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Sustainability Champions share their thoughts on Net Zero Week

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By Karen Crowe – 5th July 2023

Net Zero Week takes place at the beginning of July each year and highlights the challenges facing us all in the combat to reduce carbon emissions and the opportunities to combat the effects of climate change.

At Corstorphine & Wright, we have a team of Sustainability Champions leading on our sustainable agenda and in honour of Net Zero Week, we asked a couple of them to share how the challenges of net zero carbon affect them on both a personal and professional level.

  1. How has your awareness of net zero influenced your daily habits or decision-making?

Andrew Wilkins: Having previously worked on net zero projects, I have been influenced by this to integrate and encourage the client to agree to core design principles (where possible) that will make retrofitting for net zero easier. I try to be as sustainable as I can be everyday now and it is also my desire to reduce my carbon footprint further and one day look to achieve net zero carbon in my own home as well as the projects I will be working on.

Callum McChesney: My university course (Architectural Technology at Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University) really pushed the climate challenges we will be facing when joining the industry, and as such it really wired me to think about the bigger picture of construction projects.

  1. Who are your net zero carbon and sustainability inspirations?

Holly Sissons: It’s more of a what than a who but being in nature is a great reminder that we have limited resources and habitats, and we need to leave the world in a healthy state. Not just for future generations but for everything we share our planet with.

Kim Ebling: As net zero carbon inspirations go, Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is already climate-neutral and aims to achieve net zero emissions by 2030. Through thermal energy storage, solar energy, circular construction and electrification of transport, the airport is and will make a significant contribution to the Netherlands’ target of reducing CO2 emissions by 49% by 2030.

  1. What do you believe is the most important step towards a net zero carbon future?

Matthew Usher: The most important steps are early engagement with net zero carbon pre -planning to ensure ambitions can be met, and to factor availability of materials and services when making all decisions. Ignoring these aspects limits the gains from all decisions later down the line.

Christina Jerlehag: That each of us takes responsibility of our designs, whatever the level or detail, not only for ourselves, but for the future generations! Be curious, be inquisitive and embrace the change!

  1. What challenges do you face in implementing net zero in architectural projects?

Holly Sissons: Questioning if there’s a more efficient way of delivering a brief is a great start, but I think the biggest challenge in architecture is actually questioning the brief, which sometimes feels very counterintuitive to winning work and wanting to build exciting projects.  Re-use and adaption is going to be increasingly more and more important along with designing for longevity and flexibility.

Anaida Luis: Implementing net zero in architectural projects presents challenges such as balancing energy-efficient design with aesthetic considerations. Integrating renewable energy systems effectively into building designs, and ensuring the availability of sustainable materials along with construction practices while meeting budget constraints are also key factors.

Christina Jerlehag: Lack of knowledge and ability to shift the economics of construction to more than making money, we must consider the environment more so than ever before. A fear of making mistakes and a blasé approach are both challenges too, but remember that it’s OK not to know everything and learn and grow in your job. But most of all is probably the ego of the designer wanting to create something new, create something different, instead of reinventing what we already have and create a beautiful change to our current building stock.

  1. What are successful examples of buildings or projects that have achieved Net Zero or significant energy reductions? What lessons can we learn from them?

Callum McChesney: One example that comes to mind is ‘The Edge’ in Amsterdam, it uses form and orientation to make the most of natural light and solar heating. It also utilizes a sophisticated monitoring system to track the building usage and conditions to maximize the buildings services efficiencies.

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