MF: Net Zero

The world is facing a climate and biodiversity emergency. This is a fact. Buildings and the construction industry are responsible for around 40% of the world’s energy-related carbon emissions. This is also a fact.

For over 50 years we’ve been leading the industry in terms of sustainable, low energy and low carbon building design. The ‘Declare’ initiatives have been excellent at raising awareness, gaining the attention of the industry and its institutions, and at bringing businesses together under one commitment. We were immediate in voicing our support of ‘Architect’s Declare’ and were one of the first signatories when Building Services Engineers followed suit. But what is needed now, more than ever, is to turn those words into actions.

"In the last few months the momentum has been building; we support this but also feel it’s important to continue to challenge those who can make a difference to go further than just words.” 
Hareth Pochee - Principal Engineer, Max R+I Leader

MF: Net Zero is our task group that is responsible for turning our own words and commitments into actions. We led the agenda for Soft Landings and were part of the UKGBC task group that defined the principles of the UKGBC Zero Carbon Framework. We now want - and need - to push the zero carbon agenda further to bring about real, effective change in the buildings we operate and the buildings we design.

As well as the commitments we have signed up to as part of the ‘Declare’ initiatives, we are putting the following words into immediate action:

  • All five of our offices are net zero carbon for operational energy, in accordance with the UKGBC Net Zero Carbon Buildings Framework. We are the first building designers to get this verification. We achieved this by improving the efficiency of our offices, as much as feasible, and then offsetting the remaining amount of carbon that our operations emit. While the effectiveness and moral argument behind carbon offsetting needs further thought and discussion (read more here), we have taken the voluntary decision to offset our carbon emissions at twenty times the market rate - £100/tonne, rather than £5/tonne - and to distribute it between a number of practical offset projects. This £100/tonne figure is based on guidance from economists and the UN Global Compact as the required cost to shift the global economy away from fossil fuels. We feel this is a fairer assessment of the carbon cost and a more responsible long-term approach to offsetting our carbon emissions.

  • On projects we now include a net zero carbon service at no additional fee. As part of our commitment to the 'Engineers Declare' pledge and working towards net zero carbon we provide net zero carbon based on the ‘Net Zero Carbon Buildings - A Framework Definition' approach developed by the UK Green Building Council. As part of this service we:
    - facilitate a workshop
    - set out a schedule of design specific targets
    - produce an Energy and Carbon Risk Assessment
    - providing operational energy use benchmarks to compare with the Part L compliance model

    This aims to provide clients with a clear understanding of the impact of their design decisions, and provide pragmatic and sensible routes to making their buildings net zero carbon. With targetted effort this should be achievable for a broad range of projects and budgets.

    Additional to this, we are also able to offer more detailed net zero carbon support and analysis to help them action which includes advising on embodied carbon and incorporating the benefits of circular economy, building information management and quality assurance, as well as enhanced level of aftercare to optimise the operational performance.

Comparison of carbon emissions from a typical best practice office and Max Fordham's Cambridge office

MF: Net Zero is also our open-source resource. One of the ‘Declare’ commitments is to “share knowledge and research to that end on an open source basis.” Over the coming weeks and months, we will be releasing tools and information to help others understand the carbon impact of the buildings they design and operate, and will be sharing our insights from our own work and studies. We are also supporting many of our collaborators in the building industry to act on the commitments they have made and we will be sharing information about this here. We hope all of this will help our positive impact go beyond just our own buildings and projects.

If you’d like to know more or find out about what we can do for you, please get in touch with Andrew Leiper, Hero Bennett or Hareth Pochee, or with any other member of the practice.

We've also been working with a number of architects and collaborators to help them understand what more they can do to help deliver net zero carbon buildings - if you'd like an initial chat or presentation free-of-charge, let us know.

Or if you'd like to be notified when tools and resources are added to this page, please provide your email address here.

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