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FOOTPRINT+: The New UK Property Event for a Zero Carbon Future 2022

4th Jul 2022
By: Mitakshi Sirsi
| Read Time: 3 min
 - Will+Partners
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It has been a few weeks since the Footprint+ Conference in Brighton and I must admit, it’s been busy since. Not surprisingly, I attribute the busy-ness to the conference. I have not only been spending time catching up with old friends and new that I met at the conference, I also feel a boost in motivation to do what I do, renewed clarity on why I do it, and a refreshed vision of my own ability to do it. So, I’m doing a cliched “My takeaways” post, and hope it resonates with those of you that attended.

Takeaway 1: There is a tonne of work for us to get through, quite literally

Energy related CO2 emissions from buildings increased to 9.95 GtCO2 in 2019 and direct building CO2 emissions need to halve by 2030 to get on track for net zero carbon building stock by 2050 (add the embodied conversation to this, and our monster grows a few more heads to deal with). This is a massive job, and we need to attack this monster from all sides.

  • We need to move on regulations – Part Z needs to be worked on and put in place soon.
  • Industry best practice is now being pushed by investors and new non-financial disclosure regulations for the larger outfits. The industry needs to upskill and learn about these – green taxonomy, TCFD, SDFRs, etc. these drivers are important to the decisions we make, and we cannot stay huddled in our silos because it’s “not in our remit”.
  • There is a very real risk of creating stranded assets over the next few years, we need to really get behind the refurbishment agenda in the next few years.
  • We need to cut fossil fuel use (such as gas) out of our design for heating asap (which is essentially, NOW). Get on board district and communal heating for urban areas, they aren’t going anywhere. Also, I do not understand why we can’t start using fans for thermal comfort (this is a pet peeve of mine, do not get me started!)
  • Understand how to and get good at design for re-use. Push clients to reduce waste (CAT A or CAT B), use material passports, talk to manufacturers and waste managers. Circularity is difficult and not a standalone solution, but also important to start exploring to address the resource overuse issue.

And so much more…

Takeaway 2: We must examine the core of our actions, often, and without judgement, and do it FAST.

There is so much care and passion towards driving the NetZero agenda in the industry (and this isn’t always just about carbon, #climatechange is a #humanrights issue). This is good, and we need the industry to buck up, own the decarbonization journey and constantly examine our actions from the #outcomes perspective – reuse over demolition, sharing knowledge over competitiveness, future proof and design without gas, use pre-fab, adopt innovations such as Concretene, get rid of VAT for retrofits (or introduce them for new-builds?), question “This is how it has always been done” inertia, etc.

Small pieces of good news (such as the govt. allowing structural timber use in the external walls up to 18m) are good but celebrating those might not be enough for the massive job we have at hand. We must strive for systemic change, one step at a time, collaborate, share knowledge, use common sense, and do everything – QUICKLY.

Takeaway 3: Oysters might be a better carbon and nutrition choice than spinach.

Despite learning about the new research on certain kinds of seafood and their lower climate impact – I still can’t get myself to eat them. Sad, because some of the research does make sense (tell me if I’m wrong). But not happening – not yet. I am glad the event went meatless for the most part, but I think I might stick to the veggies for a little longer.

Takeaway 4: Optimism, although difficult, keeps us moving forward.

Everywhere you look, you will find people making a difference through their work. Speakers in the conference came armed to tell us about their tools, and we all listened to what they are doing to address this problem through their 8 hours daily, and that’s why the conference was such great one – it brought people who want to make a difference into one room with those who already are.

This will now give us a chance to shake up our own project and design teams, re-examine what we ask of ourselves and our collaborators and REALLY TRULY act together.

I missed a few talks. I’d have loved to hear more about hydrogen, heritage buildings and heat networks. But maybe next year. I’ll be there. Will you?

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