UK Green Building Council Calls for New Construction Regulations to Achieve Net-Zero Targets

Posted on 22 November 2021

UK Green Building Council Calls for New Regulations to Achieve Net-Zero Goals in Construction Sector

In a bid to avoid falling short of net-zero targets, the UK Green Building Council has issued a warning that the construction sector needs new regulations. The council's Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap, unveiled during Built Environment Day at the COP26 climate summit, emphasises the urgent need for legislation to address the environmental impact of construction and building usage. Specifically, the roadmap advocates for the regulation of operational and embodied carbon emissions in new buildings, with "embodied carbon" referring to the CO2 emissions generated during the production of construction materials.

According to the report, current measures are projected to only reduce carbon emissions from the built environment by 60% over a span of 60 years, starting from 1990. However, achieving net-zero emissions would require more extensive carbon offsetting than what the UK's capacity for tree planting and land use solutions, including carbon capture, can currently accommodate. This limitation poses a significant risk to the UK's ambitious goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. To mitigate this risk, the roadmap puts forth several key recommendations, such as amending Building Regulations to include energy usage intensity targets for new builds starting in 2025 and progressively tightening limits on embodied carbon emissions.

Julie Hirigoyen, CEO of the UK Green Building Council, stressed the urgency of taking action and urged policymakers and industry stakeholders to adopt the roadmap's recommendations as integral components of their policies and strategies, ensuring the fulfilment of the commitments made at COP26. The report also includes additional recommendations aimed at driving sustainable change in the construction industry. These include nationwide retrofitting of existing homes to transition away from fossil fuel heating, removing VAT from energy-efficient retrofits, implementing mandatory energy performance disclosure for non-domestic buildings linked to financial incentives, adopting a design-for-performance approach in new buildings with minimum standards for key appliances, investing in the decarbonization of construction material supply chains, and implementing planning reforms that prioritize the reuse of existing buildings and assets.

Simon Bimpson, UK Director at Arcadis, underscored the significance of addressing embodied-carbon emissions and described it as a pivotal moment for the construction industry. He emphasised that substantial changes throughout the supply chain are necessary to meet the UK's carbon reduction commitments. Nigel Topping, the UK Government's COP26 climate action champion, commended the comprehensive nature of the report's plan, acknowledging its ability to abate emissions across all stages of the construction lifecycle, including the construction, operation, and demolition of buildings and infrastructure. The report's recommendations demonstrate a proactive approach and provide clear leadership in tackling climate change within the construction sector.


Share this article