The UK Green Building Council has, in the wake of COP26, launched its 'Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap'. It aims to 'outline a common vision and agree upon industry-wide actions for achieving net zero carbon in the construction, operation and demolition of buildings and infrastructure in the UK'. 

More specifically a green building roadmap has been produced that details actions that the Government and property industry need to take to make Britain's built environment more sustainable and energy efficient. For the first time specific emissions reduction levels are quantified across sub-sectors of the built environment that will need to take place each year to meet the 2050 deadline. The recommendations go beyond the steps set out in the Government's recently published Heat and Buildings strategy, leading to calls for further legislation.

The five steps 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.

This comprehensive plan shows that as a nation we have the knowledge and expertise to deliver what is required to abate emissions in our sector. However, in order to be a world leader on carbon reduction, the UK really must enact stricter legislative controls in respect to not only the built environment but across all areas of industry. It is only through tighter controls at both national and local level alongside specific targeted funding that we will ensure real change.