The journey to net zero carbon buildings has started and the destination and timescales are set. All buildings in the UK are to be net zero carbon for operational energy by 2050 and all new buildings by 2030. It is estimated that approximately 80% of the 2050 building stock already exists and therefore the race is on to meet the government targets.

This poses many challenges for building owners and occupiers with a greater challenge for those with energy intensive buildings. Existing laboratories will have a challenge achieving this and so the journey to net zero carbon must be prepared for and the route map planned out.

Laboratories are energy intensive with generally the ventilation systems, and associated heating and cooling systems, consuming most of the energy, due to using 100% outdoor air and high air change rates. This is further increased if there is a requirement for multiple fume cupboards and any humidification. Other high energy consumers in laboratories include the ‘plug in’ equipment loads and specialist equipment such as glass washers and autoclaves.

All the simple improvements should be made now to reduce energy demand in use, including upgrading lighting to LED fittings, adjusting environmental control systems, adding in controls to ensure that ‘plug in’ equipment and lighting systems are only used when required, adding in photovoltaic panels and reducing the use of refrigerants.

In the UK the predominant energy consumer is the heating of the ventilation air and most existing buildings use natural gas as the fuel source. This fuel will need to be replaced to achieve net zero carbon in operation and this poses the greatest challenge for laboratory buildings. The current trajectory is for all-electric buildings on the basis that the electrical grid supply will achieve or very nearly achieve net zero carbon electricity supply in the future. To replace central boilers with electric powered air source heat pumps is not straightforward as these systems operate at lower temperatures than traditional heating systems and so all the heat emitters and distribution systems will need to be upgraded too. Any ongoing steam requirements will also need to be reviewed.

The starting gun has been fired for the journey to net zero carbon. Have you planned your journey yet? Have you made a route map? Have you set some milestones?

Plan and start your journey and so together we can provide a sustainable future for all.

Tim Fry,

The journey to net zero carbon buildings has started and the destination and timescales are set. All buildings in the UK are to be net zero carbon for operational energy by 2050 and all new buildings by 2030. It is estimated that approximately 80% of the 2050 building stock already exists and therefore the race is on to meet the government targets.

This poses many challenges for building owners and occupiers with a greater challenge for those with energy intensive buildings. Existing laboratories will have a challenge achieving this and so the journey to net zero carbon must be prepared for and the route map planned out.

Laboratories are energy intensive with generally the ventilation systems, and associated heating and cooling systems, consuming most of the energy, due to using 100% outdoor air and high air change rates. This is further increased if there is a requirement for multiple fume cupboards and any humidification. Other high energy consumers in laboratories include the ‘plug in’ equipment loads and specialist equipment such as glass washers and autoclaves.

All the simple improvements should be made now to reduce energy demand in use, including upgrading lighting to LED fittings, adjusting environmental control systems, adding in controls to ensure that ‘plug in’ equipment and lighting systems are only used when required, adding in photovoltaic panels and reducing the use of refrigerants.

In the UK the predominant energy consumer is the heating of the ventilation air and most existing buildings use natural gas as the fuel source. This fuel will need to be replaced to achieve net zero carbon in operation and this poses the greatest challenge for laboratory buildings. The current trajectory is for all-electric buildings on the basis that the electrical grid supply will achieve or very nearly achieve net zero carbon electricity supply in the future. To replace central boilers with electric powered air source heat pumps is not straightforward as these systems operate at lower temperatures than traditional heating systems and so all the heat emitters and distribution systems will need to be upgraded too. Any ongoing steam requirements will also need to be reviewed.

The starting gun has been fired for the journey to net zero carbon. Have you planned your journey yet? Have you made a route map? Have you set some milestones?

Plan and start your journey and so together we can provide a sustainable future for all.

Author: Tim Fry, Sector Lead | Life Sciences UK, ARUP