.

What you need to know

This article was part two of my series looking into circular economy principles in the built environment.

Designing buildings that are built to last and that are adaptable is crucial to creating structures that last over time through multiple occupancies and end uses.

Strategies like paying attention to celling heights and using a layered approach should be used so that buildings can be reconfigured throughout their lifetimes, should that be required.

As is often the case it comes down to farsighted leadership which is required to make this happen.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to make the circular economy a reality in the built environment?

 Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

CIRCULAR ECONOMY PRINCIPLES PART 1

This article is the first part in a three part series looking into circular economy principles and how they can be applied to the built environment.

I just finished reading Building Revolutions by David Cheshire, which I though was a really good book that I highly recommend. Even if you don’t work in the built environment, we all engage with an interact with buildings on a daily basis, and we all share a common interest that they be designed, built, used and demolished in the most efficient way possible. This book is packed full of ideas that will help to make this a reality.

Principles are something that is really important and are probably not talked about enough in sustainability.

I am minded to quote from Ray Dalio and his book Principles, which I thought was one of the best non-fiction books of recent years. He explained that:

Principles are fundamental truths that serve as the foundations for behaviour that gets you what you want out of life. They can be applied again and again in similar situations to help you achieve your goals.”

Whether we need more principles in sustainability is a good question, it is probably more the case that we just need to make better use of ones that already exist and make sure that they are properly applied in all cases.

Principle 1: Design out Waste

This is the sort of principle that is commonly associated with circular economy thinking. It is also the sort of principle that is really easy to pay lip service to and to not actually deliver in real life.

This principle is all about refitting and refurbishing buildings as opposed to demolishing the existing structure and starting again. Exponents of this principle see waste as a resource, that can be extracted and then put to productive use again. It is also about using lean design methodologies to create buildings that require fewer resources, with reduced complexity.

In the book, there is a really important figure from a RIBA paper called What colour is your building? Their research showed the following:

Roughly speaking, half the embodied carbon in a building is tied up in the foundations and the structure.”

For people wanting to adhere to the design out waste principle, this should make them think about whether they can retain the substructure and superstructure of the existing building and refurbish it. Rather than demolishing these and building new ones from scratch. These two elements are high carbon investments and should be treated as such.

A little later on there was a good observation about the conflict between a desire to build developments with low embodied carbon as well as strict adherence to circular economy principles. David Cheshire had the following to say:

Focusing only on reducing embodied carbon does not necessarily fit into the circular economy ideal, as it can drive designers to substitute highly recyclable (and recycled) materials, such as metals, with materials with lower embodied carbon – for example thermoset plastics, which are difficult to recycle. Also, focusing on embodied carbon does not consider the other impacts associated with mining and processing the raw materials, such as its scarcity or the impact on biodiversity of mining or drilling operations.”

This was an interesting perspective that I had not though much about before. It calls for a balanced approach, where circular economy principles and embodied carbon are traded off, with win-win solutions being the ideal outcome.

The section that was dedicated to designing out waste was really good and was packed full of useful information.

We already touched upon the need to refit and refurbish buildings where this is possible, because of the high amounts of carbon locked inside the building’s frame and foundations.

In terms of designing out waste on site, this can be achieved by moving from construction to production, with components made in factory settings and then delivered to site. It is important to always check that the waste created in the factory is put to good use.

Designing to match the standard size of sheets and panels is another way that waste can be substantially reduced on site.

Reusing components and materials is another hallmark of the designing out waste principle. Disappointingly there is a downward trend in using reclaimed materials in the UK.

The advice from David is that this cannot be an ad hock pursuit, but rather needs to be a primary consideration from the beginning of the project. From fit out components to bricks, kerbs and roof tiles, it is amazing what can be reclaimed from another site for use on a project. It is certainly not an easy thing to make happen, but it is worthwhile.

Another technique is lean design. This has a number of benefits. Each component in a building has its own lifecycle, with associated environmental costs, by aiming to have only the bare essentials, means that these costs can be reduced. This is something which if done correctly can reduce the embodied and operational carbon footprints simultaneously.

What you need to know

This article looked into designing out waste as a circular economy principle.

We looked into how the frame and the foundations are responsible for a significant proportion of a building’s carbon footprint, so if they can be retained, then savings can be made.

The we looked into a number of focus areas that are important if the design out waste principle is to be out into action, these include: refitting and refurbishing where possible, using offsite manufacturing techniques, reusing materials from other sites or industries and lean design.

Overall, I thought Building Revolutions was a great book and I will go into more detail on creating structures that are built to last in part two of this three-part series.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to make the circular economy a reality in the built environment?

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I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

WOODEN BUILDINGS AND SUSTAINABILITY

This article looks into wooden buildings and sustainability. What does this material have to offer sustainability?

It seems poignant on the 3-year anniversary of the Grenfell fire in London to look again at this material and its potential. Following the fire, the UK government banned timber as well as other combustible materials from the exterior of residential buildings more than 18 metres high.

Instead of being reviewed with a pathway towards supporting wood in the construction of buildings, the government is planning to reduce the maximum height of wood-framed buildings from six storeys to four.

This does not seem to be a balanced interpretation of the science, which would indicate that wooden buildings can be constructed to the highest fire safety standards and would perform very strongly on sustainability at the same time.

Wooden buildings lock up carbon that was stored in the trees during their lifetime. If this wood is not turned into durable products, the carbon can re enter the carbon cycle as the wood decomposes and contribute towards anthropogenic climate change.

Similar to the articles that I have written about bamboo. There is a dual benefit to using low-carbon natural materials such as timber and bamboo. Where these replace high-carbon non-renewable materials such as steel and concrete, you can achieve significant carbon reductions by targeting carbon hotspots in a buildings design.

Wood has a lot of other benefits in that it does not contribute to the urban heat island effect as much as comparable materials and aesthetically it can be used to create stunning buildings.

No other governments around the world have taken the steps that the UK government has. Around the world there is a wooden building arms race as developers compete to build the world’s tallest wooden structure. Unfortunately, the UK is being held back by regulations that bear no resemblance to the risks posed.

I appreciate that to the lay person it may seem that wooden buildings are incredibly risky, but engineered timber can be created that has excellent fire proof properties. There is an excellent video here that was produced by the Estonian government.

What you need to know

This article looked into wooden buildings and sustainability.

3 years on from the Grenfell tragedy, it does very much appear that wooden buildings have been a casualty of an overly strict regulation.

I am sure it was designed with the best of intentions, but when wooden buildings can be designed to exacting fire safety standards, the regulation really needed to be reviewed and not enhanced.

Perhaps it has something to do with the relative paucity of forests remaining in the UK. When you look at the list of countries that are making great strides in wooden buildings they all have significant forest resources. Whereas the UK is a significant importer of wood products.

People are looking for hope and looking for change. We don’t need bad regulations standing in the way of progress.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to encourage the development of more renewable energy?

 Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby