Decarbonisation

photo of a house made using hempcrete

Green Drinks with PHG Consulting

On the 14 July we are holding our first in-person Green Drinks networking event with PHG Consulting. Not only are PHG members of Cynnal Cymru who share our values, but last year the building became Cardiff’s second Living Wage building whereby all tenants agreed to pay the real Living Wage to their employees and contractors working on site.

This first event will showcase PHG Consulting and sister company, Wellspring Homes sharing their experience of designing sustainable housing projects helping to reduce the emissions associated with materials and construction processes (aka ‘embodied carbon’). It will also be an opportunity to hear about the innovative methods of construction using solid Hempcrete walls. 

PHG Consulting – structural engineering inspired by nature

Founded in 2013, PHG Consulting is a firm of consulting Civil and Structural Engineers based in Cardiff.

Unlike many firms, they seldom advertise, or aggressively market themselves, preferring to allow their work and reputation to speak for itself, as over 85% of their work is repeat business.

They support many local community and environment causes and are passionate about Engineering, Architecture, Sculpture and the Arts, and promote creativity wherever they can. In particular, they support the promotion of engineering in local schools. 

Wellspring Homes

Wellspring Homes are a property developer established to bring low-embodied-carbon homes to both the affordable and private market. Their vision, to pursue construction-innovation which utilises better-than-zero carbon technology to deliver the next generation of living space.

With a desire to provide homes that are beautiful, practical and beneficial to the environment, Wellspring build with solid Hempcrete walls supported by a sustainable timber frame structure. Made from a mixture of hemp and lime, Hempcrete is ‘a revolution in sustainable living’.

As well as being a natural, better-than-zero carbon product, Hempcrete is breathable, insulating and mould proof. Its breathability allows moisture to pass out of the building, virtually eliminating internal condensation and potential mould growth. Its unique properties help to store and release heat from the building’s walls, limiting fluctuations in temperature and reducing energy use, the monolithic structure ensuring a high air tightness performance.

Lynfi Court in Maesteg, Wellsprings first project, is approaching completion. With its use of environmentally friendly materials, internal area of 3000ft2, air source heat pump and underfloor heating, it delivers a luxurious example of cutting edge, eco-living.

With planning permission granted for eight more homes in Neath using the same methods, Wellspring Homes continue to demonstrate what future-living can look like when the commercial housing industry choose to ‘build-different’.

‘Massive Smalls’ – How RC2 are reducing their dependence on fossil fuels one small project at a time.

Heating and renewable energy installers Heatforce Wales helped Llandaff based RC2 (property & regeneration consultancy) in their journey to achieve “net-zero” carbon status.

Spearheaded by business owner Robert Chapman, RC2 have been on a path towards carbon neutrality for many years, and the project with Heatforce is the latest in a series of investments.

“Over several years now, we have continually invested in Bush House (our head office) as part of our goal to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and to become more sustainable,”

said Robert

These investments have included:

  • Installing 14 Solar Panels
  • Improving the fabric of the property to improve energy efficiency and sound insulation
  • The installation of LED lighting throughout both floors
  • The installation of insulation material in the attic space
  • The installation of smart meters 

However, in 2021, Robert decided to completely remove his dependence on fossil fuel gas to heat the property and began looking at alternatives.

“After a considerable amount of research, I decided that an Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP) would be the most efficient means of heating the property without using gas,”

said Robert.

“However as this was not a “new build”, I needed to find a company that could retrofit an ASHP, and so began my journey towards Heatforce”, he continued.

He initially found a national firm that could provide the ASHP, however, it became apparent that while they could indeed install the system, they were unable to connect it to the existing heating system in the property.

All looked lost until a chance meeting with Jake Maddocks, Director of Heatforce, gave hope that the project could remain on track.

“Robert had used Heatforce previously, but was unaware we had moved into renewables,” said Jake. “We both share a passion for the environment, so when he explained the predicament he was in, I knew instinctively it was something we could help with,” he continued.

With extensive experience in transferring both commercial and residential buildings across to renewable forms of energy production, Jake and his team were not only able to install the ASHP but also retrofit it to the existing heating system.

Planning was submitted by Robert at the end of July 2021 and within a month, the project was given the green light. Fortunately, the lockdown meant no staff were on-site, so the Heatforce team were able to move quickly.

“We started by upgrading the existing heating infrastructure (installing new pipes and replacing the old single radiators with double radiators) and then installed the ASHP, before connecting it all together,” said Jake.

Once switched on, the system worked perfectly.

Robert was able to remove his dependence on gas to heat the property and thanks to the system installed, he gets 3.86 watts of energy for every 1 watt used.

More importantly, the project fits in with his ethos of “Massive Small.”

