How do we decarbonise heat?

High fabric standards, low carbon technologies and more efficient buildings services will create the net zero buildings of the future, says Groupe Atlantic UK’s Chris Caton

To decarbonise heating in new commercial buildings we need to consider the whole building, and not just the equipment generating heat. Of course, this equipment needs to offer high efficiencies, using the least amount of energy, but the distribution of this heat and the thermal efficiency of the structure are fundamental to achieving an efficiently run building.

It’s obvious that a more thermally efficient building uses less energy and, therefore, the energy supplied to the building will have emitted less CO2 in its production and delivery. The new Part L uplift to Building Regulations for non-domestic buildings starts us on a journey to decarbonising heating in the UK, targeting an average decrease of 27% in CO2. This is a positive first step towards the greater savings needed from the Future Building Standards, which are to be implemented from 2025. High fabric standards, improved building services and low carbon technologies are the elements identified to achieve the 27% decrease in CO2.

This, coupled with the government’s Heat and Buildings Strategy, and decarbonisation funding worth £3.9bn, announced in October 2021, will help ensure – in the shorter term at least – that heat pumps and district heating supply the heat. It will also put a focus on the heating distribution system, design and control.

Correctly sizing, at the design stages, low carbon heating such as heat pumps, the system it supplies, and the controls is critical to ensuring comfort and low-cost operation – and, of course, to minimising CO2 emissions.