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Unlocking building sustainability

Conference

Overview

This two-day Royal Society conference will bring together key stakeholders from across the building sector to highlight opportunities and challenges associated with unlocking building sustainability.

Unlocking Building Sustainability

Background

Over 170,000 new homes were built over the year ending June 2019 with a UK Government commitment to deliver homes that are high-quality, well designed and good for the planet. In parallel, the roughly 28 million existing homes use 35% of the UK’s total energy consumption and emit 20% of CO2 emissions. 

A recent CLC report indicates that the Government’s retrofit strategy will not meet net 2050 targets. Rapid interventions are required and will need a coordinated effort, system-based thinking, employing new and available technologies, and a roadmap to the upskilling of ~ 500,000 new professionals.

This Royal Society meeting will gather key stakeholders across the construction, energy, and materials sectors to discuss the technical, supply chain, regulation, and economic issues and interventions required to achieve net-zero targets for buildings by 2050.

Speakers will examine how the industry is functioning, explore systems-based approaches to building sustainability and highlight existing and emerging solutions within New Build and Retrofit, and examine the path to unlocking building sustainability in the UK. 

About the conference series

This scientific meeting is part of the Royal Society’s Transforming our Future conference series generously supported by AstraZeneca. These meetings are unique, high-level events that address the scientific and technical challenges of the next decade. Each conference features cutting edge science from industry and academia and brings together leading experts from the scientific community, including regulatory, charity and funding bodies.

Event organisers

Select an organiser for more information

Schedule of talks

01 September

13:00-13:30

Opening remarks and Keynote

2 talks Show detail Hide detail

Chairs

Professor James Durrant FRS, Imperial College London, UK

13:00-13:05 Opening remarks

Professor Peter Bruce FRS, University of Oxford, UK

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13:05-13:30 Racing to net zero carbon: the route ahead for the built environment sector

Julie Hirigoyen, Chief Executive, UK Green Building Council

Abstract

This keynote speech will aim to set out what is required in order for the UK built environment to play its part in averting runaway climate change. With a Paris-proof 1.5C warming threshold in mind, this crucial sector which is directly responsible for over a fifth of the UK's total carbon footprint needs to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. This will require a fundamental rethink in the way that built assets are planned, designed, constructed, operated and maintained to achieve net zero whole life carbon. Covering both the basic definition of net zero carbon buildings and the need to scale up viable sustainable solutions, Julie will provide a wide-ranging sectoral view of the principal priorities ahead for both policy-makers and industry professionals.

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13:30-14:30

Viewing buildings as a whole system

3 talks Show detail Hide detail

Chairs

Adam Locke, Partnership and Innovation Leader, Laing O'Rourke

13:30-13:50

Dervilla Mitchell CBE FREng, Deputy Chair, Arup Group

Abstract

The global building design and construction sector is coming to terms with the fact that it is one of the largest sources of carbon emissions and key players within the industry have recognised that transforming our approach to design, use of materials, and methods of construction is a matter of urgency. The sector needs to move quickly toward agreeing a global definition for net zero carbon buildings as well as clarifying key concepts, such as embodied carbon. Minimum standards and targets for improved performance will drive down the carbon intensity of new and retrofitted buildings. We must focus on the introduction of no-or-low-regret solutions now, while we allow the sector some time to develop new business models and to test new technical solutions.

To transform the global building design and construction sector at the speed and scale required we will need to take a systems approach. This is what will ensure that the combined impact of choices made about a building’s design, construction, operational and end-of-life deliver full decarbonisation. 

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13:50-14:10 Unlocking Building Sustainability: the role of value-based decision making

Keith Waller, Programme Director, Construction Innovation Hub

Abstract

Clients and the industry are operating in a complex and evolving policy and regulatory environment. But for too long buildings have failed to deliver their intended performance and the construction sector lags in productivity and R&D. Society is rightly demanding more from the large investment we make in the built environment - it wants to see better social, economic and environmental benefits delivered. How can value-based decision-making help shift the status quo and unlock a future where industry is profitable and sustainable, the buildings we create are low carbon and high performing and society recognises the true value that the construction sector can bring?

