Framework for ‘net zero carbon’ buildings launched

The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) has delivered a framework for the UK construction and property industry ‘to transition’ new and existing buildings to becoming net zero carbon by 2050, to meet the ambitions of the Paris Climate Agreement.

BSRIA, part of the net zero carbon buildings task group which has supported the framework, says the group brings together over 180 experts and stakeholders from across the built environment value chain, and is being supported by 13 leading industry bodies. It was launched last November. BSRIA explained: “The framework offers an all-embracing framework of consistent principles and metrics that can be integrated into tools, policies, and practices. It aims to build consensus in the industry on the path to decarbonising buildings.”

The new framework recommends guidance for developers, owners, and occupiers, targeting net zero carbon buildings, setting out key principles to follow and summarising how this goal can be measured and evidenced.

Two approaches to net zero carbon are suggested by the framework:

  • 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.

BSRIA explains that “the next decade will see the ‘scope and ambition’ of the framework increased to boost ‘greater action’”. The Association said: “In the short term, extra conditions will be introduced to ‘challenge industry’, including minimum energy efficiency targets and limits on the use of offsets. In the longer term, the two scopes for construction and operational energy will be combined into a wider approach for net zero whole life carbon, covering all the emissions associated with the construction, operation, maintenance, and demolition, of a building.”

Richard Twinn, senior policy advisor, UKGBC, said: “The urgency of tackling climate change means 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 first step on a journey towards ensuring that all of our buildings are fit for the future.”

BSRIA adds that a verified net zero carbon building for operational energy is based on in-use energy, instead of modelled energy, demonstrating a building’s performance is at net zero carbon.