INSIGHT SERIES: How to create a Net-Zero Energy building


Kingspan Office.jpg

Five years ago, Kingspan pledged to become a Net-Zero Energy business by 2020. The initiative is extraordinary in scale as it means our operations must generate as much energy as they consume, across all four company divisions and in 85 different countries.

At its heart, our Net-Zero Energy programme is very public commitment to practise what we preach – and demonstrate that by using our products and solutions, it’s possible to reduce carbon emissions and increase profitability.

To date, we’re well on track to achieve this goal and have already seen a hugely positive impact on our business. Since the pledge was made in 2011, Kingspan Insulated Panels has reduced its carbon emissions by almost 50% across the world. In the UK, emissions have been cut from 12,883 tCO2 in 2013 to just 5,719 tCO2 in 2014 – a 57% saving. And in 2014, over 34% of energy came from renewable sources, with carbon emissions from non-renewable electricity down 44%.

Alongside these environmental benefits, there has also been a clear financial justification for the programme. At a Kingspan Group level, the energy efficiency measures undertaken between 2013 and 2014 saved 15GWh throughout the year, adding circa €1 million to our net profit.

We believe that all businesses should consider working towards Net-Zero. Whether it’s achieving Net-Zero status across an entire business, or within a particular site, the benefits are now proven. So, what are the steps for creating a Net-Zero Energy building?

At Kingspan, we follow a defined three-step process to help our customers, and ourselves, to achieve NZE. While the process is always the same, the measures taken will vary widely depending on the context of the building; its location, climate, orientation, size, usage and future plans. Simplified, the process is as follows:

  •  Energy Efficiency through EnvelopeFirst and Optimised Building Services


The first step is to minimise building energy use through optimising insulation and airtightness performance of the building envelope for its intended life, while also ensuring the building services, including lighting, are geared to energy efficient operation.

  •  Insulate & Generate


The second stage further reduces the building’s consumption through additional enhancements to its fabric, while renewable energy systems are added to further reduce its overall energy footprint. Low or zero carbon technologies, such as rooftop solar PV, thermal air heating, wind or heat pump systems, are generally considered at this stage.

  •  Net-Zero Energy Buildings


The final stage ensures that the overall annual performance of the building balances out. This usually involves enhancing the on-site renewable energy producing technologies, and may require investment in off-site energy saving schemes.

Follow the process correctly, and it is possible to achieve Net-Zero Energy for almost any building. As more businesses understand the benefits of Net-Zero Energy, the demand for solutions from clients is likely to increase. Savvy architects and specifiers should get to grips with NZE now to stay ahead of the curve.


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