Insights 7th December 2021 Building Consultancy

At the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference, heads of state put forward their ambitions and proposals for securing global Net Zero carbon emissions, designed to keep the 1.5C temperature increase Paris Agreement target within reach.

For the built environment, given that 80% of the buildings that will be in use in 2050 already exist today, the greatest opportunity to utilise greener solutions and reap their benefits is through retrofitting, says the UKGBC. With many buildings, only one refurbishment cycle away from hitting the Net Zero target, the time for action is now.

In its latest report, Whole Life Carbon Roadmap: A Pathway to Net Zero, the UKGBC calls for the introduction of performance-based rating schemes for non-domestic buildings, which would include mandatory energy performance disclosure and fiscal incentives for large office buildings by 2025.

At Workman, we know this kind of action speaks louder than words, which is why we are currently devising Net Zero Asset Plans for nearly 2 million sq. ft of assets and new developments, on behalf of clients driving towards Net Zero targets by 2050 or earlier.

ESG collaboration with project teams

Through our ESG Project Advisor service, led by Hedley Jones, Partner, Head of ESG Refurbishment and Development, we are also providing ESG oversight and input on residential, industrial, office and retail schemes, with a combined project value of nearly £500m. Collaborating with project teams to think beyond business as usual across the whole project lifecycle, we explore every design opportunity and material innovation, to improve the sustainability outcomes of the final product.

We also regularly create fit-out, refurbishment, retrofit and development frameworks for investor clients. These establish specific guidance and targets to help project teams deliver to Net Zero and wider ESG targets, beyond current statutory compliance. During the past year, we have created and rolled out bespoke frameworks for three leading global fund managers, setting benchmark standards to be adopted on projects across their portfolios, which total almost 40 million sq. ft of real estate.

Reducing energy consumption

Facing the challenge of increased energy costs, our teams have worked to deliver reductions in demand and consumption of grid energy, in order to mitigate volatility in gas market pricing, and environmental impact for clients. In the race to Net Zero, an Energy Audit is often the place to begin.

One recent goal was to reduce energy demand by almost one third at our client’s 254,000 sq. ft office building. This has been realised by Workman’s ESG Project Advisor and Venture, Workman’s Project Management team, with a 31% reduction in energy demand through improvements to building fabric and mechanical and electrical plant, at the central Birmingham site.

Across a mixed portfolio of nine properties, which account for 80% of our client’s total energy consumption, or more than a £2.3 million spend, we recommended the introduction of smart metering. Following a monitoring and targeting strategy using real-time granular data, the roll-out across all landlord-controlled meters delivered 20% savings in the first year, equating to almost £500,000 of annual savings.

In another case, a 78% reduction in energy demand has been identified through mechanical and electrical improvements, including the introduction of an air-source heat pump at a 36,500 sq. ft office refurbishment.

At a separate site, gas boilers were removed from an 18,000 sq. ft office refurbishment, with hot water and common area heating now delivered via air-source heat pumps, meaning the property will only be using electricity that is 100% REGO-backed, or from onsite renewable generation.

These smaller-scale buildings are frequently overlooked and perceived as challenging when it comes to addressing decarbonisation, but as these examples prove, there are significant achievements to be made.

Decarbonisation through clean energy

On behalf of our clients, our teams are progressively investigating transitions to clean energy. At Workman, we advocate enhanced energy modelling to test the viability of solutions for carbon-emissions reductions and alternative designs. We have recently demonstrated the effectiveness of this across a new-build residential portfolio of 1,105,000sq. ft, where the introduction of solar PV arrays on some of the buildings led to a carbon saving of 18.5%, or 19 tonnes of CO2 per year. This is especially important, because the energy supply sector is the largest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, responsible for around 35% of total emissions, according to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

Reduce embodied carbon

Workman’s ESG experts are working to targets set by organisations such as LETI to ensure that we are delivering our clients’ ambitions. We are delivering whole-life carbon assessments on new-build industrial developments of 710,000sq ft and residential development of 600,000 sq. ft, in order to create a baseline position from which embodied and whole life carbon reduction targets have been set for subsequent design stages.

Building automation and data

A further tool in our armoury is IBOS, our intelligent building operating system, which allows for the analysis and real-time optimisation of buildings. The technology has recently been introduced to an office refurbishment scheme to allow for monitoring and control of energy demands, allowing operational carbon reduction strategies and targets to be established.

Transport and active commuting

A global transition to zero-emission transport is a priority since transportation is estimated to account for 20% of global emissions each year. This is also high up the to-do list for Workman’s teams.

Having driven active-commuting projects including the introduction of CyclingScore Platinum-rated facilities at Glasgow’s Skypark, Workman is also an experienced facilitator of electric-car charging amenities.

Workman’s Building Consultancy team is currently managing the installation of the largest EV charging hub in the UK, with 236 electric-car charging points being installed in London’s Brent Cross shopping centre car parks over the next five years.

The first phase installed 50 fast-charging points in the multi-storey car park and two ultra-rapid charging points in the western overflow car park.

The chargers are operated by Franklin Energy as part of its Life Network, with engineering consultancy delivered by Hilson Moran, on behalf of joint centre owners Hammerson and Aberdeen Standard Investments, as reported in Property Week.

Biodiversity for sustainable and healthy communities

Workman teams on the ground continue to deliver social value across our portfolio of managed properties. Not least at Central Retail Park in Falkirk, where the on-site team created a garden that not only delivers biodiversity, but also provides a place for work breaks, as well as community sustainability education. The garden, which was recently awarded the inaugural Health and Wellbeing Award at the Property Week Awards, allows people to learn new skills, socialise, and become more engaged with the environment, community workshops include building projects, planting, growing and garden development.

We are proud partners of the Natural History Museum’s Urban Nature Project, which is not only creating an unparalleled green space at the Museum’s five-acre London site, but also a national movement, which aims to address the disconnect between UK people and nature.

With growing awareness of the connections between climate and biodiversity, increasing biodiversity within urban environments is a huge challenge, especially since Natural History Museum research revealed that with an average of only 53% of its biodiversity left, the UK is in the bottom 10% of the world’s nations.

Our commitment to Building Biodiversity across the Workman-managed portfolio is driven through our Biodiversity Toolkit. One sign of our efforts is the prevalence of bees: often used as a symbol of biodiversity, bees are key to pollination and thriving natural environments.

At Workman, 14 of our managed sites including Maybird Shopping Park in Stratford-upon-Avon play host to bees, with an average of six hives each. These 84 hives can produce up to 150 jars of honey per site per year. That’s a potential 2,100 jars of honey, which is usually harvested between May – September. Each beehive is worth £800 to the wider economy, according to economist and climate finance reformer Dr Mark Carney’s estimation on the value of bees.

Exploit every ESG opportunity to achieve Net Zero

To meet the future challenges of climate change, we’re looking to exploit every opportunity across the ESG spectrum and investigate opportunities such as; solar PV, solar hot water, electric-vehicle charging, LED lighting replacements, air and ground source heat-pump technology, removal of gas supplies, intelligent building technology, improving building thermal fabric, biodiversity improvements, and health and wellbeing enhancements.


Want to know more about our ESG services and our ESG Project Advisor service?

Find out more about Creating Zero Carbon Buildings.

Read more about Building Wellbeing for a Better Workplace.