The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) has released a new framework to help the construction industry achieve net zero carbon buildings in the UK.
Produced after six months of consultation with over 180 industry experts, the framework aims to set in place a path towards old and new buildings in the UK being zero-carbon by 2050, in line with the aims of the Paris Climate Agreement.
The framework has been hailed as a ‘first step’ towards consensus among building developers, owners/occupiers and policy-makers on how to make buildings zero-carbon across their whole life cycle.
Richard Twinn, Senior Policy Advisor 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.’
The framework, Net Zero Carbon Buildings: A Framework Definition, outlines two approaches for net zero carbon buildings which can currently be ‘accurately’ measured – one for emissions from the construction process and another for the energy used by a building in operation.
According to the report, any emissions from productions and construction should be measured, reduced and offset to achieve net zero carbon.
It also states the building’s energy use in operation should also be reduced and met through renewable energy where possible.
In the short-term, the construction industry will be challenged to achieve net zero carbon targets through new requirements such as minimum energy efficiency targets and limits on the use of offsets.
In the long-term, it is planned that the two approaches will be combined into a broader approach for net zero whole life carbon, covering all the emissions associated with a building from construction to demolition.
The Redevco Foundation, one of the lead partners of UKGBC’s Advancing Net Zero Programme, said the UKGBC’s framework will speed up the move towards more sustainable construction.
Clemens Brenninkmeijer, board Member at the Redevco Foundation said: ‘The Redevco Foundation supports initiatives that aim to increase the understanding of and accelerate the transition to a more sustainable, low carbon and circular built environment. The call to action can only gain traction when the sector collectively knows where it needs to go and how to get there.
‘The cross-sector and inclusive approach of UKGBC’s Advancing Net Zero programme is helping the industry to frame the challenges ahead and provides it with a clear definition and pathway to a net zero carbon built environment.’
The scope and ambition of the UKGBC’s framework will be gradually increased over the next 10 years in order to encourage contractors and supply chains to take greater action.
Last week, the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) gave a grant of £1.65m to a project aiming to create new technology to improve buildings’ energy efficiency.
Researchers believe that the project, which will develop new optical components to brighten daylight levels in buildings, could reduce buildings’ annual energy consumption by over 30%.