Decarbonisation of Heating and Cooling
The UK’s carbon footprint can attribute a high proportion of its emissions to the heating and cooling of buildings. Decarbonising the heating and cooling of building stock will be an essential aspect of our success in meeting 2050 climate mitigation goals. Alternative low- and no-carbon energy sources can provide thermal comfort through leaner and more efficient solutions. By maximising the utility of existing technology and creating innovative solutions to the challenges inherent to creating a net zero built environment, the Net Zero Building Centre drives the exploration and use of low-carbon solutions like heat networks, heat pumps, or green hydrogen, but also the potential of energy recovery and storage as well as innovative electrical building design. These paths of research encapsulate the future decarbonised built environment.
Smart building Performance
To successfully deliver a net zero carbon economy, we must improve building design and performance in use. Increasingly, this will depend on smart technologies and digitisation to optimise building performance which will reduce energy and carbon emissions without compromising health and wellbeing. The Net Zero Building Centre advocates for increased technological innovation in the built environment. Areas of interest include: offsite construction methods, smart manufacturing processes, performance data for compliance, verification and improvement, data driven facilities management and maintenance.
Indoor Environmental Quality
People spend most of their time indoors; this is particularly true for older people and young children, as well as for working adults. Our buildings fulfil countless different functions, but what they have in common is the need for good indoor environmental quality. The Net Zero Building Centre seeks to advance knowledge around indoor air quality and expose links between technical characteristics of air tightness, ventilation, acoustics, vibration and health outcomes, comfort, wellbeing and productivity of building occupants. Startlingly, research indicates that indoor air quality is often worse than outside air quality. People who live closer to busy roads face alarming levels of air pollution which contributes to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, heart failure, lung cancer and dementia. Meanwhile, research around Covid‐19 transmission further demonstrates the importance of good ventilation in buildings. People’s wellbeing, productivity and general quality of life are highly corelated to the quality of the environment in which they spend their time. For these reasons, the Net Zero Building Centre is dedicated to advancing quality of life through improvements to indoor environmental quality.
The world’s nations have laudable climate goals, but current policy will not enable us to deliver these goals. The UK has shown repeatedly that even when policy goals are on track, failures of implementation disrupt the confidence of both suppliers and consumers in the built environment market. As we go through this decisive decade for climate action, we require not only effective and ambitious policy design, but equally successful implementation. Great ideas must translate to positive action. The Net Zero Building Centre works to produce impactful, applied research that ushers in positive change at scale. The challenges posed by the decarbonization of the built environment require seamless interaction between policy and research. The Centre collaborates with local government to further heat policy; retrofitting existing stock; improve compliance, link building performance to policy; education and changing practice.