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UK Green Building Council Outlines New Way of Defining 'Net Zero Carbon Buildings'

Earlier this month the UK Green Building Council (GBC) released its latest industry study 'Net Zero Carbon Buildings' which looks at what the Government needs to change if we are to push towards completely sustainable homes and work spaces.

Currently new buildings are required to have a SAP or SBEM calculation completed which predicts the annual carbon emissions from heating, hot water, ventilation and lighting. In their new study the GBC suggests these calculations account for only a quarter of the total CO2 produced by a building over its lifetime.

New figures show how more than half of a properties carbon footprint is created before the first occupants move in. These pre-occupancy figures are however totally ignored by current Building Regulations. The GBC proposes some form of Life Carbon Assessment (LCA) is included in future building regulations.

The LCA takes note of all building materials, including the creation of material, how far around the world it travels, waste figures and how easy it is to recycle. The LCA will also allow developers to score well if materials used are produced using sustainable methods and by using factories that are close to the building site.

The GBC go on to request a definition for 'zero carbon building' as it has remained a topic of conversation for the last decade.

The GBC suggest a defining zero carbon home in three stages:

Stage 1 (Pre-occupancy):

"When the amount of carbon emissions associated with a building's product and construction stages up to practical completion is zero or negative, through the use of offsets or the new export of on-site renewable energy."

Stage 2 (Lived in):

"...A net zero carbon building is highly energy efficient and powered from... renewable sources with any remaining carbon balance offset."

Stage 3 (How 'Zero Carbon' can be achieved during renovation work, general maintenance and end of life recycling of the building):

GBC have yet to finalise what this stage will entail but they intend to publish this in a later release.

While the GBC has clearly outlined both the inefficiencies with the current system as well as a progressive and adaptable way forward, we now wait and see if the UK Government takes note and acts on these findings to push us towards a true 'zero carbon' future.


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