Green Building Council publishes net zero carbon framework

UKGBC Report

Embracing modern methods of construction is key to cutting carbon emissions in the property industry, according to a blueprint for change released by the UK Green Building Council.

UKGBC developed the framework definition for net zero carbon buildings in a move to provide the industry with clarity on how to achieve the standard in construction and building operation.

From November 2018 to March 2019, UKGBC worked with BAM Construct UK, Berkeley Group, Grosvenor, Hoare Lea, JLL and others to write the guidelines.

UKGBC said the framework would “provide direction for addressing whole life carbon in the industry”.

Embracing technology

The framework is freely available as resource for use by building developers, designers, owners, occupiers and policymakers in the development of building tools, policies and practices.

UKGBC set out five steps to the target:

  • establishing net zero carbon scope
  • reducing construction impacts
  • reducing operational energy use
  • increasing renewable energy use and
  • offsetting any remaining carbon

Some of the technologies highlighted by UKGBC include vertical transport, smart lighting, energy monitoring in building management systems, and renewable energy.

When it comes to reducing carbon emissions at different stages of a building project, the UKGBC made four recommendations:

  • Build nothing, challenge the root cause of the need; explore alternative approaches to achieve the desired outcome

  • Build less, maximise the use of existing assets, optimise asset operation and management to reduce the extent of new construction required

  • Build clever, design in the use of low carbon materials; streamline delivery processes, minimise resource consumption

  • Build efficiently, embrace new construction technologies, eliminate waste

UKGBC said: “We will be working with industry over the following year to embed the framework and ensure greater implementation in working practices.

“We welcome input from any interested stakeholders from across the building value chain to help collectively work towards a net zero carbon built environment.”

Richard Twinn, senior policy advisor at UKGBC said: “Decarbonising the built environment will require a large scale coordinated effort across our industry. New technologies are certainly part of the solution, but in many cases we already have solutions they just need to be implemented, with take-up incentivised through strong policy levers and spearheaded by forward-thinking businesses.”

Marcus Franck, co-founder of Smart Renewable Heat, believes electrification of heat is important for shifting to zero-carbon property construction.

“Ground source heat pumps are usually the most efficient solution – if feasible. The sun heats the earth’s surface year-round, and this creates a consistent underground temperature within bedrock and soil,” he said.

“GSHPs tap into this as a renewable resource. For larger housing complexes, a single large ground source heat pump can be used to power the heating and hot water for multiple homes. This is one form of ‘district heating’ that is currently very popular in Scandinavia.”

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