‘‘Massive Small responds to the frustration of failed grand plans and vast rollouts,” said Robert, “and builds on the success of distributed ‘small’ projects that model new solutions to old problems. A collection of small projects or small initiatives collectively can have a massive impact’’. 

What is more, the installation has taken Bush House from an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) rating of D to a B – a huge jump.

“If more and more businesses realised the savings they can make from replacing fossil fuels with renewables,” said Robert, “not only would they be better off financially, but using the ethos of Massive Small, we could make huge improvements to the environment at the same time.”

A more detailed case study document is available upon request: robert@rchapmanandco.com

Riversimple hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicle

Riversimple – The car that will transform personal transport

Riversimple have completely turned the conventional business model on its head, with a new business proposition to offer for their innovative technologies. They do not sell cars and never will.

They are making electric cars powered by hydrogen rather than batteries because they believe they have a vital role to play in decarbonising transport as quickly and effectively as possible. The only emission from our cars is water.

Most importantly, Riversimple will not be selling cars. Their vehicles will be offered to customers on a subscription-only basis. One all-inclusive, cost-transparent monthly payment will cover all costs, including insurance and fuel.

As a business they want to make sustainability profitable – the longer the cars last, the more efficient they are, the more profitable they will be.

The evidence is clear: the time for action is now. We can halve emissions by 2030

However, there is increasing evidence of climate action, said scientists in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released today.

Since 2010, there have been sustained decreases of up to 85% in the costs of solar and wind energy, and batteries. An increasing range of policies and laws have enhanced energy efficiency, reduced rates of deforestation and accelerated the deployment of renewable energy.

“We are at a crossroads. The decisions we make now can secure a liveable future. We have the tools and know-how required to limit warming,” said IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee.  “I am encouraged by climate action being taken in many countries. There are policies, regulations and market instruments that are proving effective.  If these are scaled up and applied more widely and equitably, they can support deep emissions reductions and stimulate innovation.”

The Summary for Policymakers of the IPCC Working Group III report, Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of climate change was approved on April 4 2022by 195 member governments of the IPCC, through a virtual approval session that started on March 21. It is the third instalment of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), which will be completed this year.

We have options in all sectors to at least halve emissions by 2030

Limiting global warming will require major transitions in the energy sector. This will involve a substantial reduction in fossil fuel use, widespread electrification, improved energy efficiency, and use of alternative fuels (such as hydrogen).

“Having the right policies, infrastructure and technology in place to enable changes to our lifestyles and behaviour can result in a 40-70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This offers significant untapped potential,” said IPCC Working Group III Co-Chair Priyadarshi Shukla. “The evidence also shows that these lifestyle changes can improve our health and wellbeing.”

Cities and other urban areas also offer significant opportunities for emissions reductions.  These can be achieved through lower energy consumption (such as by creating compact, walkable cities), electrification of transport in combination with low-emission energy sources, and enhanced carbon uptake and storage using nature. There are options for established, rapidly growing and new cities.

“We see examples of zero energy or zero-carbon buildings in almost all climates,” said IPCC Working Group III Co-Chair Jim Skea. “Action in this decade is critical to capture the mitigation potential of buildings.”

Reducing emissions in industry will involve using materials more efficiently, reusing and recycling products and minimising waste. For basic materials, including steel, building materials and chemicals, low- to zero-greenhouse gas production processes are at their pilot to near-commercial stage.

This sector accounts for about a quarter of global emissions. Achieving net zero will be challenging and will require new production processes, low and zero emissions electricity, hydrogen, and, where necessary, carbon capture and storage.

Agriculture, forestry, and other land use can provide large-scale emissions reductions and also remove and store carbon dioxide at scale. However, land cannot compensate for delayed emissions reductions in other sectors.  Response options can benefit biodiversity, help us adapt to climate change, and secure livelihoods, food and water, and wood supplies.

The next few years are critical

In the scenarios we assessed, limiting warming to around 1.5°C (2.7°F) requires global greenhouse gas emissions to peak before 2025 at the latest, and be reduced by 43% by 2030; at the same time, methane would also need to be reduced by about a third. Even if we do this, it is almost inevitable that we will temporarily exceed this temperature threshold but could return to below it by the end of the century.

“It’s now or never, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F),” said Skea. “Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible.”

The global temperature will stabilise when carbon dioxide emissions reach net zero. For 1.5°C (2.7°F), this means achieving net zero carbon dioxide emissions globally in the early 2050s; for 2°C (3.6°F), it is in the early 2070s.  

This assessment shows that limiting warming to around 2°C (3.6°F) still requires global greenhouse gas emissions to peak before 2025 at the latest, and be reduced by a quarter by 2030.

Closing investment gaps

The report looks beyond technologies and demonstrates that while financial flows are a factor of three to six times lower than levels needed by 2030 to limit warming to below 2°C (3.6°F), there is sufficient global capital and liquidity to close investment gaps. However, it relies on clear signalling from governments and the international community, including a stronger alignment of public sector finance and policy.

