According to the UK Green Building Council, existing buildings account for 17% of the UK’s total carbon emissions and need to be in the front-line of our efforts to tackle climate change. Taking up the challenge, leading supermarket Sainsbury’s has discovered a way to make its Durham store 50% larger, while reducing the amount of energy it uses by 10%.

The reduction has been brought about by using a number of technologies including onsite renewable power generation, ground-breaking refrigeration technology and the installation of 63 Monodraught sunpipe natural daylight systems. As the combination of technologies makes the energy efficiency of the building so much higher, Sainsbury’s claims the carbon generated in the building and the extension itself will be neutralised after just two years.

Commenting for the UK Green Building Council, chief executive Paul King says: “By 2019 all new commercial developments will have to be zero carbon, yet while it is essential that we build the most efficient new buildings, the real challenge lies in the 98% that are already in use. Sainsbury’s is leading by example with its ground-breaking Durham store, showing that it is possible to increase the size of a store and still reduce net carbon emissions.”

Sainsbury’s property director Neil Sachdev, who has previously described Monodraught sunpipes as providing ‘amazing natural light’, says: “We regard this extension as a great feat and a sign of things to come.”

A total of 63 sunpipes were supplied and installed by Monodraught including 19 of the company’s recently launched 1,000mm-Diamond Dome models, which are fitted in the extension’s double-height sales areas. These larger sunpipes are designed specifically to meet the demand for higher lux levels in the UK and mainland Europe, where buildings such as retail outlets, sports centres and warehouses are increasingly being designed with ceiling heights of 12 metres or more.

Other Sunpipes installed in the Durham extension include 33 530mm-Diamond Dome models in the customer restaurant and 11 450mm-models; six in the staff canteen, one in a meeting room and four in general and management offices.

Explaining the contribution sunpipes make to sustainable building, Monodraught managing director Tony Cull says: “Energy efficiencies result from reductions in ‘operational carbon’ – for example CO2 emissions from the electricity used for lighting – and ’embodied carbon’, which relates to the energy used in construction. The benefits are both economic and environmental, since using less energy means lower operational costs and lower CO2 emissions. Sunpipes, which are energy-free, are classified as ’embodied carbon’.”