Solar Green Energy UKGBC

Task group to draw up energy guide for net zero buildings

The UK Green Building Council has pulled together a group of property companies to develop guidance on the procurement of renewable energy and carbon offsets for the built environment sector.

This work will build on UKGBC’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Framework, which was developed to build industry consensus on the definition of a net zero carbon building for both construction and operation. The framework encourages reductions in whole life carbon and improvements in energy efficiency as the most important steps in decarbonising buildings but recognises that the procurement of renewable energy and offsets can also play a role in a building’s net zero transition.

The new task group will develop guidance for procuring renewable energy, provide a set of principles for offsetting outstanding carbon balance and set a transition plan for phasing out the future use of offsets. This guidance will support those using UKGBC’s framework to develop net zero carbon buildings and built environment businesses setting their own net zero strategies.

This project forms part of UKGBC’s Advancing Net Zero Programme, which has been made possible this year thanks to the support of lead partner the Redevco Foundation, and programme partners BAM Construct UK, Berkeley Group, Grosvenor Britain & Ireland, Hoare Lea and JLL UK.

UKGBC will undertake a consultation on the draft guidance in autumn 2020 to capture perspectives from across the industry.

Emily Huynh, technical advisor at UKGBC, said: “The importance and urgency for the built environment to decarbonise cannot be understated. It is critical that action is taken now to promote a more rapid step change in our transition to net zero, and many businesses are now grappling with the practical steps they will need to take.

“This new task group will work together to develop guidance that provides clarity on how best to address residual emissions during this transition, through the procurement of renewable energy and the use of carbon offsets where applicable. The group’s work will help demystify how practitioners can go about procuring quality renewable energy and offsets as the industry pursues a consistent and ambitious trajectory to net zero carbon.”

The task group is being supported by, and includes representation from, the following trade associations, professional institutions, and non-profit organisations:

  • BBP
  • BPF
  • CIBSE
  • Energy Institute
  • IEMA
  • Passivhaus Trust
  • REA
  • RIBA
  • RICS
  • SEA

The task group includes representatives from the following organisations:

  • Acclaro Advisory
  • AECOM
  • amber energy®
  • ARUP
  • BRE
  • Burges Salmon LLP
  • Carbon Intelligence
  • Carbon Trust
  • The Crown Estate
  • Currie & Brown
  • Hilson Moran
  • Hoare Lea
  • JLL
  • Landsec
  • Max Fordham LLP
  • Peel L&P
  • Syzygy Consulting
  • Turley
  • Verco
  • Willmott Dixon

In April 2019, UKGBC published ‘Net Zero Carbon Buildings: A Framework Definition’ which set in place a path to achieve net zero carbon buildings in both construction and operation. This outlined five key steps to net zero, the results of which must then be independently verified and publicly disclosed:

  • Establish Net Zero Carbon Scope
  • Reduce Construction Impacts
  • Reduce Operational Energy Use
  • Increase Renewable Energy Supply
  • Offset Any Remaining Carbon

These steps were built upon the overarching principles that placed the onus on the Polluter to pay; emphasised the importance of measurement and transparency; and to encourage action today and tighten requirements over time.

It is for this latter reason that offsetting residual carbon emissions have been included as the last step – i.e. to aid the transition to net zero. UKGBC recognises that there may be instances where net zero carbon in construction or operations is not currently feasible without offsetting the remaining carbon balance once all other prior Framework steps have been exhausted. It must be noted however, that carbon offsetting is not considered a solution to net zero. As a result, this guidance will also set out a transition plan for phasing out the future use of offsets for net zero carbon buildings.

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