“Without taking into account the economic benefits of reduced adaptation costs or avoided climate impacts, global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would be just a few percentage points lower in 2050 if we take the actions necessary to limit warming to 2°C (3.6°F) or below, compared to maintaining current policies,” said Shukla.

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

Accelerated and equitable climate action in mitigating and adapting to climate change impacts is critical to sustainable development.  Some response options can absorb and store carbon and, at the same time, help communities limit the impacts associated with climate change. For example, in cities, networks of parks and open spaces, wetlands and urban agriculture can reduce flood risk and reduce heat-island effects.

Mitigation in industry can reduce environmental impacts and increase employment and business opportunities. Electrification with renewables and shifts in public transport can enhance health, employment, and equity.

“Climate change is the result of more than a century of unsustainable energy and land use, lifestyles and patterns of consumption and production,” said Skea. “This report shows how taking action now can move us towards a fairer, more sustainable world.”  

Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The Working Group III report provides an updated global assessment of climate change mitigation progress and pledges, and examines the sources of global emissions.  It explains developments in emission reduction and mitigation efforts, assessing the impact of national climate pledges in relation to long-term emissions goals.

Working Group III introduces several new components in its latest report: One is a new chapter on the social aspects of mitigation, which explores the ‘demand side’, i.e. what drives consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.  This chapter is a partner to the sectoral chapters in the report, which explore the ‘supply side’ of climate change – what produces emissions. There is also a cross-sector chapter on mitigation options that cut across sectors, including carbon dioxide removal techniques. And there is a new chapter on innovation, technology development and transfer, which describes how a well-established innovation system at a national level, guided by well-designed policies, can contribute to mitigation, adaptation and achieving the sustainable development goals, while avoiding undesired consequences.

The Summary for Policymakers of the Working Group III contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) as well as additional materials and information are available at https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg3/

Food Skills Cymru – Sustainability Training with Lantra

The Food Skills Cymru programme delivered by Lantra aims to support Welsh businesses within the food and drink processing and manufacturing industry to upskill and train employees. As part of the project, Lantra worked in collaboration with sustainability experts from Cynnal Cymru and Eco Studio to develop a Sustainability Training Programme. The course was designed to “equip participants with the knowledge and skills… appropriate to their situation that address environmental management, sustainability and social impact.”

As Cynnal Cymru’s role in the project draws to a close, we are celebrating its positive impact upon Welsh businesses by sharing the following case studies:

At Cynnal Cymru, we offer a variety of training services. To find out more about our Carbon Literacy and Naturewise courses, visit our training page. If you are interested in Cynnal Cymru developing a bespoke course to suit your specific needs and requirements, please contact us via training@cynnalcymru.com.

Net Zero Industry Wales established to support decarbonisation of Welsh industry

The Welsh Government’s Programme for Government sets out a commitment to ensuring Wales becomes a Net Zero nation by 2050.

Due in large part to Wales’ industrial heritage within the steel, oil, gas and chemicals sectors in south Wales, Wales-based businesses are responsible for around 20% of the UK’s overall industrial and business carbon emissions – the majority of Welsh industrial and business carbon emissions can be directly attributed to companies along the M4 corridor.

Net Zero Industry Wales will work with an existing group of 40 business and academic partners operating within a wide range of energy-intensive industries to help them achieve Net Zero.

This will require an average annual reduction in Welsh emissions of 1.3 million tonnes of CO2e (from 2018 levels). 

The new body will have a number of short to medium term priorities, including:

  • enabling industry to explore new economic growth opportunities by becoming a world-leader in low-carbon manufacturing, playing to Wales’ existing strengths
  • support future development of a Circular Economy in Wales
  • stimulate and anchor new investments to create and retain high-skilled jobs
  • engage with stakeholders to support public and private investment.

The creation of Net Zero Industry Wales will help maximise the potential for stakeholder engagement, industrial participation, the drawdown of relevant UK Government funding, and ensure activities align to Welsh Government policy priorities. 

The Welsh Government will support the new body with £150,000 in support each year for the next three financial years.

To further support Wales to achieve Net Zero, later this year the Welsh Government will publish its Net Zero Skills Action Plan, which will set out how Ministers will support businesses to develop a green, skilled workforce.

The Minister announced the creation of Net Zero Industry Wales during a visit to TATA Steel in Port Talbot.

Minister for Economy, Vaughan Gething said:

Accelerating the decarbonisation of Welsh businesses and industry is crucial if we are to meet our ambitious net zero targets by 2050.

The creation of Net Zero Industry Wales is an important step forward to help deliver this transition, and underlines our commitment to support industry in south Wales to decarbonise.

