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Current (Outdated) practice

Most residential developments might try to meet the minimum standard energy rating (6 out of 10 stars), perhaps go better than minimum and reach 7 stars, or even in cases of local excellence reach 8 stars. Alternatively non-residential developments might comply with Building Code Section J minimum energy requirements, or go 10 or 20% better. However, these developments are really less bad, only address heating and cooling energy consumption not hot water, other services and appliances, and not yet on track with the goals we need to achieve on the path to regenerative buildings - buildings that consume no energy in their production and operation, and add back to repair the planet. 

Steps to be considered on the path to developing buildings that are regenerative to our planet:

1. Operational Carbon neutral buildings

Want to design an energy carbon neutral building, or a building that can readily be made to be carbon neutral in operation (ie generates zero greenhouse gas emissions during the operation of the building)? A Zero Carbon Emissions Plan (ZCEP) should be prepared that addresses the following items:

  1. Design it to maximise the building fabric energy efficiency through passive design principles, or passive house principles. Include good room positioning, good windows, shading, insulation and sealing. 

  2. Maximise the energy efficiency of your heating and cooling, hot water supply, lighting, appliances, other electrical uses. 

  3. Ensure all energy is from electricity ie no gas. See alternatives to gas

  4. Calculate or model the occupant's expected energy consumption from all of the above services and appliances.

  5. Install renewable energy solar panels to maximise on-site electricity generation. Generally allow roof space for 5-7kW of panels for class 1 dwellings. Consider the value of the rooftop space for apartments and consider establishing a micro-grid within the development that might even export to the mains grid - potentially a source of income. Also consider Building Integrated PV (BIPV) panels - potentially as balustrading glazing. See Rooftop, BIPV panels and Offsite Renewables

  6. Offset the balance - If the renewable generation level falls short of the expected occupant in-building operational energy use, enter power purchase agreements or similar to purchase power from accredited renewable sources to offset the balance that cannot be generated onsite. See Rooftop, BIPV panels and Offsite Renewables

LID Consulting can help with preparing Zero Carbon Emissions Plans, which may also include addressing items below. 

2. Carbon neutral daily lifestyles - transport

Once occupants in-building energy use is fully offset designers have the ability to impact more broadly how sustainably people live. Designers can help facilitate carbon neutrality in transport - by locating storage spaces for standard and electric bicycles and scooters at a preferred ease of access location, to encourage their use on shorter trips ahead of higher energy consuming cars. Also by supporting electric transport via recharging points or stations in residential and non-residential developments or in the street. 

3. Addressing Waste, Wildlife and local Warming:

If you want to go further and incorporate further measures good for the environment:

  1. Support zero waste to landfill - Design internal and external bin spaces large enough to accommodate separate bins for all recyclable items (that will be collected in future council waste collections) ie design for:

    1. Glass bin

    2. Plastics bin

    3. Other recyclables bin

    4. Food organics bin

    5. E-waste bin (waste from devices requiring an electricity chord or battery to operate)

    6. Fabrics bin

  2. Support wildlife and biodiversity - Maximise your trees and vegetation on site - horizontally or vertically. 

  3. Reduce the localised effect of the warming climate - maximise your shading and vegetation. Use light coloured paving. Specify light coloured roofing and walls (not black or charcoal!).

4. Carbon Neutral in built environment construction - Life Cycle Design Assessment:

To go absolutely carbon neutral as inhabitants of buildings we need to address going carbon neutral in the construction of buildings and built environment assets (see embodied energy and Life Cycle Assessments). A Life Cycle Design Assessment of the constructed building elements involves selecting construction systems and materials with the lowest embodied energy ie have taken the lowest amount of energy to produce. 

5. Regenerative Design

Regenerative design in the built environment describes building, asset and community designs that restore, renew or revitalize their own sources of energy and materials (Modified from Wikepedia). Most of today’s sustainability efforts focus on efficiency and doing less harm. Even designing for net zero carbon emissions is really putting a brake on emissions in new buildings. Regenerative design aims to go further, repairing systems. See Bill Reed's image below or degenerating vs regenerating design.

The New Normal - Carbon Neutral buildings + Renewables: About
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