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Coming soon in Spain. Net zero carbon buildings

Net zero carbon buildings

As I have mentioned in many previous articles since 2007, the new Building Regulation in Spain have changed tremendously as to the way we architect have to design and build new buildings.


Coming soon in Spain. Net zero carbon buildings


Without any doubt energy saving is the element that has had the biggest impact in our methodology of building design.

Now we have to design buildings that cannot use more that 15Kw/m2 per year to heat or cool buildings in this South East area of Spain, however for 2020 this figure will come down to almost 0Kw/m2 per year of none renewable energy.

The energy conscious movements in Europe is drawing of an unprecedented amount of mainstream media attention to climate change, and the EC subsequent motion to declare a Climate Emergency have underlined the urgency of addressing carbon emissions in the building industry which accounts for almost 30% of all energy used.


The urgency of it

The need for urgent action to reduce carbon emissions from the construction sector has been put into sharp focus a few years ago at the EC and many documents defining what achieving net zero carbon emissions means in terms of two approaches: the construction of a building; and the operation (in-use energy consumption) of it have been published in Brussels and all European countries have been called to legislate on that matter by the year 2020.

It also identifies a third approach, that of a building’s whole-life carbon emissions, and cites this as the ultimate net-zero target. While acknowledging this is not currently practicable, it suggests it would be feasible by 2021.

For a building’s construction, the net zero definition provided is “when the amount of carbon emissions associated with a building’s product and construction stages up to practical completion is zero or negative, through the use of offsets or the net export of on-site renewable energy.”


Coming soon in Spain. Net zero carbon buildings

Net zero carbon buildings

For a building’s operational energy, it is when the amount of carbon emissions associated with the building’s operational energy on an annual basis is zero or negative. A net zero carbon building is highly energy efficient and powered from on-site and/or off-site renewable energy sources, with any remaining carbon balance offset.

These definitions are recommended for the use of building developers, designers, owners, occupiers, and policy makers to inform the development of building tools, policies and practices.

In elaborating on the two approaches (construction and operational energy), the future regulations drill down into considerable detail. It provides examples of how a whole-life carbon emissions breakdown for new buildings might look for different building typologies such as office, warehouse, or residential.

Similarly, the document provides examples of how a building’s operational energy might be demonstrated by agents such as a portfolio owner, the owner of a multiple building development and the building owner in a multi-let commercial building.

It also provides invaluable background context to the global Advancing Net Zero campaign, , and the Net Zero Buildings Commitment. Reading the list of signatories will be instructive for built environment professionals in terms of the potential future impact on work: 18 large businesses, 22 cities and six nations or regions have signed up, including London, Paris, New York, Sydney, Scotland, and Catalonia.


How we will put it into practise

In discussing the framework’s applicability, it cites the Passive house and Energiesprong approaches to energy monitoring alongside the EC smart meters’ programme, also pointing out that any future developments in green mortgages will inevitably ramp up the scrutiny upon in-use building performance.

The Net Zero Framework gives clear, concise guidance on what needs to be done, by whom, and crucially by when. It is critical that the construction industry speaks with one voice when it comes to addressing climate change with urgency.

This year the College of Architects throughout Spain will fully embed sustainability into the Plan of Work and will commence implanting courses for us architects so that we can, aligned to the Net Zero Framework Definition. It will provide a means for project teams to target sustainable outcomes in the brief, manage the delivery of them through each stage, and undertake meaningful Post Occupancy Evaluation after handover. We hope this alignment of thought and clarity of message will build momentum to deliver a sustainable future.

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