I was with the Aerospace industry last week exploring the transfer of technologies to support decarbonisation in Wales and expect Net Zero Industry Wales to also act as a focus for this transfer across all our high value manufacturers.

Another important element is working in close collaboration with the UK’s other industrial clusters to ensure Wales has access to best practice.

Without this action, Wales and the UK will not achieve our net zero targets by 2050.

We recognise that we cannot deliver decarbonisation in Wales alone. Our goal is to work in partnership with the UK Government to ensure that Welsh businesses and industry have access to a wide range of support.

It is therefore critical that the tools available to businesses in Wales are fit-for-purpose and are flexible enough to recognise the complex industrial processes and challenges to be met.

Dr Chris Williams, Head of Industrial Decarbonisation at Industry Wales, said:

This announcement today is the product of many years of hard work by many Welsh companies, Governments, Universities and likeminded people who realised that to achieve a restorative and net zero economy in Wales we would have to work together to map out what is needed from every sector in Wales.

What we are working on isn’t about changing the industrial make up of Wales, it’s about innovating it, being ahead of the curve when it comes to decarbonisation to ensure that we keep these industries and jobs in Wales. It is also about examining opportunities to create exciting new industries in Wales, as well as revitalising and sustaining existing ones.

Wales has a long and rich industrial heritage, leading the way in the manufacturing and engineering revolution. Now we plan to be a leader of the green revolution and the creation of Net Zero Industry Wales is certainly going to help us achieve that in a more joined up and cohesive way.

Wales’ very first ‘energy positive’ house with a social conscience

The project is a celebration of low carbon energy research from all over Wales, bringing together universities, industries and the government. The house is capable of exporting energy generated on site to the grid, eradicating energy bills and supplying Wales with clean, renewable energy.

SOLCER House combines advances in sustainable technologies in order to design a house that fits within the social housing framework, meaning Registered Social Landlords are capable of building homes similar to SOLCER House at the same price but sharing net benefits amongst residents, their value chain and the environment. SOLCER House cost around £1,000 per m2, which is within the social housing pricing benchmark.

The construction materials and low carbon technologies were procured from within Wales, as much as possible, showcasing the ability of Wales to deliver low carbon innovation to the world. The energy positive SOLCER House was built with high levels of thermal insulation and reduced air leakage in order to minimise energy demand. The energy efficient design includes:

  • Cenin low carbon cement.
  • Structurally Insulated Panels (SIPs). They have higher thermal insulation than timber, supplied by SIPS Wales in Llandovery.
  • Transpired solar air collectors. This is part of the cladding, which is made up of small perforations in the surface to allow heat to be captured and circulated by a ventilation system, manufactured and installed Central Roofing South Wales.
  • Low emissivity double glazed aluminium clad timber window frame and doors that can save up to 8 pence per kWh per window, manufactured by Vellacine in Cardiff.
  • 4.3kWp photovoltaic solar panel system on the south facing roof.
  • Lithium ion storage battery, supplied by Victron Energy.

SOLCER House is the first energy positive house built in the UK and will deliver on critical targets set by the EU to build ‘nearly zero’ energy buildings by 2020. The project is a systematic model design of how these targets can be achieved.

Orangebox – placing responsible design at the heart of its business

Orangebox is a furniture design and manufacturing company with sustainability at the heart of its operations. Based outside Cardiff, Orangebox realises its large impact it has on the environment through material use in products, and the processes used to put them together. Their front-end design process recognises the importance of material sustainability and longevity. Orangebox wants to eliminate the use of toxic materials in their value chain and encourages circular economy approach for products at ‘end of life’ stage.

All wood used in production is 100% FSC and PEFC certified, with 78% of suppliers based in the UK. 100% of electricity in the South Wales facility comes from wind and hydro energy.

In 2007, Orangebox opened a recycling plant in South Wales, where old office chairs could be returned, whether one of their own or not. The chairs are assessed to see whether they can be reused after their one cycle life and donated to Saint David’s Foundation, a charity providing hospice care in South Wales. All other chairs are disassembled into different separate materials and recycled.

Orangebox developed and manufactured the first Cradle to Cradle certified office chair in Europe in 2009. The ARA Task chair turned conventional office chair design on its head in order to achieve 98% recyclability. The frame and back membrane eliminated fasteners and binding materials for an interference fit. Binding materials together is an irreversible process and once binding materials are applied, it renders the recipient material parts unrecyclable. The interference fit allows for smooth design and easy disassembly. The new arm part is a single material component which can easily be broken down into constituent parts. The ARA Task chair has resulted in a reduced raw material exhaustion and production costs.

Overall, Orangebox have over doubled their annual turnover whilst also reducing material waste by 30% in just 3 years.

Orangebox have been recognised for their contributions to sustainability through their low carbon, circular economy and cradle to cradle approach, winning the Furniture Maker’s Sustainability Award in 2013. 

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