Net Zero Carbon – careful planning will lead to cost savings

By Mally Irving · 5 May 2021


We have a generational opportunity to make a real difference in our relationship with nature and the planet. To have a positive impact on climate change. We need to grab the opportunity, and the sooner the better.

To get to net zero carbon by the 2050 target is not going to be easy. It will be more difficult in some sectors, and in some areas of the country than others. In fact, we all face slightly different challenges in achieving this goal.

What is clear though is that there is a clear need for change. And we must grasp the opportunity presented to us now. The impact of not doing so, and the potential danger in ignoring the message, will be catastrophic for future generations.

In implementing change, we must also avoid the mistakes of the past. We need to build on where previous opportunities were missed. We need to learn from earlier mistakes, and above everything, we need to work together to make real change happen.

In housing, there is one key challenge – how do we decarbonise our existing homes and, at the same time, build the much-needed new homes as carbon neutral? The cost of achieving this is massive. And the impact on business plans is immense – they require a complete re-work to accommodate the investment needed.

The good news is that there is political will and support from Government and its agencies:

  • Homes England has introduced the requirement for 25% of the Affordable Housing Programme to be delivered using offsite techniques
  • COP26 will offer further focus on the reasons for change, the consequences of not changing and how we can make a real difference
  • Improved Standards are being proposed and introduced.

What we all need now is clarity – a clear, strategic, consistent approach – in the language and in the definitions we use. This will help us all focus on what is required and how to achieve it.

We will also need to redefine our approaches to maximise efficiencies. Traditional approaches will not have the necessary impact, at the pace that is needed. We need to collaborate and share learning.

It is great to get a glimpse of some pioneering action, in some organisations and in some regions. But more is needed.

And of course, we all need to be conscious of our own carbon footprint too, in our own business plans and in the activities we carry out for others.

At ARK we have:

  • Developed our ASAP asset grading model to account for net-zero works and costs
  • Created a comprehensive, wider assessment of asset performance. Simply decarbonising existing homes is counterproductive if people don’t and won’t like living there
  • Developed our own skills and expertise to support clients in strategic asset decision-making
  • Become a founder member of Ocean Media’s Unlocking Net-Zero knowledge hub – to focus on the practical reality of the transition to a net zero future, and influence its future direction.

So what else can be done?

We can see the housing sector starting to collaborate and plan together. New procurement frameworks are being established, new groupings of councils and HAs are coming together. Collaboration and knowledge sharing is also extending into supply chains, with firms joining together to form integrated partnerships. 

But more needs to happen. As a sector:

  • We must look to introduce a MMC/Zero Carbon approach for new build developments, right at the start. This requires changing the process
  • We must achieve multi-party collaboration in the pre-construction process.
  • We must encapsulate the whole process, supply chains and operations in the road to net zero
  • We must work together to address the skills gap. We must invest in our workforces
  • We must develop good procurement models
  • We must develop and deliver precise project management.

We must plan and work with each other to develop economies of scale, sharing and developing best practice every step of the way.

And then together, we will achieve efficient, net zero homes and environments – for future generations to look back and say ‘they were the generation that made the difference’.

Mally Irving

Senior Consultant

Mally has more than 30 years’ experience in the Built Environment – in the private, commercial and social housing sectors. He has worked for both major national providers as well as smaller regional ones. He has a keen interest in regeneration, energy efficiency and green technology. He seeks to support the creation of quality communities and places that people both want to and can afford to live in.

We provide strategic development and asset management support to the social housing sector. Let’s continue the conversation, share knowledge and collaborate as we adopt a net zero approach. If you need help formulating a net-zero strategy to lay down the foundations for your organisation.


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