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14:10-14:30 The Role of Active Buildings in a Low Carbon Built Environment

Joanna Clarke, Design Manager, SPECIFIC, Swansea University

Abstract

This presentation will provide an introduction to SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre, Swansea University and the Active Building concept they have developed as a solution to support the transition to a low carbon built environment. Active Buildings support local and national electricity grid networks by integrating renewable energy technologies, energy storage and smart controls for heat, power and transport. These buildings have a critical role to play in helping the UK Government meet their 2050 decarbonisation targets. SPECIFIC have designed and constructed several Active Building demonstrators, which utilise innovative technologies and incorporate extensive monitoring to test new models for reducing the operational energy and carbon of buildings. Learnings from these case studies will be presented. Finally, an Active Building Toolkit developed to aid the design of further Active Building projects will be introduced.

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14:30-14:45

Break

14:45-16:30

Delivering and scaling sustainable new build projects

5 talks Show detail Hide detail

Chairs

Adam Locke, Partnership and Innovation Leader, Laing O'Rourke

14:45-15:05 Leading transformation at scale

Sam Stacey, Challenge Director, Transforming Construction, Innovate UK

Abstract

Construction is an industry that affects everyone on the planet. The market is worth £7trn per year and growing, yet a large proportion of its activity creates no benefit. Waste in all its forms is rife, and in the result for customers is expense, uncertain quality, slow delivery and high running costs. The system hasn’t been working for anyone. With the UK’s 2018 Construction Sector Deal we set out to fix it. The Sector Deal’s three simple principles of procurement based on lifetime value, innovative methods of construction and scaling best practice, are now well on the way to becoming established. In this presentation Sam will explain what has been done and why he believes that we are on a journey to a built environment that is better than the world can currently imagine.

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15:05-15:20 Sustainable Chemistry: A Question of Scale

Peter Licence, Professor of Chemistry & Director, The GlaxoSmithKline Carbon Neutral Laboratory, University of Nottingham

Abstract

The CNL is a unique project that will deliver an iconic facility to set new standards for laboratory design, management and operation.  The facility will house 150 research scientists and will deliver high impact science within a carbon-neutral framework over a 25-year period.

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15:20-15:35

Hannah Jones, Founding Director, Greengauge

Abstract

The talk will discuss the Project at Goldsmith Street, the Passivhaus Design criteria, the process through to construction and some of the challenges faced. As part of this discussion Hannah will review why she feels Passivhaus is the most suitable design methodology to deliver the carbon reductions we need to achieve in the built environment. She will take the opportunity to introduce some of the fantastic guidance work that is being produced by many other great teams as part of the London Energy Transformation Initiative, whose work is providing a cohesive energy strategy guidance for achieving Zero Carbon. 

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15:35-15:50 Circular economy in construction : a successful case, the K-Briq

Professor Gabriela M. Medero, Heriot-Watt University

Abstract

Resource constraints, competitiveness and environmental considerations are accelerating the shift towards a net zero economy. From collection to recycling, the waste market is globally estimated at £330Bn per annum reflecting in significant potential for job and wealth creation. The construction and demolition (C&D) sector is the largest contributor of waste globally; in the UK it is responsible for generating 120 million tonnes of waste every year – around one third of all waste in the UK. Given the global resource constraints, the recovery and re-use of raw materials from C&D waste is increasingly a factor of competitiveness and circular economy approaches are showing to be a timely and effective solution in many sectors. With that mind and considering the particular constrains in building materials, the K-Briq was developed utilising over 90% of recycled C&D waste. In this presentation, Gabi will discuss her journey from the development of the K-Briq to reaching market considering the drives for change, the technical and environmental challenges and market specifics.

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15:50-16:30 Panel Discussion: Is the UK's New Build market effective in delivering the UKs sustainability objectives?

