carbon-negative Paradise office by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
A group of leading industry organisations including the Royal British Institute of Architects have come together to create a building standard that will verify net-zero carbon buildings in the UK.
Named the UK Net Zero Carbon Buildings Standard, the initiative will help the industry to ensure and prove that buildings claiming to be net-zero hold up to that claim.
The launch, announced by the Royal British Institute of Architects (RIBA), responds to confusion over the term net-zero and “a clear demand for a single, agreed methodology”.
It is also hoped to encourage the industry to decarbonise and help the UK to meet its 2035 and 2050 emissions targets.
Standard will “help the entire industry to move forward”
“This is a really exciting and timely initiative that will help the entire industry to move forward in its efforts to reach net-zero carbon,” reflected RIBA president Simon Allford.
“Working together we will address current ambiguities around the much-used term and develop a common understanding, based on clear performance targets, to support all those involved in the procurement, design, construction and operation of buildings.”
Net-zero carbon buildings are designed to eliminate all possible emissions over a building’s lifetime. This takes into account both embodied carbon, which are emissions caused by the construction supply chain, and operational carbon, which are emissions caused by a building’s use.
Any remaining emissions must be offset by removing carbon from the atmosphere.
As the built environment is responsible for around 40 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions, net-zero carbon architecture could help the UK meet its decarbonisation targets.
The UK Net Zero Carbon Buildings Standard will verify both new and existing buildings, and take into account both their operational and embodied carbon emissions.
The Carbon Trust among supporters
Among the industry bodies backing the initiative are RIBA, the Carbon Trust, the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE), the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) and The Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE).
The Better Buildings Partnership (BBP), Building Research Establishment (BRE), London Energy Transformation Initiative (LETI) and Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) are also in the steering group.
“We look forward to contributing to the development of this highly impactful standard, which will be instrumental in guiding the UK real estate industry, the construction sector and the wider built environment, in the rapid and urgent transition towards net-zero,” reflected the Carbon Trust’s director Dominic Burbridge.
“Addressing the energy demand of the built environment and the associated emissions is a key driver in accelerating the move to a sustainable, decarbonised future and we are excited to be supporting such an important and pioneering initiative.”
Delivery will require “radical collaboration”
According to the RIBA, the standard will be accessible to everyone and “anyone who wants to fund, procure, design, specify, or occupy a net-zero carbon building and anyone wanting to demonstrate that their building is net zero-aligned with an industry-agreed standard”.
The steering group is now looking for support from other industry figures and stakeholders to deliver the standard.
“A UK Net Zero Carbon Buildings Standard will be critical for asset owners and managers to evidence that their buildings are built and operating in line with climate science,” concluded Sarah Ratcliffe, the CEO of steering-group member BBP.
“An industry-wide standard will enable stakeholders including investors and occupiers to differentiate between assets that are net-zero and those that are not,” she continued. “It will take radical collaboration to deliver this project.”
Architecture is “one of the least well-represented businesses” in the UN initiative to get companies to commit to net-zero emissions by 2050, according to UN climate champion Nigel Topping.
In 2019, RIBA launched a voluntary challenge to help architects create net-zero carbon buildings. However, less than six per cent of UK studios have signed up.