Net Zero Carbon Design

How can we achieve NZC?

We measure the "embodied" and "operational" carbon impact over the lifetime use of the asset and reduce it to zero.

In the UK, there are legally binding targets for all new buildings to be Net Zero Carbon (NZC) in operation by 2030 and all existing buildings in 2050.  Furthermore, new buildings are required to show a 40% reduction in embodied carbon by 2030 and a 100% reduction by 2050 (compared to a 2020 baseline).  In addition, the industry is phasing out natural gas with 100% electric power required in all new buildings post 2025.

All of our projects are focused on providing research that helps support the transition to a NZC economy. They include but are not limited to the following:

In collaboration with Bruntwood and Liverpool City Council, Dr Stephen Finnegan is undertaken an assessment of the carbon and financial considerations of creating a Net Zero Carbon (NZC) district in the City of Liverpool. The project under investigation is currently (October 2020) under construction and this study will consider (in a retrospective sense) the cost uplift to reach the 2030 and 2050 NZC standards. The assessment includes the development of a 2050 roadmap (see below) and consideration of the Liverpool City Council and Liverpool City Region objectives. The results of the study will inform local policy on how to approach future development across the city; in light of the climate crisis and carbon reduction targets necessary.    

National Museums Liverpool (NML) - The ZCRI is working in partnership with National Museums Liverpool (NML) who own and operate the International Slavery Museum, the Merseyside Maritime Museum, The Lady Lever Art Gallery, The Walker Art Gallery, Sudley House, the World Museum and the Museum of Liverpool. NML attract over 3 million visitors per year and in 2019 they declared a climate and ecological emergency with real ambition to reduce their impact as best they can. Dr Finnegan has been working with the directors and management team at NML to help achieve that aim and the first step has been to more accurately take account of their current cost, energy and carbon profile. This first stage is now nearing completion and NML have a much clearer view of these indicators for each of their assets. The next stage in their plan is for them to consider how best to reduce energy use, save money and carbon through the creation of an action plan. Our work in assisting NML has been crucial and is the start of a longer term relationship in this areas with the University of Liverpool.   

“Stephen’s work has been of real benefit in assisting us in profiling cost, energy and carbon. Without his input we would have struggled to get over the first stage in our plan to reduce our impact on the environment” – Laura Pye, NML Director   

Everyman Playhouse Liverpool - Dr Finnegan has assessed the Whole Life Carbon impact of the Everyman Theatre and considering how they can achieve Net Zero Carbon (NZC) status. Working with Mark Da Vanzo (Chief Executive), the ZCRI is measuring the carbon footprint of the newly constructed Everyman Theatre including the "embodied" and "operational" carbon impact over a 60 year period. A recent news feature provides more details and this storyboard provides a fully explanation of the work. The study will be published in a journal, with further details released in due course.

“Stephen’s work has been of tremendous benefit to us. We are at the start of a journey to publicly declare our carbon impact and assess methods to achieve Net Zero Carbon (NZC) status for both our “embodied” and “operational” carbon. Without his input we would have not been able to assess our building at this level of detail and most importantly create a plan to reduce our impact on the environment ” – Mark Da Vanzo, Chief Executive

Knowsley Safari Park - Tom Johnston (PhD student) has develop a full NZC plan for the safari including a full energy, carbon and financial review of the impacts and options. Read our journal paper assessing the carbon impact of the safari. Tom's research looks into the impact of operational carbon emissions in the business sector, and the growing field of net zero carbon (NZC) strategies. His research takes a holistic approach to carbon reduction, encompassing the metrics of energy, carbon, and cost to provide a more realistic approach to carbon abatement and mitigation. In particular, Tom's research focuses on the theory behind how to adapt to a rapidly changing low-carbon world and incorporates climate science, climate policy, strategic management, operational energy use, carbon accounting and reporting, energy conservation measures, and green financing methods.

“Stephen and Tom’s work in helping us to develop a plan to achieve Net Zero Carbon (NZC) status has been extremely helpful. We are at the very start of a journey to (a) measure our impact on the environment and (b) try to reduce that impact to zero. We thank them both for their input and assistance” – Edward Perry, Managing Director

Urban Splash - Iona Campbell (PhD student) is developing a new NZC model for Urban Splash to cost effectively develop future zero carbon prefabricated housing. At present the true-life cycle environmental impact of their new prefabricated housing developing (termed hoUSe) has not been assessed and once complete this can help inform future decision making on new developments. The wider aim of the research is to produce a new framework and model for zero energy housing developments. Once complete, it is feasible that this new model could direct decision making on future developments for both Urban Splash, and the wider construction industry, as well as policy makers and advisors. The research builds upon the existing low energy construction methods displayed within Urban Splash’s ‘Town House’ Prefabricated Housing System. In-depth analysis of the modelled vs real energy use of this system is being carried out, with the intention of showing the extent to which existing low energy construction methods are preforming.

