Carbon Expert of the Month, December 2020
Richard is an energy consultant at Mesh Energy with extensive building performance modelling expertise which he applies in his role offering advice on low carbon building design.
What led you to become a construction carbon expert?
After completing my MSc in Sustainable Building Performance and Design back in 2012, discussions began to arise around embodied carbon and I really started to seriously consider the life cycle of buildings, sustainable materials in design and performance modelling of buildings. Fast forward 8 years and I use IES modelling along with One Click LCA daily – whether constructing models or using them to inform a strategy for occupant comfort, reducing energy consumption or determining the embodied carbon impact of a building.
What kind of projects do you typically work on, and in what role?
As an energy consultant I work on a variety of projects across all sectors including private residential, paragraph 79 homes, offices, healthcare, retail, education and leisure. Each project is unique and I really enjoy the diversity whilst always keeping the mission in mind to design low carbon buildings through intelligent design.
Typically, I become involved in a project around concept design, although we are encouraging clients to engage even earlier to really achieve the best sustainable outcomes, and we remain part of the design team usually for the entire duration of the project.
Which projects and achievements are you most proud of?
A project I am currently involved in is Hope Street. Hope Street is a pioneering project set up by the charity One Small Thing providing a positive residential environment for justice involving women. The vision of the client is to reflect their values within the build, so the materials chosen needed to be natural, filled with character and interest; and be considerate of the environment.
“Hope Street will be BREEAM excellent and I am proud to be a part of the team for such an aspirational project.”
How does One Click LCA help you achieve your sustainability goals?
Using One Click LCA from concept design through to the technical design along with the IES modelling has helped to generate a 93% carbon saving which is fantastic and really shows what work can be done with an exemplary vision and the right tools. Hope Street will be BREEAM excellent and I am proud to be a part of the team for such an aspirational project.
With more involved strategic thinking at pre-planning stage, we can undertake a lot of optioneering; targeting specific U values and looking at various wall constructions which meet the criteria whilst trying to reduce the embodied carbon.
Once we have simulated the building in IES and run One Click LCA we can use the outputs to discuss any tweaks in the design and this iterative process leads to the best outcomes for the project in terms of sustainable design.
LCA One Click’s ease of use really comes into play at this stage, importing the bill of quantities from IES and duplicating the model enables me to run various scenarios with different materials to explore the design options.
We have helped projects comfortably hit the RIBA 2025 targets for carbon reduction with the 2030 targets also within reach for those clients who are really aiming for excellence.
“We have helped projects comfortably hit the RIBA 2025 targets for carbon reduction with the 2030 targets also within reach for those clients who are really aiming for excellence.”
How do you usually make the business case for low-carbon design?
Constructing a more sustainable building does not have an overtly significant impact on the capital cost of a project, and the beauty of low carbon design is that running costs are considerably reduced over the lifespan of the building.
Personally, I think embodied carbon performance will become a primary concern for the construction industry this coming year. We have the materials and technology to build high performing buildings but the ecological cost of doing this is becoming higher and higher.
I am pleased to see that the professional institutions in building design are now aligning their policies, singing from the same hymn sheet and clients are becoming more switched on to this too. Luckily, the majority of our clients are forward thinking, and they come to us as they want to take a holistic approach with their design and create considerate sustainable buildings.
What’s your message for others working on low-carbon design?
As designers we know we can help create better buildings, but the challenge is for everyone to embrace a change in mindset to succeed. If we think we can do this by carrying on as usual it will never happen, so to make the leap and hit the 2030 targets, we need a shift in thinking. Change is happening and I am excited to be a part of it.
“As designers we know we can help create better buildings… but to make the leap and hit the 2030 targets, we need a shift in thinking.”
About ‘Carbon Expert of the Month’
Carbon Expert of the Month is Bionova’s way to showcase the expertise, inspiration and best practices of One Click LCA users. Each month, we feature experts who are passionate about reducing carbon in general and from materials in particular, who seek to push projects beyond the boundaries of common practice, and who wish to share from their personal experience.