Towards net zero carbon

Atelier Ten was part of the industry task group involving over 180 experts and stakeholders from across the built environment value chain, brought together by the UKGBC to build consensus on a framework definition for net zero carbon buildings in the UK market.

The framework provides consistent principles and metrics that can be integrated into tools, policies and practices to enable the UK construction and property industry to transition new and existing buildings to become net zero carbon by 2050 and meet ambitions of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Recent scientific reports suggest that we need to significantly reduce the carbon emissions before 2030 to avoid reaching the tipping point beyond which the climate change will be irreversible leading to significant change in the natural environment and our way of life. The group has hence clearly identified the need to minimise embodied (or upfront) carbon emission as priority in order to realise carbon reductions now as opposed over the lifetime of the building.

The framework also identifies existing best practice tools, standards and guidance which should be used or further refined to enable robust calculation and reporting of the carbon emissions. Some of the highlights include

  • Standard templates for construction (upfront) and operational (in-use) carbon emissions reporting to enable consistency within the industry
  • Pathway to whole lifecycle carbon emissions reporting
  • Consistent approach to carbon offsets
  • Minimum energy use intensity (EUI) and thermal energy demand intensity (TEDI) targets
  • Time of use emissions factors to take account of grid variations in carbon intensity and provide an incentive to shift a building’s energy consumption away from times of peak energy demand and carbon intensity on the grid.

Some of the requirements embedded into the framework will have to be developed by the industry in the short term and we are looking forward to the next steps.

The final report ‘Net Zero Carbon Buildings: A Framework Definition’ was launched at the Houses of Parliament on 30th April 2019 and can be downloaded from UKGBC website here.