01 May 2019 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) has unveiled a framework for the UK construction and property sector to transition new and existing buildings to become net zero carbon by 2050, in accord with the Paris climate agreement.
The report follows six months of intense industry engagement involving more than 180 experts and stakeholders from across the built environment value chain, and is supported by 13 trade associations and industry bodies.
It provides an overarching framework of consistent principles and metrics that can be integrated into tools, policies and practices, and aims to build consensus in the industry on the approach to decarbonising buildings.
The framework offers guidance for developers, owners and occupiers targeting net zero carbon buildings, setting out key principles to follow and outlining how such a claim should be measured and evidenced.
Two approaches to net zero carbon are proposed by the framework, which can be accurately measured:
Net zero carbon - construction: the embodied emissions associated with products and construction should be measured, reduced and offset to achieve net zero carbon.
Net zero carbon - operational energy: The energy used by the building in operation should be reduced and where possible any demand met through renewable energy. Any remaining emissions from operational energy use should be offset to achieve net zero carbon.
With the report presented as a starting point, "the next 10 years will see the scope and ambition of the framework increased to encourage greater action".
In the short term, additional requirements will be introduced to challenge the industry, including minimum energy-efficiency targets and limits on the use of offsets. In the longer term, the two approaches for construction and operational energy will be integrated into a broader approach for net zero whole-life carbon, covering all of the emissions associated with the construction, operation, maintenance and demolition of a building.
Richard Twinn, senior policy adviser at UKGBC, said: "The urgency of tackling climate change means that businesses must work together to drive down emissions as fast as possible. But this requires a shared vision for what needs to be achieved and the action that needs to be taken. This framework is intended as a catalyst for the construction and property industry to build consensus on the transition to net zero carbon buildings and start to work towards consistent and ambitious outcomes. It is the first step on a journey towards ensuring all of our buildings are fit for the future."
James Wimpenny, chief executive at BAM Construct UK, said: "Contractors, clients, supply chains need to work together - and quickly - to radically change the way we procure, design and deliver buildings. Smart use of renewable technologies and efficient use of low-carbon materials are a priority. Reducing carbon makes financial sense over the life cycle of buildings and that means we should not focus solely on capital costs when procuring a building."
Rob Perrins, chief executive at Berkeley Group, said: "This framework is an important step towards defining net zero carbon buildings and helping the industry understand how they can be delivered. We want to help lead this work, which is so important to decarbonising the built environment and protecting our planet for future generations. Sustainability runs through everything we do at Berkeley Group. We have already become a carbon-positive business and have committed to creating new homes that can operate at net zero carbon by 2030."
Sophie Walker, head of sustainability at JLL UK, said: "We must advance net zero carbon in the built environment at an extraordinary pace, driving transformation never seen before in our sector. The clear definition, released today, is the starting gun, and mass education will need to follow. At JLL, we manage 400 million square metres of buildings and influence £139 billion of property transactions - we will use our unique position to catalyse change, at scale, towards net zero carbon."