'Circle of inertia' to energy efficiency broken in commercial building sector

Carbon Trust today announced that the UK’s first low-carbon commercial building has been awarded the new Low Carbon Workplace Standard and opens the door for more commercial buildings to follow suit and cut emissions. Investec Wealth and Investment Management (IWIN) passed the stretching requirements to achieve the Standard by making a 33% reduction in carbon emissions per person at its office, a 160-year-old former printing press in Guildford.

The Low Carbon Workplace concept was developed by the Carbon Trust to break the ‘circle of inertia’ that has prevented many cost-effective CO2 reduction opportunities in non-domestic buildings from being realised in the past. Carbon Trust research has found that a 35% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020 from non-domestic buildings can be achieved using cost-effective measures. These would yield a net benefit to the UK of at least £4bn. Despite this potential, emissions from non-domestic buildings have remained roughly constant over the past two decades. A number of barriers exist, including misaligned incentives (the ‘landlord-tenant divide’), a lack of knowledge on how to develop and operate low carbon buildings, and capability gaps within the supply chain. These create inertia where no one party feels they can make a difference and consequently little happens.

The Low Carbon Workplace breaks the inertia by delivering refurbished low carbon buildings and a motivated tenant empowered to ensure potential energy savings are realised. Funders, developers, landlords and occupiers collaborate to ensure that buildings are designed, built and operated to maximise energy savings. Energy efficiency performance is then monitored over a two-year period and successful performance is rewarded with the new Low Carbon Workplace Standard. 

This shows that the circle of inertia of energy efficiency can be broken if the tenant and landlord work together. Investec Wealth and Investment Management’s achievement is an industry first. Their commitment throughout has been uncompromising and the results clearly demonstrate that closer collaboration between landlord and occupier will deliver more efficient and lower carbon workplaces.

- Bruno Gardner, Managing Director of Low Carbon Workplace Ltd

I am delighted that Investec Wealth and Investment Management is the first to achieve certification to the Low Carbon Workplace Standard. We have reduced our carbon emissions per person by over 33% and also reduced our associated running costs. Support from Low Carbon Workplace Ltd has been instrumental in helping us achieve this goal.

- David Richardson, Director, Investec Wealth and Investment


For further information please contact the Carbon Trust press office on 020 7170 7050 or email press@carbontrust.com.

About the Carbon Trust

The Carbon Trust is an independent company with a mission to accelerate the move to a sustainable, low-carbon economy. The Carbon Trust:

  • advises businesses, governments and the public sector on opportunities in a sustainable, low-carbon world;
  • measures and certifies the environmental footprint of organisations, products and services;
  • helps develop and deploy low-carbon technologies and solutions, from energy efficiency to renewable power


Notes to Editors

About the first certification:

This first certification proves that sustainable low carbon refurbishments of commercial offices is not only possible but that the resultant performance can be maintained over time. The LCW Standard requires occupiers to maintain the base build energy efficient design; meet qualitative criteria relating to embodied carbon, sustainable transportation, waste and employee satisfaction; and, crucially, operate a carbon management strategy where landlord/tenant co-operation is underscored.

What did IWIN achieve?

  • Emissions of just 1.62 tCO2e per person representing a 33% reduction in tCO2e per person in year 2 of occupation compared to year 1
  • A reduction in the annual carbon footprint by 1.4% despite an increase by 46% in the number of hours that the office is occupied
  •  45% lower running costs when compared to similar building [i]
  • A consistent waste management strategy ensuring that 68% of waste is recycled
  • A 42% increase in the use of sustainable forms of transportation by employees

As a tenant of The Billings, IWIN signed the Low Carbon Workplace Charter, an on-going commitment undertaken by the tenant to minimise its carbon emissions while occupying the premises. The Charter is based on a new model of landlord-tenant relationship in which Low Carbon Workplace Ltd, a subsidiary of the Carbon Trust, takes an active role in helping LCW building occupiers to manage energy use on an on-going basis.  IWIN benefitted from energy efficiency advice which has helped the company to occupy the building in a way to maximise its design specification by sharing energy and occupancy data, tailoring the operational strategy to meet occupational demands, reviewing maintenance procedures, engaging with staff and implementing a strong programme governance structure.

The Billings is a 160-year-old former printing press, which was selected as an ideal refurbishment opportunity, partly thanks to the thermal properties of its high-ceilinged rooms and thick walls. The refurbishment included a complete replacement of the central mechanical and electrical services, secondary glazing throughout, improved insulation and reduced infiltration, 85% heat recovery on ventilation, optimised lighting controls and installation of a combined energy and occupancy monitoring platform.

Low Carbon Workplace Ltd helps occupiers on an on-going basis to actively manage their energy costs, monitoring use and occupancy patterns, before advising on how to meet energy efficiency targets. This benefits the tenant by lowering both bills and carbon emissions. The advice starts before the move, looking at optimal use of space and changes to existing energy usage patterns and levels, and continues with advice on building operations and staff engagement. Achieving the building’s low carbon targets makes the occupier eligible for certification to the Low Carbon Workplace Standard, a new environmental benchmark specifically designed for the workplace.

*Energy Consumption Guide 19, Government’s Energy Efficiency Best Practice programme (typical air-conditioned office performance).

The seven Properties in the Low Carbon Workplace Trust:

  • 1-4 The Billings, Walnut Three Close, Guildford, GU1 4UL
  • Premier House, Twickenham
  • Mansel Court, Wimbledon Hill Road, Wimbledon London, SW19 4AA
  • Grove House, 27 Hammersmith Grove, London, W6 0NE
  • 63, Kew Road, Richmond
  • Mount Pleasant, London EC1
  • Summit House, London EC2A

Low Carbon Workplace Limited is the exclusive Carbon Advisor to the Low Carbon Workplace Fund and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Carbon Trust. It contributes low carbon design advice for refurbishments, coordinates the Low Carbon Workplace Standard and provides on-going low-carbon assistance to occupiers under the Low Carbon Workplace Charter.  

About the Low-Carbon Workplace Partnership

LCW is a partnership between the Carbon Trust, Threadneedle Investments and Stanhope. The Townsend Group has recently made a significant equity commitment to LCW taking the total invested in the LCW Trust to over £130m.

[i] Compared to a type 3 typical air conditioned office as benchmarked in Energy Consumption Guide 19: Energy use in offices