With Clean Air Day in June and Net Zero Week following next month, what better time is there to address the question: what is net zero building design? Let us talk you through how Streif UK is working towards net zero and how, by doing that, we can help you improve indoor air quality.

What is Clean Air Day?

With air pollution linked to 43,000 deaths every year in the UK, our government and The World Health Organization recognise air pollution is the biggest environmental threat to our health.

This is why Clean Air Day, the UK’s largest air pollution campaign, is so important. Occurring on 20 June 2024, Clean Air Day:

  • Focusses national attention on air pollution
  • Helps increase public understanding and levels of air pollution busting behaviours
  • Highlights that a cleaner air future is possible
  • Shows large-scale support for clean air, obligating decision-makers to implement change

We’re on our way to a cleaner air movement. There are not only more Electric vehicle charging points cropping up but there are also Passivehaus Standards supporting cleaner air inside and outside new buildings.

With developing immune systems, lungs and brains, children are especially at risk. Air pollution can affect children in myriad ways — physical health, ability to learn and lead to death. But more than 2,000 of our schools, nurseries and further education centres are in air pollution hotspots.

Air pollution comes from pollution sources outside the school, such as road transport, and inside the school, such as heating and ventilation systems. This is why constructing our sustainable education buildings is such an important step in the right direction.

What is Net Zero Week?

Air pollution isn’t the only environmental issue that needs to be addressed, climate change is also of great concern. Global temperatures are climbing, and action must be taken to reduce carbon footprints. Net zero buildings are one of our best hopes to reduce energy consumption and combat our reliance on fossil fuels.

The UK’s official national awareness week and main net zero conference, Net Zero Week, is back for year four on 6-12 July. It unites all the stakeholders – from policy makers and business owners to sustainability professionals and academics – needed to make net zero happen by 2050.

“Net zero provides the greatest opportunity of our lifetime to enhance our energy transition in a way which will secure a warmer and brighter future. We simply do not have the time to waste and must seize the opportunities of net zero to avoid the challenges others will face for being not zero. Our environment and our future depend on our actions now and Net Zero Week is the perfect way to highlight these opportunities.” — Rt Hon Chris Skidmore OBE.

Last year, more than 3,000 delegates got free access to talks with net zero experts sharing their climate insights. This year promises to be bigger, and you can follow the buzz on social media using #NetZeroWeek.

Green house among wood houses with net zero symbols coming from roof

Net zero building design

But what do we mean by net zero buildings? A true net zero building accrues no net carbon emissions during its construction or running. Net zero buildings are designed to minimise the carbon footprint and reduce impacts on the environment. They achieve this through being energy-efficient, balanced and sustainable – they produce as much energy as they consume.

The three key attributes of net zero building design include:

Sustainable building materials

Naturally available or made from recycled or renewable resources, green building materials are at the core of net zero building design. Timber, for example, not only has a low carbon footprint but can also increase air quality. Did you know that Streif UK uses 100% PEFC-certified timber products, mainly Binderholz’s solid wood for construction KVH®, to create sustainable building systems?

Smart energy

Energy-efficiency can be achieved through high-efficiency appliances such as lighting, HVAC systems and insulation. Renewable energy sources, from solar panels to geothermal systems, create clean energy to power buildings. While energy management systems can track a building’s energy consumption and production to optimise energy usage and maintain a balance.

Passive House Standards

Passive design strategies, based on the Passive House Standard, are central to net zero buildings. They combine being eco-friendly with comfort and affordability. This means using natural light, ventilation, and shading to control temperature and improve the overall quality of the indoor environment. According to Passivehaus Trust, the specific clean air benefits include:

  • Working with the climate of the build’s location to deliver good levels of ventilation
  • Reducing internal pollutants such as VOCs
  • Dealing with internal humidity — eliminating condensation and mould
  • Improving quality of life for people with chronic illness or disabilities
  • Protecting against external air pollutants
  • Reducing the risk of airborne infection

Hailsham Community College Academy Trust sustainable building project

Streif UK towards net zero

In 2022, we worked with Morgan Sindall to build an award-winning new three-story learning environment for Hailsham Community College Academy Trust. A building that enhanced the wellbeing of students was a priority for East Sussex County Council.

The sustainable educational building achieved:

  • A BREEAM Very Good rating with calculated carbon savings of 1164 tonnes
  • A CCS score of 43 and internal Gold standard for air quality and water reduction

The Streif UK offsite manufacturing process helped improve the environmental conditions for the immediate vicinity and nearby residential estate.

Our advanced closed panel timber system allowed for plenty of natural light and air circulation. As well as the school being in an area surrounded by mature woodland for extra fresh air and carbon capture, a new green space was planted right outside and should be coming into its own now.

Before that, Morgan Sindall Construction’s whole-life carbon assessment tool found that using the Streif system to build Westvale Park Primary Academy:

  • Reduced CO2 emissions by 145.2 tonnes
  • Cut down on transportation by 84,000 miles

The assessment also highlighted that our use of timber from sustainably managed forests makes for a building system with lower embodied carbon levels than steel or concrete alternatives.

We aim to continue reaching for net zero – using sustainable building materials and meeting Passive House Standards while lowering carbon emissions.

To discuss your own sustainable building project or net zero vision, please get in touch with the Streif technical team who will talk you through your options.