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Zero carbon chaos stalls progress

10 Oct 23 The UK construction industry’s ability to achieve net zero targets is hampered by a lack of agreement on how to measure carbon and what net zero even means, according to a report out today.

The cover image of Currie & Brown's October 2023 UK construction market outlook
The cover image of Currie & Brown's October 2023 UK construction market outlook

Construction consultant Currie & Brown has identified at least a dozen different standards for zero carbon buildings developed by different national bodies.

There are also many more regional and local standards, and other related standards for energy and wider sustainability, it says in its latest UK construction market outlook.

The report suggests that the construction industry collaborates to develop commons standards.

According to this report, 126 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) are produced by the built environment each year in the UK but fewer than 60% of these emissions are covered by building standards regulations.

“Shifting policies and the existence of many different sustainability definitions, standards and benchmarks cause confusion and inefficiency, potentially delaying progress towards UK net zero targets,” it says on the front cover.

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However, more hopefully, it adds: “The planned release of an industry-led net zero carbon building standard and the updated RICS whole life carbon assessment (WLCA) standard provide a basis for the industry to coalesce around a common approach and targets.”

It says: “Collaboration and coalescing around a common approach will be key to success. This in turn should give the government confidence in its ambitions and roadmap – and ultimately, enable both the industry, and the UK as a whole, to achieve its net zero targets.”

Currie & Brown’s report also criticises the government’s recent deferral of bans to carbon-based home heating systems.

Sustainability director Adam Mactavish said: “Extending targets can help relieve pressure on the construction industry and property sector. However, a question mark hangs over the necessity of these delays, in particular reducing obligations on landlords to improve energy efficiency will mean that occupiers and the nation remain more exposed to future energy price shocks. Surely it is right to reduce demand now, rather than subsidise avoidable consumption into the future.”

UK chief operating officer Nick Gray added: “The lack of clarity on sustainability policy and standards is a significant challenge for the UK construction industry. However, it also presents an opportunity for organisations to take a leading role in developing solutions and driving progress towards decarbonisation targets.

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