Net zero is having a major impact on building design. This doesn’t just influence the physical characteristics of what gets built, it also affects how buildings are designed and constructed in the first place. The result is a far more integrated process where all the critical design decisions are made up-front.
This is a huge and positive step compared with the traditional model where packages were considered separately and often tendered in stages. The days when it was possible to think of packages outside of your immediate remit as ‘somebody else’s problem’ are over.
A net zero building is a complex system. It has to balance minimal energy use for heating with the need for healthy fresh air circulation to control humidity and airborne pollution levels. It must also avoid overheating during the summer months.
Heating and cooling requirements are affected by the fabric as well as the location and orientation of the building. Shades and overhangs, which might normally come under the remit of façades, can have a huge influence. To apply bioclimatic architecture principles successfully you have to understand the whole system.
The DfE Output Specification has a strong preference for natural ventilation and cooling. Buildings must maintain a comfortable internal temperature all year round while minimising operational carbon emissions. In practice this means the building fabric and design have to work harmoniously with MEP systems.
The five typical packages involved in a specification are interrelated and all have a potential impact on carbon emissions. These packages are:
If the way these elements interact isn’t fully considered and resolved at the outset there are significant risks of unquantified additional costs and late design changes. These are exactly the types of risk that MMC is intended to eliminate.
All of this has a significant and positive impact on the work of design teams. Everything has to be integrated, with specific expertise brought in at the start of the process. The benefits are projects with better control of real world operational and embodied carbon levels that create a comfortable environment for occupants and which are less susceptible to unexpected costs and delays.