Office Design for Net Zero Compliance

12/09/22< Back to news index

Net Zero refers to the ultimate aim for carbon emissions - that a building should make as much electricity on-site as it will consume over the course of one year. With new building, it involves the production, use and maintenance of building materials to reduce the amount of energy the building requires.

Net Zero Carbon (NZC) standards are achieved by limiting carbon emissions. New or refurbished buildings can use sustainable materials. Reducing carbon emissions in lighting, heating, and ventilation is already well under way in many properties, and disposal of waste is another area being addressed in commercial, manufacturing, and domestic premises.

As well as a moral obligation - and public expectation - for companies to reduce energy consumption, there are legal obligations. Each country has its own legislation, aiming to comply with the Paris Agreement. This entered into force on 4 November 2016, and is now agreed by 193 parties; 192 countries and the EU.

In the UK, since 2008, all residential and commercial rental properties are obliged to have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), which is rated A-G, with A being the best. Inspection is carried out by specially trained building surveyors. Since 2018, the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) for all commercial rental properties must be A-E, and from April 2023, this will be extended to all leases. From 2025, the minimum acceptable rating will be C, so requirements will become progressively more rigorous.

Any lease of a non-conforming building is illegal; it is already illegal to have a new lease on a building rated F-G. The penalty is a fine of 10-20% of the rateable value of the property, up to a maximum of £150,000.

MEES standards and EPC do not at present apply to older, historical, buildings of architectural importance. There are also exemptions relating to achievable energy savings and whether the required work would be cost-effective.

In co-working offices with leases of over 6 months, the host is responsible for compliance, but with traditional leases, responsibility will be shared. Legal advice may be required to clarify issues.

Reductions in energy consumption will generally make it more expensive to lease, but cheaper to maintain well-designed premises. Owners should not delay in finding suitably qualified contractors to do necessary work, because prices will rise as deadlines approach.

If you're interested in talking through how your office can work towards a Net Zero target, drop us a line.