Existing solutions will be key to tackling climate change - BE the Solution Conference

09 Nov 2021

While the foundations for a sustainable built environment are already in place, the biggest challenge lies in scaling-up and mainstreaming transformation, delegates at a leading industry conference on low-carbon construction heard at CSIC's BE the Solution Conference.

Catch up on the full conference below.

CSIC hosted a one-day event, BE the Solution to the Climate Emergency, on 5 November as part of its wider BE@COP26 showcase running at the centre’s Hamilton-based Innovation Factory for the duration of COP26. The conference aimed to raise awareness of the solutions that already exist – including materials, processes, and skills – and explore how these can be accelerated and adopted at scale in response to the climate emergency.

Stephen Good, CEO of CSIC, said: “The built environment – currently responsible for around 47% of UK carbon emissions – must be on the front line of the fight against rising emissions. We need to make changes, and we need to do it quickly. The good news, however, is that we are not starting from scratch and have a range of alternative tools, materials, and innovative concepts to draw upon to create a built environment fit for the future.

“From modern methods of construction (MMC) to circular and sustainable products, ideas are emerging but still need to be accelerated at pace to reach our zero carbon goals. The aim of this week’s conference is to shine a spotlight on what we are already doing and support the sector to embrace change. We’d encourage anyone involved in the built environment and construction interested in finding out more to join the discussion.”


Among the range of sustainable solutions discussed on the day, Barratt Developments – the UK’s largest housebuilder – presented its Z House to the industry for the first time. Following its official launch ahead of COP26, Oliver Novakovic, technical and innovation director, shared the flagship concept for the zero-carbon home with a focus on the use of MMC. Combined with a range of cutting-edge technologies and energy systems such as heat pumps and battery storage from over 40 leading suppliers, the house delivers a carbon reduction of some 125%.

Speaking about the launch of the new prototype, which is based at the University of Salford, David Thomas, chief executive of Barratt Developments, said: “We want to showcase what can be done to deliver zero carbon living using the latest technologies and working with the best industry partners. Ultimately, the aim is to find solutions to enable the industry to build high quality, zero carbon homes that customers love, at scale. We can then share this knowledge to help the industry deliver the future of sustainable housing.”

Attendees also heard from international speakers including James Heath, managing director of new ventures for Southern Company – one of the largest utility companies in the USA – who shared insights on some of the technology being used to help customers reduce their carbon footprint. Glasgow-based arbnco, for instance, is among the providers working with Southern Company to provide software that monitors energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality in buildings.

Maureen Eisbrenner, CEO and co-founder of arbnco, comments: “Reaching zero carbon is about much more than decarbonisation: it’s making meaningful change for the benefit of our partners, the customers they serve, and the communities we operate in. Collaboration is key to this, and arbnco has leveraged its SaaS platform and buildings performance analytics on many exciting projects to this end – launching strategic pilots with the likes of the UK Government and now global giant Southern Company to help commercial clients to meet their net-zero goals and reduce emissions from buildings that currently account for 40% of greenhouse gas emissions globally.”


The afternoon’s highlights included a session focused on the retrofit challenge and how to future-proof the UK’s current buildings including 27 million homes, 32,000 schools, 1,257 hospitals and more. Anne-Marie Fallon, an expert in Passivhaus design, was joined by Matt Stevenson, founder of ECOSystems Technologies and a core partner of the NearHome retrofit project designed to transform unused public spaces into out-of-town office hubs.

Meanwhile, Dr Peter Rickaby, chair of the BSI Retrofit Standards Task Group and technical director of the Retrofit Academy explored some of the key issues and solutions, such as the new PAS2035 technical standard, which he helped to develop.

He said: “We must not lose sight of the fact that we have 27 million homes to retrofit and, while a quality framework and detailed technical standard will help, we are still facing a climate emergency and need to do more. It’s something I’ve been talking about for 20 years; however, we still have challenges to address, not least in terms of building the skilled workforce required to deliver retrofit programmes.”

Additional speakers at the conference include Terry A’Hearn, CEO of the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), and Peter McGettrick, managing director of advisory at Turner & Townsend, who shared the company’s 2030 net zero strategy.

Catch up on BE@COP26

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