WBA’s Sustainability Journey Part 2 – Carbon modelling

We’re now half way through the COP-26 Climate conference, so building on last week’s introduction we’re now sharing how we integrated sustainability into our regular project work flows, all in an effort to hit the targets of the RIBA 2030 Challenge:

Carbon Modelling

Before we could establish meaningful targets we needed to understand exactly where our projects stood with regard to those set within the RIBA 2030 challenge.

To benchmark ourselves, we undertook some preliminary and high-level modelling exercises for different building typologies, to help define how our projects performed with regards to embodied and operational energy. To undertake this, we explored software and systems developed by various industry leaders and peers, including those by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studio (FCBS Carbon tool) and Hawkins/ Brown (H/BERT). This is a process that we are looking to integrate into our workflows more widely. As we move forward, new projects will be tested and analysed through the early design stages, to help us make the right decisions to reduce carbon emissions and operational energy.

Although in its infancy, this process has already highlighted to us a number of target areas for improvement and focus going forward. Alongside high demands for hot water in some buildings which will require close co-ordination with our M+E colleagues, it is clear that most of the embodied energy of typical projects is found within the sub and super structures of buildings. This will likely lead to explorations in ways to reduce the structural grid and reduce spans, therefore reducing the overall mass and size of structural elements. Designing smarter and lighter, whilst always having careful consideration for material selections aims to reduce embodied energy.

Fundamentally for us it’s not about completing a tick box exercise and having a framed certificate on the wall. Its about a new way of working and living both individually and collectively, changing our mindsets and thinking towards projects particularly during the early stages. Working collaboratively with our partners and colleagues in industry and encouraging our clients to join the journey.  We simply can’t afford to go back to the old ways of doing things. We also recognise that sustainable design creates significant new and exciting opportunities in the design and technical delivery of buildings but also about how buildings can adapt and flex to meet long term changing needs. Its not just new buildings. 80% of existing buildings will still be with us in 2050! So there are enormous challenges ahead to reuse / repurpose and retrofit existing building stock.

Benefits

We recognise the benefits to projects and the environment by engaging in this process and are actively reviewing the impact our designs and specifications have on these benchmarks, in order to better help our clients both, define and deliver their own sustainable outcomes going forward. Sustainable design requires a holistic approach, and we follow the key design principles of fabric-first and robust solutions, but also one tailored to each project to maximise the reductions in embodied carbon, minimise operational energy, water consumption and ongoing maintenance and therefore our clients’ future costs. In the coming months we will focus on ‘in house’ targets too including travel, energy use, local resources , responsible purchasing and minimising waste.

In addition to our other services, we can offer a sustainability co-ordination role to your project. Leading the design and project team as an enabler, coordinator, and ambassador to not only meet but exceed current and future building legislation and climate challenge targets aligned with the RIBA latest Plan of Work (sustainability overlay) and Sustainable Outcomes Guide.