“Urban Splash are on a journey to zero carbon housing. The work of the University, Dr Finnegan and Iona Campbell has helped us to assess the carbon impact of our developments through construction and operation. Their valuable input and the results of this study will help shape the future of the Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) industry” Simon Humphreys – Director of Development

SIPs construction - Bushra Al-Ali (PhD student) is testing the whole life impact of a new type of gas free, 100% electric, Structurally Insulated Panel System (SIPs) home. Simulating alternative renewable energy options using DesignBuilder software.This study will become increasingly crucial as the UK aims to find solution to reduce the overall carbon footprint in the construction industry and reach NZC standards. While most studies have focused on clean energy to reduce the carbon impact of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC), very few non attempted a holistic approach to include a whole life carbon impact of the this new method of construction using magnesium oxide SIPs. Click on this storyboard to find out more.

GlenDimplex – Dr Finnegan was recently appointed by GlenDimplex to develop a 2029 vision for sustainable homes of the future. Considering the impact of moving to 100% electric MMC homes. Dr Finegan predicted 5 key trends for the future (1) Net Zero Carbon (NZC) will become more popular (2) Modular build will increase significantly (3) renewables will become cmmon place (4) technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) will increase exponentially and (5) the embodied carbon impact of all products will need to be considered. Download the ebook on this link.

Base Energy – In order for a new UK dwelling to be constructed, it is required by law to pass stringent building regulations.  Part L of the building regulations is concerned with fuel, energy and carbon and at present the Standard Assessment procedure (SAP) 2010 is used to estimate the resultant energy and carbon use. Once constructed and occupied the energy and carbon impact is generally higher. The difference between the estimate vs actual energy use is commonly referred to as the performance gap and SAP has been criticised for underestimating the real world impact. This work is focused on how significant this performance gap difference is and what impact it will have on the creation of NZC homes in the future. Through the collection of design and real world data and the use of simulation, the work will provide a large number of recommendations for policy makers, house builders and designers to achieve NZC by 2050.

The Fifth Sector – The City of Liverpool’s cultural sector is the heartbeat of the city and consists of large number of organisations (approximately 100), operations, buildings and major/minor events. The carbon impact of much is unknown and is required to assist with the City Councils commitment to achieving net zero carbon by 2030. This work is focused on developing an approach to (a) capturing cultural data across the city (b) creating a new process to enable organisation to measure their carbon impact (c) reporting the output to UK and international partners and (d) assisting the organisations in a plan to achieve net zero carbon. Liverpool City Council, like every other local authority in the UK, does not accurately measure the carbon footprint from this sector.  Estimates are commonly used based on outdated datasets and proxy measures. This information is then reported to central Government and in particular the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS). A more robust methodology, dataset and action plan to reduce carbon would be most welcome by all involved.

Mexican GovernmentRoberto Cruz (PhD student). The aim of the research, funded by the Mexican Government, is to produce a new framework and model for zero energy housing. The city of Puebla is the fourth largest metropolitan area in Mexico with over 2 million inhabitants, and it has the highest annual population growth rate in the country. This research is looking into how a regulated urban growth, together with alternative construction materials could positively impact fast-growing cities like Puebla. Roberto's work aims to comprehensively analyse the embodied emissions in conventional construction materials used in central Mexico and compare them to a case study found in the area, a house made of adobe (mud bricks). We are also looking at how urbanization is affecting the heat island effect in the area and how climate change is expected to modify weather patterns. Climate change shows a tendency to increase temperatures in the area, which together with poor construction planning will add to the need for cooling in the city, boosting the stress the country’s fossil fuel driven energy generation has at the moment. By looking into alternative construction practices this research’s end goal is to reduce pollutant emissions coming from the urbanization of the space and to provide passive solutions in the face of climate change in the area.

The Conversation - In this news feature Dr Finnegan writes about NZC and carbon offsetting. The UK parliament declaring a climate emergency, with then prime minister Theresa May stating that the country will have net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The government has chosen its wording carefully: the term “net zero” opens the door to reducing greenhouse gas emissions through carbon offsetting. In theory, this means you can simply calculate your total greenhouse gas emissions and pay into a scheme that offsets those emissions by the same amount – that way, on balance, your emissions are net zero. One example is the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), which sells carbon credits and puts the proceeds towards developing hydro electric power plants in Sri Lanka, forest planting projects in China or wind power in Costa Rica. The VCS database contains thousands of options for offsetting. Some say carbon offsetting is an easy way out that sidesteps the more expensive and effective option of reducing greenhouse gas emissions at their source. Others argue that global warming is a worldwide issue, so achieving net zero emissions through any means is acceptable. The question is whether it’s a viable means for governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and ultimately keep global warming under control.

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