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Making a difference as a Zero Carbon Design 2030 Advocate

Zero Carbon Design By Timothy Newcombe, Senior Engineer, Building Services – 24 May 2022

Sustainability icons in a circular formation over a green city scape


Tim in a blue shirt and suit jacket in front of a living wall

Timothy Newcombe

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What does zero carbon design mean to you?

By the end of my lifetime, we may be looking at global temperature rises of up to around 5°C. Whilst the idea of warmer weather (particularly in the UK) is nothing short of exciting, the reality would be witnessing a rise in sea levels, restriction of fertile cropping area, and unprecedented natural disasters. I believe, the most pressing issue for my generation will be limiting this increase by any means possible. Zero carbon design, to me, means ensuring the 17.5% of global carbon emissions (that’s the part contributed to by buildings) reduces to levels where we can make real impacts on reducing global temperature increase.

This means that the energy used by a building is made entirely from energy generated on site. This realistically won’t be possible for all buildings, so achieving a net zero carbon built environment is the end goal, meaning that all of the energy used by all of the buildings is generated without any release of carbon overall.

Why did you volunteer to be an advocate?

When I first started my role as an advocate, I was a graduate engineer with a driving passion to better my understanding of what is important in zero carbon design. While thought leadership is a key part of Cundall, it does not have to come from top-down. Zero Carbon Design 2030 is an element of the business that understands and values this. This has both drawn me to be an advocate and made the experience incredibly valuable.

Now, as I have worked on a few low/net-zero carbon projects, I want to make sure that those around me have an easy way to make our outputs (whatever that may be) suited to low carbon design. I enjoy being a contact for those in Birmingham who want to know what tools are out there, or what they can contribute to, or even to set up whole new zero carbon groups like the vertical transportation one.

In short, I enjoy the role of being a zero-carbon advocate because it is vital in ensuring that ideas and developments come from all parts of the business.

What is the plan is for your team so far?

The Birmingham building services zero carbon plan is structured around five topics from each of our five main partner teams, consisting of:

  • Zero Carbon Building Services Basics
  • Learning Resources and Proposals
  • Networking and Business Development
  • Zero Carbon Design Challenges
  • Skills, Tools and Recognition

As there are currently three advocates in the Birmingham building services group, I’m leading with the networking and challenge topics. It has been fantastic to talk to each and every person (technical and non-technical) within the two teams to get ideas for how they can contribute. These have ranged from setting up thought leadership talks on low carbon commercial design to ensuring that we’re reducing the carbon emissions of our very own office. Over the next year, our teams will feed back to the Birmingham office and the wider advocate groups to collate and rationalise our outputs and ensure that they make as much difference to the wider business as possible.