Net zero is achievable for the built environment sector by 2050 but only with urgent government action, new report states

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The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) has launched a Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap for the UK Built Environment (The Roadmap), detailing the necessary actions government and industry must take to achieve net zero across the sector.

According to the charity and industry-led network, the built environment is directly responsible for 25% of the total UK carbon footprint, and therefore has a critical role to play in the national transition to Net Zero.

Co-created by industry with over 100 organisations contributing, the Roadmap provides a shared vision and set of actions for achieving a net zero UK built environment by 2050, in relation to construction, operation and demolition of buildings and infrastructure.

Julie Hirigoyen, Chief Executive at UKGBC commented on the new Roadmap: “After all the talk, it’s time for action.

“The UK Government’s Heat and Buildings Strategy is a step in the right direction but fails to address several key priorities that this analysis clearly demonstrates are non-negotiable to achieving a net-zero carbon built environment by 2050.

“The Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap pulls together disparate strands of recent policy and action into one coherent pathway, with clear recommendations for National Government and Local Authorities, as well as the private sector and the wider industry.

“We urge policy-makers and industry to embed these recommendations into policies and strategies to make good on the promises and commitments of COP26.”

The recommendations of the Roadmap include:

1) Nation-wide retrofitting of existing homes.

  • Establish an immediate national programme of “fabric first” home retrofit to make homes efficient, warm, and transition away from fossil fuel heating.
  • Bring forward the cut-off date for the sale of gas and oil boilers to 2030.
  • Reform EPCs and introduce minimum EPC ratings for homes at point of sale by 2028.
  • Remove VAT on energy efficient retrofit building works and introduce variable stamp duty linked to energy performance.
  • Introduce direct government retrofit grants for low-income households.

2) Energy performance disclosure for non-domestic buildings.

  • Introduce mandatory in-use energy disclosure for non-domestic buildings.
  • Accelerate the roll-out of energy performance rating schemes across non-domestic sectors, followed by minimum standards and fiscal incentives.

3) Adoption of a design for performance approach to new buildings.

  • Reform building regulations to introduce Energy Usage Intensity (kWh/m2/yr) targets for new buildings from 2025.Alongside low carbon heating for all new buildings from 2025, introduce space heating demand limits (kWh/m2/yr), measures to limit peak demand, and minimum standards for currently unregulated key appliances.

4) Whole life carbon measurements and agreed limits.

  • Introduce the regulation of embodied carbon for new buildings and major refurbishments
  • Support and invest in industrial decarbonisation of key construction material supply chains
  • Use planning reforms to prioritise reuse of existing buildings and assets

5) National infrastructure investment based on the net emissions impact.

  • Establish a National Infrastructure Integrator with full oversight of carbon impacts

The ‘Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap for the UK Built Environment’ is available on the UKGBC website.