Atkins launches Digital Dashboard to reveal costs of meeting EPC 2030 deadline

Everyone agrees that decarbonising the built environment is central to reaching our net zero targets. The residential sector holds significant challenges, as it makes up a large proportion of the UK building stock. To add to this significant challenge, the complexities of tenures from private ownership, private rental and social housing, make it difficult to assess the sector and create evidence based roadmaps. To bring some clarity to the issue, Atkins has assessed the country’s housing stock to identify which properties need upgrading, using publicly available EPC data, – as well as the costs and benefits of taking action now.

Explore the dashboard: Explore the dashboard: select councils, building type, building age or tenure to see how the CO2 savings and costs compare.

Hover over the map to see a summary of potential CO2 savings and costs compare for each borough.

As a nation, along with the rest of the world, we face the absolutely mammoth task of limiting global warming to well below two degrees. But, ideally to one-and-a-half degrees Celsius or below, compared to pre-industrial levels. This is something that requires a fundamental restructuring of global energy use as well as commitment from every single country to lower its carbon emissions.

In order to achieve this nationally determined contributions have been agreed by countries across the globe, which is essentially a national target for each country for reducing emissions.

What it gives each of the 196 countries participating, is a carbon budget that we need to work towards on a national basis – which is from the top down. But where we can each make a difference is from the bottom upwards, and it’s all of those smaller pieces that are added together, that will make up our national contribution and feed into that overall benchmark.

Of course, one of the most impactful sectors is the built environment, which itself is made up of lots of smaller pieces. From the high rise commercial buildings that host the world’s biggest organisations in major cities, to the hundreds of thousands of homes in the public housing sector – all have a role to play in reducing emissions.

According to the World Green Building Council, together building and construction are responsible for almost 40% of all carbon emissions in the world. Operational emissions, which is those from the energy used to heat, cool and light buildings, accounts for 28% and the remaining approximately 11% coming from embodied carbon emissions or upfront carbon that’s associated with materials, construction, and transport processes throughout the whole building lifecycle.

So, 40% of global emissions is clearly a staggering number given that globally the world produced over 34 billion tonnes of carbon in 2020 –  according to the Carbon Budget and Trends report 2020 of the Global Carbon Project. In fact, this was actually a 2.5% decline on the 2019 figure due to the reduction in transport demand due to the global COVID19 pandemic.

However, it still shows that buildings are responsible for 13.6 billion tonnes of carbon every year and that the construction sector has a huge part to play in decarbonising the world if we are to meet our global climate change challenge.

To do that, as building professionals, we all have a responsibility to find ways to tackle that challenge and crucially how to fund it. Everyone agrees that decarbonising the built environment is central to reaching our net zero targets, but being able to pay for it, particularly if you are a public sector organisation, or large portfolio landlord, is almost a bigger challenge still.

The picture in the housing sector is a little mixed as the private rental market has committed to ensuring all properties have an Energy Performance Certificate rating of C or above by 2030. However, in London the 32 boroughs have committed to bring its public housing stock up to EPC B rating by 2030.

So, in an attempt to bring some clarity to the issue, Atkins has assessed the country’s housing stock to identify which properties need upgrading to meet the new minimum EPC rating – as well as the costs and benefits of taking action now. One of the barriers facing local authorities is being able to obtain a clear picture of the performance of their housing stock, in order to make investment decisions and prioritise certain areas or estates.

By using publicly available sources we have compiled data covering every local authority in the county to map out the areas in most need of action. Using current EPC data as the source as well as digital mapping tools, we have been able to calculate the cost of upgrading properties in each area which can provide local authorities with a clear view of where they need to prioritise investment. This should also enable local authorities to accelerate their progress towards upgrading existing housing stock to meet the 2030 EPC target, while at the same time support the Government’s wider net zero targets and carbon reduction. Ultimately it will give local authorities a much clearer overview of the investment required to bring residential properties up to the required standard, but also the benefits of doing so.

With the cost of living and energy crisis at the forefront of everyone’s minds, the information we’ve been able to compile into this dashboard should enable local authorities to take action more quickly to bring down energy costs in their housing stock.

This would be effective not just for this year, but for decades to come, which is the perspective we need on this issue.

Reducing carbon has up until now been a key plank in the UK’s net zero strategy to reduce emissions. But given the events we’ve seen since the start of the year in Ukraine, and the impact on the global cost of energy, it is now also a vital cost-cutting measure.

As well as identifying the location of properties below the EPC target, the digital dashboard will also calculate return on investment in terms of the amount of Co2 saved per GBP spent on interventions, breaking down costs according to property type.

For instance, in the London borough of Newham, home to the 2012 Olympics, the estimated amount of Co2 saved per GBP spent on changing light bulbs to LED is 1.468kg.  The data also calculates the costs of installing insultation, an electric heat pump and solar panels, with the expected Co2 savings as a result.

The data compiled by Atkins suggests the capital cost for a complete retrofit on an average London property will be between £26,816 and £36,595, which would bring the total costs above £100bn for the entire city.

Local authorities know they face a challenge in bringing their housing stock up to the required level and this tool will help support the business case for taking action now, as it clearly shows how each GBP spent will result in reduction of carbon and crucially, the long-term cost of energy.

Our analysis and visualisation of the EPC database can also be extended to the entire UK. This analysis focuses on carbon reductions and costs for residential properties and has enabled our teams to unlock invaluable insights for other areas across the UK. The role of data in defining realistic pathways to net zero is a critical part of our approach to Engineering Net Zero.

While this project focussed on residential buildings and EPC data, our <a href=”https://enz.catchafire.dev/sectors-services/net-zero-buildings-cities/decarbonomics/”>Decarbonomics™</a> tool will focus on non-residential and buildings and estates. Our research and analytics demonstrate the significant value of data in addressing major challenges, and collaboration is central to this.

Scroll up