Building natural for a greener future

Erik Boyter
5 June, 23

It’s now well established that tightening regulations have placed increased pressure on architects and builders to design with extra care. With consistent updates to building regulations in recent years, particularly around Part L and Part F[1], specifying low-risk, hygienic and flexible interiors has now become the order of the day.

At the same time, we’re seeing an industry-wide push towards Net Zero, which means that investing in healthier, more sustainable buildings is now at the top of the agenda for businesses across the UK. Stringent regulations from government on commercial buildings have also ramped up in 2023, as reducing the built environment’s carbon footprint reaches a critical juncture.

Operational emissions currently account for a substantial portion of a building’s CO2, leading to heightened scrutiny on specifiers to adapt their methods within the design and build. As evidenced by the UK Green Building Council, commercial buildings currently represent 23% of built environment carbon emissions in the UK[2]

External pressures, amid growing demands for more adaptable commercial spaces, have made progress slow. However, there are a number of solutions readily available to help achieve the goal of reducing a building’s carbon footprint. Investing in hybrid or natural ventilation can offer a simple and cost-effective way for asset owners to swiftly cut down on energy consumption.

By switching away from carbon-intensive mechanical HVAC conditioning systems, operational and carbon expenses can be reduced, while also ensuring best-practice occupational health for businesses.

These cutting-edge natural or hybrid systems require only a limited amount of energy to operate, effectively controlling the building’s windows with the latest smart technology to manage the circulation of natural air. On the other hand, many conventional mechanical models require a great deal of energy to function during the day and night, effectively being at odds with obligatory Net Zero guidelines.

Programmed to work with the existing building management system (BMS), they can be specified for a new build or, even better, retrofitted into an existing building, immediately reducing a building’s operational emissions.

Building managers can easily automate these systems, reducing the amount of atmospheric CO2 within the interior and maintaining comfortable temperatures when required. This, in turn, also delivers optimal Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) in a clean and natural way. It all goes towards reducing the prospect of negative health impacts for occupants.

In addition to improving indoor air quality and temperature for occupants, this level of control can significantly save utility costs. This technology often requires much less time and effort to install than pure-play HVAC systems, requiring limited maintenance, which will allow buildings to be a lot more self-sufficient – saving businesses money in the long term.

Furthermore, natural ventilation can team up with other components. For example, when specified alongside low U-Value fabric materials, a building’s thermal performance can be enhanced, aiding in complying with robust building regulations such as Part L and Part F, respectively.

With upcoming 2025 targets drawing ever closer, our buildings still account for nearly 40% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, which inevitably will lead to the appetite increasing for specifying low-impact systems, both from an environmental and a financial standpoint.

A recent report from property industry research company JLL revealed the urgency within the commercial sector, as demand for “highly sustainable” commercial buildings would increase by at least eight million square feet by 2030[3]. Building managers who operate with occupant comfort and well-being at the top of the agenda will be well-placed to reap the benefits as the commercial landscape continues to evolve.

Ultimately, construction firms and developers know they need to make an active contribution towards cleaning up the built environment. By futureproofing our commercial spaces, we can ensure longevity – furthering the drive to keep inhabitants and our buildings healthier and happier.


[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/the-future-homes-standard-changes-to-part-l-and-part-f-of-the-building-regulations-for-new-dwellings

[2] https://ukgbc.org/our-work/topics/advancing-net-zero/commercial-retrofit/

[3] https://www.edie.net/green-leases-helping-landlords-and-tenants-decarbonise-office-spaces/?regwall=success&register=success

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