INSIGHT SERIES: The business case for sustainability

Innovation Centre

The draft agreement from the COP21 summit has brought building sustainability into sharp focus once more. But while the industry awaits news on subsequent legislation, Kingspan Insulated Panels has released a sustainability report incorporating progress on its net-zero energy programme to date. This report is proving the clear economic benefits of acting now on sustainability, highlighting the opportunity for the construction industry to secure a profitable future as the driving force behind our energy goals.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the drive for ever-improved building energy efficiency had paused recently, given the Government’s review of the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) scheme and the demise of the Green Deal. However, these short-term factors belie the long-term truth; the reality of achieving the targets agreed in Paris means the focus on building energy efficiency will only increase.

With buildings accounting for 40% of energy consumed in Europe, the only way we will achieve the relevant carbon and energy targets will be to dramatically improve the way we construct, renovate and occupy buildings. This presents an enormous opportunity to the sector. By demonstrating the value of better buildings, contractors, installers and manufacturers can unlock new revenue streams, and position themselves to reap the rewards as owners seek the best solutions to the inevitable rise in energy costs and upcoming legislative deadlines.

This opportunity arises through innovation in construction products and systems, making it possible to improve building energy performance and the business bottom line at the same time. At Kingspan Insulated Panels, we’ve shown how this is done through the launch of our most recent sustainability report. ‘Walk the Talk – Our Responsibility and Performance’ sets out the environmental, social and economic performance of the business for the period 2012 to 2014, as we embark on a journey to become a net-zero energy business in the UK & Ireland by 2016, and worldwide by 2020.

Among the main headlines of the report was 15GWh of energy saved by the Kingspan Group between 2013-14, and the circa €1 million added to net profit by our measures undertaken in the period. This occurred against a background of organic growth.

We contributed to achieving this through a range of measures that that have included a £2m renovation programme at our facilities in the UK & Ireland to reduce their operational energy use and associated costs. Measures also included promoting employee awareness, energy metering, building management systems, lighting upgrades with Kingspan Smartlite LED with digital addressable lighting interface (DALI) control systems, motor replacements, compressed air system upgrades, process heat control, fan optimisation measures and improved insulation.

In addition to the financial benefits of energy efficiency we have reduced our carbon emissions by 50%, sourced 34% of our energy from renewable sources in 2014, and made our sites in the UK and Ireland zero waste-to-landfill. All of which has shown that, with the right approach incorporating a review of insulation, energy use, renewable generation and supply sourcing, it is possible to make a robust business case for sustainable buildings.

So why should contractors care, beyond the obvious reasons of compliance and corporate responsibility? Because new energy efficiency solutions, like our IPN-QuadCore insulation technology or ZerO Energy Lighting, these help create more opportunities to add value to client relationships. With the changing regulatory landscape, building owners, developers and main contractors will begin to seek expertise beyond the traditional skills usually associated with specialist contractors and installers.

Those companies able to offer valuable advice on energy efficiency, sustainability and the performance merits of different products will be able to shift their customer relationships beyond the purely transactional. And those contractors able to install the wider range of products required to meet new standards of energy efficiency will find themselves best-positioned to capitalise on a growing market. Put simply, high-performance buildings represent the future of our sector; we must all play our part in making that future reality, or risk being left behind.

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