Professor Gabriela M. Medero, Heriot-Watt University
Sam Stacey, Challenge Director, Transforming Construction, Innovate UK
Peter Licence, Professor of Chemistry & Director, The GlaxoSmithKline Carbon Neutral Laboratory, University of Nottingham
Hannah Jones, Founding Director, Greengauge

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02 September

12:45-14:30

Scalable solutions to sustainable retrofitting

5 talks Show detail Hide detail

Chairs

Dr Fiona Riddoch, Royal Society Science Industry and Translation Committee

12:45-13:05 The Green Homes Revolution: The need for a National Retrofit Strategy

Brian Berry, Chief Executive, Federation of Master Builders

Abstract

The UK Government has a legal obligation to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2050. Our existing homes contribute 20% of carbon emissions so without a strategy to make our homes greener and more energy efficient the Government won't deliver its target. What is needed is a long term National Retrofit Strategy to make our existing homes more energy efficient. This requires a co-ordinated approach to help create a sustainable retrofit market bringing together consumer information, financial incentives, measures to help create capacity in the construction sector and recognised standards.

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13:05-13:20 Overcoming Challenges to Energy Renovation of Buildings

Adrian M Joyce, Secretary General, EuroACE

Abstract

The climate emergency pervades our lives, making us all aware of the negative impact that rampant human activity is having on our biosphere. The necessity to act is more urgent than ever and action must take place in all sections of society. One extremely important sector to address is the buildings sector, which is responsible, within the EU, for 40% of primary energy consumption and 36% of energy-related CO2 emissions. EuroACE – Energy Efficient Buildings, has been speaking out in favour of highly energy efficient buildings for over 20 years and our work has strongly influenced the buildings-related EU legislative framework.  This talk will outline our work and will highlight legislative and technological advances that are showing the way towards a highly energy efficient and decarbonised building stock in the EU. It will be illustrated with real-life examples of the way forward drawn from the work of our Renovate Europe Campaign.

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13:20-13:35 Developing a UK Net Zero Market

Emily Braham, Head of Strategy and Operations, Energiesprong UK

Abstract

Energiesprong UK is helping develop a market for net zero housing, with an initial focus on whole house retrofit. It works across demand, supply and policy to help decision-makers understand what is required to make a functioning market, with the ultimate aim that it won’t be needed. 

The Energiesprong model, adapted from the Netherlands, is designed to catalyse a self-financing business model. High-quality, real-world performance, and cost reduction are essential, and are achieved by driving innovation in offsite manufacture for fabric and energy solutions.  

Join Head of Strategy and Operations, Emily Braham to hear about:

- What they’ve learned from UK Energiesprong pilot projects
- What technical solutions have been employed, such as a first-of-its-kind heating and energy pod system
- How Energiesprong UK is scaling-up the learning into the next phase of projects, including initiating a new approach to procurement. 

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13:35-13:50

Andrew Bissell, Founder & CEO, Sunamp Ltd

Abstract

Accelerating transition to a world powered by affordable and sustainable energy is essential to save the planet. Energy storage is at the heart of making renewables work and since heating and cooling in buildings and industry accounts for half of energy consumption in the EU, and in countries like the UK over 80% of energy used in the home is for heating and hot water, it follows that thermal storage has a vital role to play in lowering carbon emissions globally. Designed and manufactured in Scotland for a global market, Sunamp’s world-leading thermal storage technologies, developed in partnership with University of Edinburgh, are based on patented non-toxic Phase Change Materials. They store energy from a wide choice of sources and release it for heating, cooling and hot water on demand. Compact, safe and efficient, the technology has applications in residential, industrial and automotive sectors. But good intentions and great inventions were just the start. This talk is about the role of innovative thermal storage in decarbonisation of heating and cooling buildings, and walks through meeting technical, commercial and consumer challenges to speed up adoption of renewable energy worldwide. 

