For a long time there has been no common standard of measurement for net-zero carbon buildings in the UK. That’s about to change, as the industry consults on their technical update of “The Standard” – also known as the UK Net Zero Carbon Buildings Standard (NZCBS).
With no consistent measurements currently, there’s clear demand for one agreed methodology. This will make it much easier for the industry to prove that built assets are being designed, planned and built with climate targets in mind.
Championed by industry organisations including the Carbon Trust, CIBSE, IStructE, RIBA, RICS and others, the UK NZCBS deals with both embodied carbon in building and refurbishing, along with operational carbon. Given that the construction industry is responsible for around 40% of all carbon emissions, continuing at the same level of emissions would contribute to climate temperature rises of at least three percent. This is double the temperature increase agreed in the Paris Accord.
The hope is that by agreeing clear, consistent metrics, it will be easier to keep track of the sector’s impact, and easier to make positive changes. Change is more challenging if you don’t have accurate measurements. Or as management consultant Peter Drucker said, “What gets measured, gets managed”.
The team from the UK NZCBS will be focusing on fundamentals and metrics, the achievability of bottom-up levels of performance and top-down available energy and carbon budgets.
If you want to have your say during the consultation period, which runs until Thursday 31st August 2023, there is a 30-minute survey which you can fill in online.
There’s also a webinar on Monday 10th July, at 12pm, to outline the new Technical Update and Consultation paper, go through the key topics including carbon metrics and budgets, and to clarify the feedback the UK NZCBS want to hear from across the industry.
It’s important we have our say in this, but ultimately there is more work to do beyond setting a standard. I’ve said it before, but I believe it’s unlikely we’ll reach the UK’s target for net zero carbon by 2050 unless everyone involved in the sector, including policymakers, gets on board and makes significant changes.
At the moment, and especially in the current climate, costs are critical to any built environment project. Some carbon reduction strategies – such as banning idling vehicles on site – do reduce costs. Many incur higher costs. So, without policy change, it seems unlikely we’ll see the rapid changes required. It will be a long and bumpy road to net zero carbon, but it’s a road worth travelling and this new standard is, at the very least, a positive step along the road.
Meanwhile, if you need assistance with the structural elements of an upcoming project, please do get in touch.