Net Zero Carbon Operation – Don’t Forget the Driver

Director Andrew Holt asks if we are all missing a piece of the Net Zero Carbon jigsaw?

A car company designs and manufactures the most fuel efficient car it has ever built. Put it in the hands of the Top Gear presenting team at Dunsfold Aerodrome and I’m pretty certain, for that moment, it will be the least fuel efficient car ever built. Conversely, hand it over to Fergal McGrath and Paul Clifton (see Guinness World Records UK) and it might achieve efficiencies the manufacturer only dreamed of.

And so it is for the Net Zero Carbon (NZC) Building.

There is some fantastic work being delivered by the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC), Better Buildings Partnership (BBP), the London Energy Transformation Initiative (LETI) and others that has resulted in published guidance on the measures required to ensure we design and build the most efficient buildings. This even extends to measuring the performance of buildings in use via the NABERS UK energy and carbon rating scheme.

As someone who has spent the last 25 years in the Facilities Management (FM) industry, I can’t help feeling we are all missing a piece of the NZC jigsaw.

When a building is completed it is handed over to an operator, which will usually comprise a building manager and an operation and maintenance (FM) company. Their primary aim is to satisfy the day to day needs of multiple occupants…oh and of course… to meet statutory obligations and preserve the ‘asset’.

Using my opening analogy, you could view the Operation and Maintenance or FM company as the ‘driver’ – they have their hands on the controls. The building manager could be thought of as the ‘sat nav’ – setting the course and ensuring the building reaches the target ‘destination’. The building occupants are the ‘passengers’. They may issue demands such as ‘go faster’, ‘give me more power’, ‘turn up the heat’, ‘give me more air’ or ‘cool me down’. Quite clearly, exactly like the car, the way the building is ‘driven’ or ‘guided’ in response to the passenger demands will determine its actual operating efficiency in use.

With this in mind, our industry must focus on the missing piece of the NZC jigsaw; via education and enablement of the building ‘drivers’, ‘sat navs’ AND the ‘passengers’.

The documented solutions reside somewhere in clearly defined and adaptable building management and operating strategies; improved operation and maintenance specifications; and occupant guidelines. These must be crafted to influence, motivate and incentivise each party. Combined with an ongoing programme of engagement, education, monitoring and feedback, something along these lines will ensure that everyone sets out on the NZC operational journey knowing what is expected of them and focussed on the target destination; rather than finding out when the energy and carbon rating arrives.

Find out more about our FM offering and get in touch with Matt Ingleton.

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