Fabric First For Zero Carbon Buildings

The Climate Change Act was introduced in 2008 in order to create a legally binding and long-term framework for reducing carbon emissions and tackling climate change. It set the target of reducing carbon emissions by 80% by the year 2050, with a 34% reduction by 2020. This affects a number of individuals and organizations - Civil Engineering and Groundworks in North Wales, engineers, and developers.
Reducing carbon emissions by such an amount is undoubtedly and unquestionably worthwhile, though it is a tall order. Thankfully, it is not one without a supporting strategy. This was set out in the Carbon Plan which was published in December 2011. Building works account for 45% of humankind’s total carbon emissions, so they are a significant part of this initiative.  In 2006, the then-prominent Labour government committed the UK to a single ideal – that from 2016, all new homes would be “Zero-Carbon”, and the later budget announced the government’s intention that all non-domestic buildings from 2019 should follow suit.  

It is generally considered that the approach to achieving this aim is to adapt a “fabric first” approach; which is maximising the performance of components and materials that make up the building “fabric”, thereby reducing capital and operational costs, improving energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions. This approach can also reduce the need to maintenance during the building’s lifespan.

Most developers, contractors and engineers would argue that compliance with zero carbon requirements by adapting low carbon technologies rather than creating energy efficient fabric would be cheaper, at least in the short term. Doing so is certainly true, but this would not minimise costs associated with the entire lifespan of the project, due to ongoing costs associated with fuel, maintenance and replacement.

Additionally, it’s well known that most technological solutions are prone to operate below an optimal level due to behaviour of occupants, poor commissioning and maintenance issues – which adds more weight to the idea that building energy-saving, carbon-reducing features into new builds rather than being content to simply add them on is far more favourable. Furthermore, the reliance on energy-saving technology or renewable energy generation is still expensive to contractors and the expense will therefore be shared by property buyers. Building energy efficiency in is also efficient financially, with far less of a burden to developer and client.

Image Credit: Sam Saunders | CC BY 2.0