The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) has launched a Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap for the UK Built Environment (The Roadmap) detailing the necessary actions government and industry must take to achieve net zero across the sector.
The built environment is directly responsible for 25 per cent of the total UK carbon footprint, and therefore has a critical role to play in the national transition to Net Zero. Co-created by industry with more than 100 organisations contributing, The Roadmap provides a shared vision and set of actions for achieving a net zero UK built environment by 2050, in relation to construction, operation, and demolition of buildings and infrastructure.
The Roadmap quantifies, for the first time, the specific emission reductions across sub-sectors of the built environment that will need to take place year-on-year to meet the 2050 deadline. The analysis includes not only domestic emissions, but emissions related to the consumption of imported construction products and materials. It establishes a net zero emissions budget and trajectory to 2050, consistent with wider UK carbon targets and budgets as set out by the Climate Change Committee (CCC), enabling the government and the UK built environment to benchmark progress over the coming years and decades.
The recommendations include:
1. Nationwide retrofitting of existing homes.
- Establish an immediate national programme of ‘fabric first’ home retrofit to make homes efficient, warm, and transition away from fossil fuel heating.
- Bring forward the cut-off date for the sale of gas and oil boilers to 2030.
- Reform EPCs and introduce minimum EPC ratings for homes at the point of sale by 2028.
- Remove VAT on energy-efficient retrofit building works and introduce variable stamp duty linked to energy performance.
- Introduce direct government retrofit grants for low-income households.
2. Energy performance disclosure for non-domestic buildings.
- Introduce mandatory in-use energy disclosure for non-domestic buildings.
- Accelerate the roll-out of energy performance rating schemes across non-domestic sectors, followed by minimum standards and fiscal incentives.
3) Adoption of a design for performance approach to new buildings.
- Reform building regulations to introduce Energy Usage Intensity (kWh/m2/yr) targets for new buildings from 2025.
- Alongside low-carbon heating for all new buildings from 2025, introduce space heating demand limits (kWh/m2/yr), measures to limit peak demand, and minimum standards for currently unregulated key appliances.
4) Whole-life carbon measurements and agreed limits.
- Introduce the regulation of embodied carbon for new buildings and major refurbishments.
- Support and invest in industrial decarbonisation of key construction material supply chains.
- Use planning reforms to prioritise reuse of existing buildings and assets.
5) National infrastructure investment based on the net emissions impact.
- Establish a National Infrastructure Integrator with full oversight of carbon impacts.
Nigel Topping, COP26 high-level climate action champion, said: “As we start a critical decade for climate action, the United Kingdom can and should take a leadership role. This report epitomises leadership and establishes that the UK built environment has a comprehensive and rigorous plan for abating its emissions across the construction, operation, and demolition of buildings and infrastructure. I invite you all to use this roadmap for delivering a net zero future.”
The Roadmap was co-created by the industry through a project steering group and four task groups with more than 100 organisations contributing. Many of the recommendations align with existing industry initiatives such as Construct Zero from the Construction Leadership Council, and the Construction Industry Council’s Climate Action Plan as well as those contained in the recently published Scottish Government Heat & Buildings strategy. In some cases, the recommendations build on existing government policy initiatives to facilitate the adoption of further proposals and timelines.