The government wants all commercial properties to be zero-carbon by 2019,
which can only mean one thing: ploughing more cash into converting commercial
properties or building compliant properties. We look at four examples that
fulfil the new requirements and discover how the investment can pay off
Suffolk brewers Adnams’ new eco-friendly distribution centre, built in a
disused gravel pit, cost 15% more than moving to a typical warehouse on an
industrial estate. But the firm’s finance director Stephen Pugh knows the
decision makes financial and environmental sense.
When the centre opened in 2006, Adnams benefitted from £49,000 in annual fuel
cost savings – a figure that will have risen steeply in line with utility costs
over the past couple of years. The building uses only 30% of the gas a
comparable unit would, so the company emits less than half the statutory CO2
allowance set out in the government’s energy-efficiency quotient – helping the
company win a maximum 80% tax rebate on its climate change levy.
The distribution centre, where 320 people work, is green in more ways than
one. It features a sedum roof which consists of thick fleshy plants and grass,
improving insulation and absorbing CO2. There’s also a catchment area that can
harvest around 650,000 litres of rainwater a year, which is stored in an
underwater tank and used to flush lavatories and to wash vehicles.
Adnams also replaced its brewery with a new installation that recovers all
the heat and steam used in each brew and recycles 90% of it to heat the next.
The new equipment can brew more beer each time and do it faster – so that means
less energy and water used per pint, which is a good enough reason to raise
Next time you’re at a conference and dozing through another PowerPoint
presentation, take a look around you and think about the carbon footprint of the
venue. Chances are it won’t match the near-zero footprint of the Pines Calyx
conference centre at St Margaret’s Bay, near Dover.
The architects chose eco-friendly materials for all aspects of the building.
Wall panelling is made from recycled yoghurt cartons, floor tiles from old
bottles, other floor surfaces from recycled carpet tiles and even doormats from
old fan belts.
Most important, the building’s structure is made from rammed chalk excavated
from the site and mechanically compacted so it can be used as a load-bearing
alternative to concrete. The chalk takes the place of what would have been 75
cubic metres of concrete in the walls and roof – and, as a result, racks up an
“embodied carbon” total which is five times lower than using conventional
Underneath the building runs a 30-metre tube that harnesses the constant
temperature of the deep ground, while a heat-exchange system helps warm the
building in winter and cool it in summer; only 100 watts of electricity are
needed to run climate control winter and summer – a lightbulb’s worth.
All this has led to Pines Calyx being the only building in Britain to be
awarded the gold standard by the AECB (formerly the Association for Environment
Conscious Building), using the “Passivhaus” design and building principles,
aimed at reducing energy use. Constructing the centre cost just over £1m,
including professional fees.
Spending more to build an eco-friendly office block is a boost for the
environment and sometimes a financial act of faith. Property developer MEPC,
part of the Hermes Group, spent an additional £450,000 more than was budgeted
on additional environmental features on Number 97, the three-storey office block
it constructed on Oxfordshire’s Milton Park business park, at a cost of £6.5m.
Simple ideas like cutting out the suspended ceilings in the original plan to
raise the ceiling height by 700mm meant 20% more daylight can come in to the
property, reducing lighting needs, while solar control glass can block 65% of
radiant heat. Soffits – exposed concrete slabs – absorb heat in the day and
cool at night. Downflow air conditioning added by MEPC is 25% more economical
than other systems. These combined efforts should keep energy costs down in a
year when suppliers hiked their bills.
It’s not only office buildings that generate CO2 emissions – people generate
them travelling to and from work. So it might seem that Winnersh Triangle
business park’s boast that it is close to motorways is the ultimate carbon
But Segro, the London- and Euronext-quoted real estate investment trust
(REIT) behind the development, claims the green travel plans it is putting in
place and the eco-friendly building designs it has chosen will cut CO2 emissions
by as much as 50%. Segro’s aim is to reduce the one-person car journeys to and
from work at Winnersh Triangle that generate huge CO2 emissions and clog up the
surrounding roads; it is building a footbridge to link the site with the nearby
Winnersh Triangle railway station, and has laid on a 10-minute shuttle bus
service to central Reading, providing train links nationwide.
Eco-friendly design across the complex contributes to that 50% reduction in
carbon footprint – for example, “chilled beams” in the ceilings of rooms cut CO2
emissions by as much as 25% over conventional cooling systems. The first phase
of the development will cost Segro around £100m, of which around £5m has been
spent on environment-friendly features.