Chapter 4

Reducing carbon emissions through innovation

We have previously explored considerations of carbon neutral within the context of wider design and construction issues. In this chapter, we examine specific carbon neutral products that might be specified as part of a sustainable project particularly within commercial interiors.

Design and construction projects within the private commercial sector offer significant opportunities for working towards a future based on zero waste. It may be more appealing to create brand new state-of-the-art eco-friendly workplaces but perhaps the greater challenge is represented by the ‘re-greening’ of existing buildings.

According to the UKGBC, 80 percent of the buildings that will exist in 2050 have already been built so planning for the refurbishment of existing buildings should take account of carbon neutral opportunities wherever possible. At a macro level, cities across the UK including Nottingham, Birmingham and Manchester are now making a commitment to delivering net zero carbon futures.

Heritage and regeneration experts Peel L&P have recently become the first in the UK to deliver buildings with a net zero carbon status. They have achieved this by improving renewable energy use and taking action to reduce carbon emissions. The Vic at Media City in Salford is one of six Peel L&P buildings to be certified as net zero carbon. The landmark nine-storey office building of around 11,000 sq. ft incorporates flexible communal areas, natural green spaces and facilities to promote a positive work-life balance including bike stores, locker and showers, and fitness and exercise areas. Peel L&P invested £1.1M in state-of-the-art energy-saving equipment which is set to reduce energy and emissions by 60 per cent per year.

A micro level approach to carbon neutral workplaces requires strong attention to detail in the choice of products and materials. For example, Birmingham-based flooring company Interface claims to be the only business offering carbon neutral flooring products following the launch of its range of carbon neutral carpet tiles, LVT and rubber flooring products. Its ‘Mission Zero’ started over a quarter of a century ago and the business has consistently worked to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within its processing plants by 96 per cent. Overall, Interface has reduced the footprint of its carpet tile by 60 per cent and balanced what remains through carbon offsets to support renewable energy and reforestation.

Industry-leading Camira designs and manufactures fabrics for commercial interiors from office spaces to education settings and for the transportation sector. Camira is working with DEFRA and Leicester’s De Montfort University  on its Sustainable Technologies in Nettle Growing (STING) project, designed to research ways of using fibres from the common stinging nettle to create an environmentally-friendly textile for contract upholstery applications.

Nettles grow easily, even on brownfield sites, without the need for pesticides, quickly reaching heights of up to eight feet. Their sting provides powerful protection against predators and their fibres are strong, flexible and elastic helping to create fabrics with unrivalled fire-retardant properties particularly when blended with wool. Camira uses high-speed, energy efficient looms powered by renewable electricity to weave its nettle fabric and any waste materials are recycled for use in mattress fillings and as insulation material.

The use of LED lighting within office spaces reduces energy consumption by 80 per cent. A variety of luminaire qualities can be used to create a range of light effects in different spaces.

Providing lighting that is visually comfortable for users can enhance the experience of working in an office and promotes health and wellbeing. Humanised technology creates dynamic white lighting that follows the changing pattern of natural daylight, complementing the body’s Circadian rhythms.

Tuneable white lighting is created through a bespoke combination of multiple contrasting colour temperatures. Apollo Lighting based in Leeds achieved this as part of a project for Weston Park Hospital’s £7m modernisation project. Apollo answered the brief to create humancentric lighting in its cancer treatment wards to promote wellbeing and enhance the patient experience. The new lighting was designed to mimic the pattern of daylight through the adjustment of colour temperature and brightness, balancing health and safety requirements with restful tones.

BioCarbon Laminates, one of the latest products to reach the commercial interiors market, was launched at Futurebuild 2020. Produced in a carbon neutral manufacturing facility, BioCarbon Laminates engage in carbon off-setting by using renewables including hydroelectric energy, exchanging VOC-emitting resin for a water-based alternative, investing in global wind farm projects and countering CO2 emissions with a reforestation programme.

BioCarbon Laminates are unique in their zero-carbon status but continue to deliver all the critically important benefits of high pressure and solid grade laminates including durability, scratch and impact resistance, fire performance, formability and antibacterial protection. As a new, ethical brand, BioCarbon Laminates is hoping to encourage specifiers to choose carbon neutral especially as there is no price premium attached to its eco-friendly range.