In the latest Bayfield Training Webinar, Sonia Martin-Gutierrez and Tim Reynolds present: Working towards Zero Carbon Commercial Buildings. Tim begins with the pertinent question stating: “why should we be considering zero carbon as a concept?” To answer this question, Tim outlines the primary motivating factors of enacting zero carbon emissions— central here are the potential commercial opportunities. Specifically, zero-carbon can potentially provide “new” revenue streams through photovoltaic (PV) arrays and energy storage. For example, mounting PV arrays on the roofs of buildings can allow businesses to generate energy to resell in their locality through the private wire systems or tenants and generate a margin. Alternatively, energy can be stored and used later, which is particularly useful in a place such as the UK where the sun does not shine all time.

Moreover, by reducing energy usage, commercial asset operators can reduce energy costs and potentially improve profits. Similarly, it can prevent holding stranded assets. As Tim argues, “the last thing we want to do is start building or investing in structures for our commercial buildings, which in 5-10 years we realize are no longer relevant”. Additionally, promoting and implementing zero carbon can be important for recruiting talent. As people become more environmentally aware, they are unlikely to join companies seen as climate polluting.

Finally, a more obvious reason to promote zero-carbon emission is the depletion of resources and social responsibility. For example, the rise of ESG funds has seen responsible investing quotients being used by investors. Thus, while it may not be explicit, fund managers are increasingly looking to incorporate sustainable strategies.

How to measure “zero-ness”

Tim clarifies that measuring “zero-ness” is mainly about changing the unit of account. Evaluation techniques using $ or £ currency are well established (several Bayfield courses cover these techniques). A second model uses tonnes of carbon dioxide. Specifically, this assesses how much carbon (or equivalent) is being generated. Operational carbon is the term used to describe the emissions of carbon dioxide and other global warming gases during the in-use operation of a building. This includes the use, management, and maintenance of a product or structure. Conversely, embedded carbon is the amount of carbon emitted during the making of a building. This includes extraction of raw materials, manufacture and refinement of materials, transport, the building phase of the product or structure, and the deconstruction and disposal of materials at the end of life.

Tim argues that most governments are currently “ignoring” the energy embedded in buildings. Nonetheless, addressing built-related embodied carbon emissions is an integral part of reducing the building and construction industry’s carbon footprint. For example, concrete structures have a large amount of embedded carbon. Concrete requires massive energy input to create the fusion of the concrete and cement powder, and consequently, greater carbon input. Conversely, timber buildings are far more environmentally friendly because they assimilate carbon by virtue of the trees having absorbed carbon in their growing season and then lay that down in cellulose that we then use to build our buildings from.

There are certain supply chain carbon metric evaluation software tools. For example, GABi software is a professional calculator that helps you measure your carbon footprint. It allows one to model the carbon used and energy consumed for every element of the supply chain. Consequently, you can get a real balance sheet of the carbon input of a business.

How to work towards zero?

According to Tim, the easy route to work towards zero carbon is simply to change to a supplier with wholly renewable (or zero) sources. However, Tim argues that corporations should be seeking a more sustainable and expansive route, where we embed a new attitude beyond just looking at how much electricity we use. A more sustainable route will also attract more funding. There are currently a growing number of investment funds sitting on pension money that is looking to disperse funds to a decarbonized location.


The timetables to meet zero carbon emissions are defined as the “zero-wash” programme. As Tim explains, several corporations have pledged to the zero-wash programme in the next five to ten years. For example, Amazon has committed to 100% renewables usage by 2030 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2040. Similarly, Apple has committed to becoming carbon neutral across its entire business and manufacturing supply chain by 2030. This means its devices will have a zero-climate impact at point of sale.

In terms of leading nation-states, Scotland and Norway have made zero-carbon commitments by 2040. According to Tim, “that means all country’s electricity use will be from renewable sources by 2040.” Already throughout the year, some summer days in the UK this year were achieving a huge baseload from solar PV. The EU has made a commitment of 55% of energy from renewable sources by 2030 and zero by 2050. Moreover, the UK Government has made the commitment of zero by 2050. Tim explains that net-zero means that no carbon emissions are being produced from a product/service e.g. zero-carbon electricity could be provided by a 100% renewable energy supplier. Essentially, that means greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would be dramatically slashed and any remaining emissions offset, neutralising environmental impact and slowing climate change.