If you work in the construction sector, and especially if you are bidding in the construction sector, you will have been confronted with varying definitions of what ‘net zero’ means in the context of UK buildings, and confusion about associated terms including ‘carbon neutral’ and ‘zero carbon’. Market analysis has shown that the industry agrees on one thing: the need for a single, clearly defined methodology. Leading organisations from the construction industry are now working together to create the UK Net Zero Carbon Buildings Standard to equip the industry with a way to prove that their buildings are in line with an agreed definition of net zero that will enable the delivery of the country’s climate targets.
Who is creating the standard?
The organisations working to produce the standard are the Better Buildings Partnership (BBP), BRE, the Carbon Trust, the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE), the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE), LETI, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC), so you can have confidence in the quality and authority of the standard. Over 350 industry experts make up the project team, and an initial call for evidence in 2022 provided case study data which will be used to inform the development of the standard, making it as inclusive and practical as possible. There are further planned consultations, so if you have not already contributed you will have an opportunity to feed in your experience and expertise.
What are the principles underpinning the standard?
The principles that have been used to underpin the standard for the development of net zero carbon buildings are:
- Prioritising energy efficiency and eliminating the performance gap
- Adopting a whole life carbon approach
- Enhancing renewable energy generation
- Ensuring that buildings are responsive to fluctuations of the electricity grid
- Prioritising the reuse of existing buildings and assets
What will be included in the standard?
The standard will include:
- Performance targets to be met, which are likely to include:
- Energy use
- Upfront embodied carbon
Also being considered for inclusion are:
- Space heating/cooling demand
- Peak load
- Approach to carbon accounting
- Procuring renewable energy
- Treatment of residual emissions, including carbon ‘offsetting’
How are targets decided?
Targets to be included in the standard will be calculated to align with the UK’s target of net zero by 2050 and a 78% reduction by 2035. The work to define the targets will also factor in plans for a net zero carbon energy supply sector, considering the necessary energy demand reductions to achieve this and the impact this will have on the construction industry.
The industry bodies working on the standard have analysed the UK’s Sixth Carbon Budget as well as data from across the sector.
Is the standard relevant to you?
The standard will be relevant to:
- Asset owners and managers
- Building industry professionals
- Building managers
- Product/material managers
- Anyone who wants to show that their building aligns with an industry-approved net zero standard
The standard is being designed to be relevant to both new and existing buildings.
When will the standard be launched?
The standard will be launched in Winter 2023.
What does this mean in practice?
While the standard is voluntary, given the overwhelming support from key organisations in the sector and the time and effort that over 350 experts are putting in to developing a fit-for-purpose standard, it is likely to start impacting the way the industry approaches net zero design. It is likely that you will need to start evidencing how your design approach and your building-related policies align with the principles of the standard, particularly when bidding for contracts.
This means you will need to demonstrate that you are:
- Reviewing and adapting your approach where needed
- Updating your policies and procedures to deliver the agreed definition of net zero carbon buildings
- Transitioning from a focus on EPC ratings to adopting metrics of absolute performance outcomes in terms of energy use intensity
- Taking a whole life carbon approach including limits on embodied carbon, limits on operation energy and the introduction of mandatory lifecycle assessments
- Maximising the potential for buildings to generate onsite renewable energy to accelerate the transition from fossil fuel-based electricity
- Designing buildings that are responsive to fluctuations of the electricity grid. For instance, by using demand side response (DSR) technologies and approaches, such as thermal storage, electrical batteries, smart appliances and managed/V2G electric vehicle charging
- Prioritising the reuse of existing buildings and assets through retrofit, refurbishment and change of use or repurposing works
What can I be doing now to prepare?
To be in the best position when the standard is released, you should be preparing now. You can start by:
- Familiarising yourself with the details of the work being done to create the standard
- Responding to calls for evidence and consultation requests to ensure you help to shape the standard
- Reviewing your existing net zero approach: how are you measuring your impact?
- Assessing how much of your work currently aligns with the standard and how much will need to change, and planning a timeline for the changes
- Updating your bid library so your documents are aligned with the standard
If you would benefit from support updating your bid library to get ready for the imminent UK Net Zero Carbon Buildings Standard, AM Bid can help. Our experienced team of bidding professionals have an impressive win rate of over 80% and can support you with all elements of the bid process, from developing your bid library content to full end-to-end bid management.