School of the Built Environment

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Department of Architecture

Oxford Brookes University

Gipsy Lane

Oxford OX3 0BP UK

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Minimising the carbon footprint of existing buildings: national sustainability week seminar in Reading

Dr. Fionn Stevenson
Dr. Fionn Stevenson

June 2007

In the first of several seminars directed at business leaders in the local region, Dr. Fionn Stevenson, newly appointed Reader in Sustainable Design and co-director of the Oxford Institute of Sustainable Development Architecture research unit (OISD:A), presented key priorities and strategies for minimising the amount of carbon emissions from existing buildings. The seminar was organised by Peter Brett Associates, a leading international consultancy firm for environmental projects, as part of National Sustainability week.

The new “carbon map” launched by the Carbon Trust in June 2007 clearly identifies Reading businesses as the third worst polluters in the UK, with 50% of the town’s total being produced by the corporate sector. Oxford follows surprisingly close behind with 49% of its carbon dioxide emissions produced by the corporate sector. Both places are around 10% above the national average, which reflects the strong investment in the region that has taken place in terms of high tech industries– well know for using a large amount of energy.

Within the corporate sector, buildings contribute considerably to the carbon footprint through the amount of energy needed to develop, operate, maintain and eventually demolish them. The amount of energy used by lighting and appliances is one of the fastest growing areas of carbon emissions and can easily account for 40-50% of energy use within a well insulated building. Buildings can often be “fine tuned” during their lifetime to reduce inefficiencies such as poor building management systems, resulting in heating, lighting and ventilation being left on in empty rooms or at the wrong times.

OISD Architecture researchers have carried out a number of post occupancy studies, including housing, schools, health buildings and offices. This is a rapidly expanding area of work, as CEO’s realise that the triple bottom line of sustainable development – environmental, economic and social factors - can only be met if adequate feedback on building performance is obtained and fed back into procurement and management strategies.

Dr.Fionn Stevenson said:

“The OISD Architecture research unit is keen to build links which strengthen collaboration between academia and business within the region to help reduce the carbon footprint created by existing buildings. Part of the expertise we can offer is tailor made post occupancy evaluation to work out where the emissions are occurring and what can be done to reduce them. This involves a portfolio of methods including qualitative user surveys, building performance analysis and physical monitoring where necessary. Working directly with the users is just as important as looking at the building itself.”



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