Unite Students’ pathway to net zero

Unite Students has released a document outlining its pathway to net zero by 2030.

It has set two overarching targets for delivery as part of its Sustainability Strategy: net zero carbon operations by 2030 and net zero carbon development by 2030.

The pathway outlines the steps to:

  1. Reduce operational energy consumption: Based on a target of 28% reduction in energy intensity by 2030 against a baseline set in 2019. This target is in line with the Carbon Risk Real Estate Monitor (CRREM) 1.5°C energy reduction pathway.
  2. Invest in renewable energy: Unite has made a commitment under the RE100 programme to source 100% renewable electricity by 2030 and will seek to purchase more energy in the future via corporate power purchase agreements that support the development of new renewable energy generation capacity.
  3. Reduce embodied carbon: Based on targets in line with the RIBA Climate Challenge programme, which require a 48% reduction in embodied carbon by 2030.
  4. Mitigate residual carbon: We will offset any residual operational or development emissions that cannot be removed completely using certified carbon offsets, aiming to prioritise measures that actively remove atmospheric carbon.

Unite Students’ in-house energy and environment team has developed a new modelling tool to chart each existing building’s journey to net zero – producing individual plans for each of their 173 student properties – setting out a route to achieve set targets.

Work to meet targets around new developments, meanwhile, will focus on site selection, material selection, design optimisation and cutting construction site impacts. Unite is developing a Sustainable Construction Framework to support this work and help ensure that sustainability considerations are factored into each key stage of a project.

Richard Smith, Chief Executive of Unite Students, said: “Our overarching business strategy sets out our commitment to ensure Unite Students makes a positive social contribution and reduces its environmental impact. This is reflected through our commitment to become a net zero carbon business by 2030.

“As the UK’s largest provider of purpose-built student accommodation, we believe our net zero carbon ambition also offers a unique opportunity to help generations of students living with us to adopt responsible living habits.  We understand the scale of the challenge, but believe this is the right thing to do, and that the change needed will make us a stronger and more resilient business.”

James Tiernan, Head of Energy & Environment at Unite Students, said: “The release of our pathway document is an important milestone on our journey to net zero. It brings together the tangible targets and more granular detail our stakeholders need to understand where we are currently, as well as the direction of travel.

“We have set ambitious targets and developed a detailed plan to get there, including substantial investment in our existing buildings. Our new modelling tool has helped us create tailored plans for each individual building – identifying how different initiatives change energy consumption, carbon emissions, operating costs and EPC rating – and is directly informing our asset management and capital planning.

“For new builds, we are focusing on reducing whole life carbon emissions, meaning we will cut embodied carbon while ensuring buildings are low carbon in operation and at end of life.”

Read more: unite-group.co.uk/sustainability/our-net-zero-pathway

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