Industry bodies have joined together to develop a standard for net zero carbon buildings in the UK. This new initiative builds on the UK Green Building Council’s whole life carbon roadmap report that shows buildings are directly responsible for around a quarter of the UK’s carbon emissions.

Better Buildings Partnership CEO, Sarah Ratcliffe, said the project will take ‘radical collaboration’ and will aim to address the market demand for an agreed methodology for defining ‘net zero’ for new and existing buildings in the UK. It is also set to cover procurement of renewable energy and treatment of residual emissions, including carbon offsetting.

The cross-industry steering group representing stakeholders across the built environment will agree a single standardised set of metrics for measuring whole life-cycle carbon. Whilst a net zero carbon building is one that has no net emissions of carbon dioxide from all energy use over the course of a year (including energy used heating and cooling a building), “whole lifecycle carbon” will go further in setting metrics for the embodied carbon involved in manufacture of the building and the operational carbon occurring over the lifetime of a building.

It’s no secret that net zero in the built environment is challenging. Building materials are traditionally high in embodied carbon, there are no legal standards that regulate embodied carbon, and arguably tenants and landlords lack clear incentives to reduce operational carbon.

Whilst the government continues to consult on minimum energy efficiency standards for buildings with the stated aim of minimum “B” ratings for EPCs by April 2030 for commercial buildings, there is a continuing dialogue over how to best measure energy efficiency and how it will be built into legal standards.

Although EPCs measure the hypothetical or potential efficiency of a building, the UK Net Carbon Buildings Standard will provide metrics more aligned to actual performance. These metrics could become a new gold standard for building owners and add importance to building efficiency to discussions around valuation and how it is managed as between landlords and tenants.

As the industry adopts a more consistent approach to metrics and net zero, it will be important to follow how this is in turn fed into new legal standards and for building owners and occupiers to get ahead wherever possible.