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Sensing Net Zero

The Government has recently announced £12bn in new green investment and a 10-point plan, which sets out to achieve a Green Industrial Revolution and Net Zero by 2050. Net Zero or zero carbon emission is a bold, but necessary ambition for us all if we are going to safeguard our environment for the benefit of future generations. 

The ambitious plan includes new investment for green jobs in off-shore, nuclear and hydrogen power generation and low CO2 heat pumps in domestic and public buildings. New investment in carbon capture technology will also remove 10m/t of CO2 from the UK environment every year up to 2030. 

Even with the measures set out by the government, Net Zero remains an unimaginable goal given the sheer scale of the reductions required and our own daily lives, which sees each and every one of us making lifestyle and consumption choices which cost the environment dearly. 

Although the challenge seems unimaginable currently, the Covid crises has given us all the opportunity to reconsider our daily commute to work and given us all time to re-evaluate the detrimental impacts of our daily lives on the environment. 

Learning to live with Covid and the ‘new normal’ as it is termed will see more off us balance more home working with attendances in the office on a less regular basis. With this there will be opportunities for consolidation in the commercial office footprint around the UK as and when the implications of social distancing rules and new trends in office attendances are established. 

Clever technology has a in important role to play in achieving Net Zero and in particular sensing technology.  Data from my own organisation (Freespace) has established over many years has shown that organisations can achieve better utilisation of their space and better align it with the needs and ants of users through the use of occupancy sensors throughout the workplace. This typically delivers our clients a 20% space saving opportunity across the national and global real estate. 

There is over 354m sqft of office space across the UK with a very small fraction of that ‘sensor technology’ enabled. If property owners, landlords and occupiers invested in sensor technology there is a >25m sqft space saving opportunity equivalent to an >£4bn annual cost saving to UK businesses.  

Based on data produced by the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers every 1,000sqft of office space used is equivalent to a carbon footprint of 91t C02 per annum. If the sensor technology was applied across all workplaces in the UK over 2.4m tonnes of C02 could be saved annually. 

That represents nearly 25% of the government’s own carbon capture target and is equivalent to nearly 1% of the total carbon footprint of the entire UK. 

What’s more sensors now can record a whole host of environmental conditions across the workplace including C02 and air quality (both particulate and volatile organic compounds) helping organisations safeguard the health and wellbeing of their people.   

Better air quality in the office reduces the likelihood of transmission of workplace viruses and bugs which in turn reduces unnecessary casual sicknesses and helping the UK economy to be more productive and competitive on the global stage. 

So the government has missed a trick in not including green office technology in their plans to achieve Net Zero. Perhaps it’s time for them to consider offering ‘green technology loans’ to businesses who occupy offices to allow them to invest in sensing technologies on a spend to save basis.   

Sensing technology is here and now.  Technology really has an important role to play. The Green Industrial Revolution really has to start here and now and it starts in the workplace. 


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