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Creating a sustainable future through real estate

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Louisa LeRoux, Net Carbon Zero Program Manager for the Government Property Agency, seeks to maximize energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions in property portfolios. And how changes and initiatives are enabling offices to play a leading role in creating a sustainable future.

The real estate industry has a huge role to play in reducing carbon emissions and maximizing energy efficiency as the world tackles climate change.

The government has updated its plans to reach Net Zero by 2050, with the UK setting the world’s most ambitious climate change target. In June 2021 the new target was published in legislation which would reduce Scope 1 emissions by 78%, meaning the UK will be more than three quarters of the way to Net Zero by 2035 As the delivery agency for government office and warehouse portfolio strategies, we are committed to achieving the same target for government buildings – those we manage – by 2032, three years ahead of target. of the government.

Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions such as those from vehicles and gas boilers, as well as what we use as individuals. To reduce these emissions in buildings, the goal is to decarbonize and move away from fossil fuels to sustainable forms of electricity.

Achieving the required 78% carbon reduction by 2032 will not be easy, and to get there we will need both effort and concerted work to achieve quick wins.

Maximize sustainable and clean technologies

We currently manage over 700,000 square meters of the government office portfolio. This presents us with a huge opportunity to maximize the use of sustainable, clean technologies and low or zero carbon energy wherever possible. For example:

  • By insulating and reducing consumption through the optimization of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) technology and the technical building management system (BMS), the use of micrometers, sensors and light-emitting diode (LED) lighting.
  • Use green energy and switch to carbon-free electricity by switching to a renewable energy supplier.
  • Produce and store renewable energy locally through integrated generation, storage and use.

Across the industry, we are seeing more and more companies focusing on a wider range of green initiatives such as undermetering. This allows for a better understanding of energy usage so that the right metrics can be identified. These measures mainly include switching to suitable green tariffs, and owners installing more electric vehicle charging units and reviewing their heating and cooling units. We are also seeing smarter use of design elements on buildings to allow sustainable solutions to better integrate with the facade and fabric of older buildings.

Retrofit can be done

It has been proven that renovation can be done in heritage buildings to improve sustainability. For example, we are planning to decarbonise our Whitehall district heating system, which will go a long way to reducing carbon emissions on our central London heritage estate.

Workplace Design Guide, Net Zero

In August 2020, we released the Government Workplace Design Guide. This includes the Net Zero and sustainability schedule covering construction and operational energy. The guide was created with flexibility in mind, as we understand that not all buildings are or should be the same. It helps buildings operate in the most sustainable way possible, whether it’s new construction, renovation or refurbishment.

I’m sure we can all agree that the real estate industry faces unique challenges in achieving Net Zero. I bet we have many ways to overcome them. At GPA, we plan to lead by example and encourage every real estate stakeholder not just to achieve a standard, but to innovate and find ways to go further and do better.

Louisa LeRoux
Net Zero Carbon Program Manager
Government real estate agency
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