Show speakers

13:50-14:30 Panel Discussion: Scalable solutions to sustainable retrofitting

Brian Berry, Chief Executive, Federation of Master Builders
Adrian M Joyce, Secretary General, EuroACE
Emily Braham, Head of Strategy and Operations, Energiesprong UK
Andrew Bissell, Founder & CEO, Sunamp Ltd

Show speakers

14:30-14:50

Break

14:50-17:00

Approaches to policy intervention and de-risking of innovation

5 talks Show detail Hide detail

Chairs

Dr Fiona Riddoch, Royal Society Science Industry and Translation Committee

14:50-15:15 Creating the right framework to deliver outcomes – from prescription and compliance to leadership and responsibility

Dame Judith Hackitt DBE FREng, Chair of MakeUK and Independent Adviser to UK Government on Building Safety

Abstract

Four years on from the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower new regulation is now making its way through Parliament that will bring once in a generation change to the way in which high rise residential buildings are designed, constructed and managed throughout occupation. The new legislation will implement the findings of Dame Judith’s review "Building a Safer Future" which concluded in  May 2018 that the current system was not fit for purpose. As the industry takes on the challenges of delivering net zero it is essential that we do not lose sight of other imperatives – including the need to build dwellings that are safe for people to live in. This presentation will focus on the need to meet multiple objectives if we are to deliver truly sustainable solutions.

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15:15-15:30 Making the energy transition work for energy consumers: the challenge for policy

Dr Joanne Wade OBE, Chief Strategic Advisor, The Association for Decentralised Energy

Abstract

The UK will only be able to decarbonise its energy system by getting users engaged and investing in energy efficiency, low carbon heat and providing smart flexibility. For this to happen, the energy system must work for the user. The Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE) works closely with its members, government and other key stakeholders to shape a policy and regulatory landscape that will deliver such a system. Joanne will explain the ADE’s aims and highlight some of the policy and thought leadership work that it delivers on its members’ behalf.

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15:30-15:45 Tackling the Politics & the Policy of UK Building Decarbonisation

Nick Mabey, Co-founding Director and Chief Executive, E3G

Abstract

Making the UK building stock truly zero carbon and climate resilient is probably the most technically complex and politically contentious part of the climate transition. Despite a world-leading construction, engineering and green finance sector the UK is at high risk of missing its ambitious 2030 climate targets in this area. With a history of stop-start policy, underperforming funding schemes and one-off pilot projects there is need for structural change in how the UK manages this transition not just new policy ideas. Drawing on E3G’s long experience in shaping UK and EU policies and politics Nick Mabey will discuss what needs to change in the UK’s institutional and policy delivery landscape, what the UK can earn from other countries and how to build the public support for rapid and deep change.

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15:45-16:00 How Finance can Unlock Building Sustainability: Six financial levers to accelerate the decarbonisation of the construction and operation of European buildings

Peter Sweatman, Chief Executive, Climate Strategy & Partners

Abstract

Experts assert that the EU Renovation Wave is a much-needed strategy to decarbonise the EU building stock. Nevertheless, this strategy is a complex task that requires the synchronization of different efforts supported by proper financing. This presentation will discuss the six-month project carried out by Climate Strategy & Partners, which identified six urgent financial-policy levers to decarbonise EU buildings in line with the Renovation Wave Strategy. In addition, this project -funded by the Laudes Foundation- resulted in a set of strategies addressing the complexity of decarbonising EU buildings, as well as the mapping of concrete opportunities for decarbonisation offered by the different technologies, initiatives, and current and forthcoming regulation.

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16:00-17:00 Panel Discussion: Policy agenda and de-risking technical uncertainties in the industry

Dame Judith Hackitt DBE FREng, Chair of MakeUK and Independent Adviser to UK Government on Building Safety
Dr Joanne Wade OBE, Chief Strategic Advisor, The Association for Decentralised Energy
Nick Mabey, Co-founding Director and Chief Executive, E3G
Peter Sweatman, Chief Executive, Climate Strategy & Partners

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