Designing for net zero

Designing for Net Zero is a design guide to aid the Company’s professional teams as they collaborate on development projects and aim to meet Helical’s ambitious targets as it transitions to a net zero carbon business. The guide covers the entire development process from design and construction through to operation and occupation.

The following 10 steps will act as a series of prompts to ensure that carbon is considered at every part of a development, from initial planning through to post occupancy.

  1. 1

    Site planning and building form

    Early basic design decisions such as building orientation can have a profound impact on the building’s carbon performance. Step 1 encourages early consideration of key criteria.

  2. 2

    Optimising facades

    The facade typically accounts for 13% of a building’s embodied carbon and significantly impacts on operational carbon through heat gain or loss. This can be minimised through appropriate analysis and choice of materials.

  3. 3

    Optimising materials and construction

    The choice of materials is fundamental to the embodied and whole life carbon of a building and requires detailed consideration along with other key design criteria. 

  4. 4

    Design performance

    It is understood that net zero carbon is a challenging undertaking and to achieve it will require a commitment to meeting demanding performance targets. The targets set must be realistic and appropriate for the project, benchmarked against industry standards.

  5. 5

    Specifying efficient landlord systems

    Overspecified and oversized systems are inefficient to own and operate, leading to a higher carbon cost. Optimising the systems starts at the design stage through challenging design standards and understanding the building's intended use and the occupier's requirements. Adopting a "same as usual” approach will not achieve the carbon outcomes required.

  6. 6

    Recommending efficient tenant systems

    A building will only achieve a net zero carbon outcome through the combined efforts of a landlord and its tenants. Supporting tenants in intelligent fit out choices together with optimising the use of the base systems is essential.

  7. 7

    Specifying intelligent controls/capturing data

    An essential part of achieving net zero carbon is understanding how building systems are performing and using energy. Accurate data must be captured and then used to optimise and improve performance.

  8. 8

    Managing occupier expectations

    Achieving net zero carbon means changes to our buildings, systems and performance which requires explanation and engagement with building users and stakeholders to facilitate understanding and appreciation of the wider benefits.

  9. 9

    Specifying on-site renewables

    A vital part of achieving net zero carbon is the adoption of renewable energy integrated into the design and construction of the building. Where renewable energy is used, the benefits should be clear and users engaged with the building's performance and operation.

  10. 10

    Monitor and verify

    An essential part of the drive to net zero carbon is the ability to understand how a building is performing and sharing that information with occupiers. Best practices can then be adopted, creating a circle of continuous improvement to the benefit of all.


Our guide to Designing for Net Zero