Atkins has been appointed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to carry out a nationwide study into how to decarbonise its entire property portfolio.
The assessment will comprise 50 buildings initially, mainly Job Centre Plus sites across the UK. The focus will be on analysing existing heating systems and insulation in order to recommend a zero carbon alternative to outmoded systems such as fossil-fuel boilers.
The project will call on a range of Atkins services including site surveys, analysis of consumption data and carbon emissions and review of assets (including space heating, HWS and ventilation systems). It will also require net zero carbon solutions, the feasibility of connecting to local heat networks, thermal modelling, benefits of solutions and estimated capital costs.
The first phase of the study, now underway, will include a detailed analysis of each building carried out by Atkins teams based around the country. Following this a second phase will be launched to provide guidance on decarbonising the complete portfolio of up to 850 of the department’s buildings.
Isabelle Smith, associate director at Atkins said: “As the condition and type of buildings included in the study will vary widely, they will need to be analysed individually on site, to ascertain how to decarbonise the heating systems in use. This includes building management systems data, utility bills and many other sources which are collated and sorted in a central database. We then use our engineering knowledge to show where carbon is being produced, benchmark this against other similar systems before identifying ways for this to be reduced.
“By building on and integrating our existing approaches to digital engineering and asset management – including use of digital twins – we can chart a data-driven decarbonisation journey that is easily visualised thanks to AI-enabled dashboards.”
A key aspect of the studies will be the compatibility of the new heat source with the existing heating systems in terms of operating temperatures and peak loads.
Smith adds: “A whole building approach is being taken, with fabric improvement measures being considered alongside alternative heat sources. The fabric improvement retrofit measures could include enhanced wall and roof insulation, replacement windows and improved air tightness. The extended scope of works for the 850 properties will include a strategic approach to ‘decarbonisation of heat’ schemes at portfolio level and development of a heat decarbonisation policy.”
A spokesman for the DWP added: “The decarbonisation of our buildings is a fundamental part of our mission to reach net zero carbon. We’re pleased to be working with Atkins on this important project and have full confidence in their capabilities and ability to deliver results we can work with going forward.”
The announcement follows the appointment of Atkins and Faithful+Gould (also part of the SNC-Lavalin Group) to the government property agency framework in 2021, as part of a major investment to accelerate the government’s net zero agenda. Over the next six years, Atkins and Faithful+Gould will work with the GPA to ensure over four million square feet of public sector office space is brought to enhanced sustainability standards.
The contract announcement also comes shortly after the launch of SNC-Lavalin’s Decarbonomics proposition – a data-driven solution to decarbonise the built environment in a cost-effective way and accelerate the global journey to net zero.