Subscribing to our award-winning Hub enables readers to receive regular emails with the top articles most likely to interest them

Chris Newman looks at the drive for a new zero carbon standard from a collection of industry bodies.

If you’ve not yet heard of the UK Net Zero Carbon Buildings Standard, then this blog is for you.

A collection of the leading organisations in the construction industry has come together to develop a universal standard which aims to help define exactly what ‘Net Zero’ means for buildings in the UK.

Market analysis shows that there is a clear demand for one single, agreed methodology, and the UK Net Zero Carbon Buildings Standard is designed to enable the industry to robustly prove their built assets are Net Zero carbon and in line with our nation’s climate targets.

The initiative is a collaborative development from BBP (Better Buildings Partnership), BRE (Building Research Establishment), the Carbon Trust, CIBSE (Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers), IStructE (Institution of Structural Engineers), LETI (London Energy Transformation  Initiative), RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects), RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors), and UKGBC (UK Green Building Council) who have joined forces to champion the need for one clear standard.

The UK has set legally binding targets to make the country Net Zero by 2050 , so it is vital that everyone understands what the methodology is, so that we can find a collective way to help the country get to Net Zero.

To do this we need to make sure that all new and refurbished buildings are designed with rigorous Net Zero targets in mind. Anything less risks the building owners ending up with a stranded asset 5 – 10 years down the line.

We all have a part to play, but there is no need for anyone to undertake this journey alone

Chris Newman Chris Newman Zero Carbon Design Team Manager

What will it cover?

The Net Zero Building Standard sets out metrics that can evaluate the Net Zero carbon performance of a building, as well as performance targets, and / or limits, that need to be met.

Although this is still in draft stage, these are likely to include energy use, upfront embodied carbon, and lifecycle embodied carbon, with other measurements also to be considered, such as peak loads and space heating or cooling demand.

The standard is also likely to cover carbon accounting, procuring renewable energy, and the treatment of residual emissions, as well as defining the role of carbon ‘offsetting’. However, the scope and output of the Standard may evolve throughout the development process.

Who is it for?

The final agreed standard is aiming at three broad targets:

  1. building developers, finance houses and investors, along with building owners and the people charged with running a building throughout it’s lifetime.;
  2. building industry professionals, including the consultants and contractors specifying, installing and commissioning the building and the equipment, such as HVAC that makes it a comfortable place to be;
  3. product and material manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors.

Ultimately It is for anyone who is looking to finance, design, build, specify or supply products for a Net Zero Carbon Building.

This includes anyone wanting to demonstrate that their building is 'Net Zero'-aligned with an industry-agreed Standard.

Once agreed, the new Standard will apply to both existing and new buildings in both the residential and commercial sectors. That means homes, of course, but will also cover offices, places of education, industry, retail, hotel, healthcare and leisure.

To begin with, the focus will be on the most common building types, which is likely to focus on public buildings and large corporations that have an agreed Net Zero target.

Why is this even necessary?

We are now well into the decade where we may finally run out of time to sort out the climate crisis.

The overwhelming consensus is that we must achieve Net Zero in the near future to have any chance of reversing the devastating effects that our current way of life is having on our planet.

So, all roads now lead to Net Zero and corporations, businesses, high finance and consumers are all backing calls for significant carbon reduction in the next decade.

For construction though, this means changes to existing regulations and new legislation to drive and accelerate the move to zero carbon.

At Mitsubishi Electric, we believe that everyone has a role to play and that there are four key steps that everyone must take:

  1. Reduce energy demand by optimising the efficiency of the building fabric
  2. Reduce embodied carbon by driving down the carbon impacts related to product and construction stage
  3. Bridge the “Performance Gap” by looking at ‘in-use performance’ against ‘modelled performance’
  4. Low carbon energy supply, using low carbon heat, hot water and electricity

We all have a part to play and everyone is at a different stage of the journey, but there is no need for anyone to undertake this journey alone.

Collectively, the construction industry has the expertise and experience to really make a difference and we have the skills and, most importantly, the technology that means we can make a start right now.

That is why we have been undertaking a ‘Road to Net Zero Roadshow’ to look at how this impacts on businesses and buildings at a more local level, so do look out for one of these events coming to a town or city near you.

And if you’d like to know more about the planned standard and how we can help you decarbonise your building, then get in touch because we can definitely help.

Chris Newman is Zero Carbon Design Team Manager at Mitsubishi Electric