Planet Mark News

A cheat-sheet guide to sustainability policy and guidance in construction ​

Explore the evolving landscape of sustainability policies and guidance in the construction industry and the importance of staying ahead to achieve net zero goals.

Planet Mark
Planet Mark
Back to top

Staying ahead of legislation is a crucial part of the net zero transition, but it can be a confusing one, particularly in the built environment sector. Over the last few years, standards, guidance and policies have emerged to bring clarity and consensus to the industry, and to answer the question of what net zero could look like for the built environment. 

Globally, the sector accounts for nearly 40% of greenhouse gas emissions, and with floor area set to increase by 75% from 2020 to 2050, CO2 emissions will continue to rise unless we take action to cut carbon. The journey to net zero for this industry is a challenge, but regulations and guidelines help unlock key solutions and set a clearer pathway. 

Let’s take a look at the key guidance updates that you might need to be aware of, to drive radical decarbonisation across your business and buildings. 

1. Measuring the impact of buildings: 

RICS Whole Life Carbon Assessment Standard Second Edition 

This standard is used by assessors to calculate the amount of carbon emitted through the life cycle of a building. Considering the life cycle stages of a development, the standard aims to help manage carbon budgets, reduce emissions over the building’s lifetime and deliver a net zero future for the built environment. 

After a public consultation last year, RICS released the second edition, making the standard applicable worldwide. It offers more detailed information regarding the carbon costs and benefits associated with specific design choices in construction and infrastructure projects. 

UKGBC Embodied Carbon Scope 3 Measurement and Reporting 

Scope 3 represents a proportion of an organisation’s indirect embodied carbon emissions that can constitute up to 95% of its total value chain footprint. 

Charlotte Bowles, Sustainability Consultant for the Built Environment at Planet Mark, was part of the task group consisting of over 80 industry experts contributing to UKGBC’s “Embodied Carbon Scope 3 Measurement and Reporting” guidance. This aims to set out a way to coherently align embodied carbon assessments and reframes Scope 3 reporting as a singular methodology rather than siloed efforts. 

This report outlines how developers, owners, contractors, investors, lenders, and facilities managers can use embodied carbon assessments to report Scope 3 emissions over the lifetime of an asset. It also offers guidance on how architects, engineers, and other professional services can adopt project-based emissions disclosure for embodied carbon. This is necessary due to the challenge of fitting embodied carbon emissions into the current Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol framework, which provides a standard framework and tools for measuring emissions and is commonly used by organisations to assess their overall carbon footprint. 

With the UKGBC’s proposal to incorporate embodied carbon assessments into Scope 3 reporting, organizations can enhance the detail in their GHG Protocol reporting and gain clearer insights into the link between construction, building operation, and organizational emissions reduction efforts. 

Planet Mark Development Certification 

Our Development Certification, endorsed by the UK Green Building Council empowers real estate developers and contractors to make impactful, well-informed decisions throughout the entire lifespan of your buildings. Committed to staying ahead of legislation, our certification aligns with RICS, BREEAM and UKGBC’s Embodied Carbon standards. 

At the core of our certification process are building Life Cycle Assessments which play a crucial role in uncovering innovative low-carbon design solutions. By showcasing your dedication to sustainability through third-party verification, you can enhance your property value, increase stakeholder transparency, and maximise revenue potential. 

By actively engaging key supply chains and partnering with the Eden Project to connect with local communities, we ensure that sustainability is integrated throughout the project, while providing transparent communication of the project’s progress and achievements

2. Upcoming net zero building standards: 

UK Net Zero Carbon Building Standard – coming 2024 ​

Up until now, we have not had an agreed-upon or consistent definition of “net zero” for buildings in the UK. This standard will set out defined metrics by which net zero carbon performance can be evaluated, and it will provide performance targets/limits, of metrics including embodied carbon, that need to be met. This will align with science-based trajectories and apply to new and existing buildings. The panel developing this standard have included Planet Mark alongside the likes of Better Buildings Partnership, UK Green Building Council (UKGBC), RICS, Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), CIBSE, BRE Group, Carbon Trust and RIBA

An enormous number of responses were submitted during the public consultation, which is exciting and indicative of wider sector consensus and momentum.  However, due to the volume of responses, the publication of the standard has been delayed. 

SBTi Guidance for Buildings – coming soon 

There’s long been confusion for developers, architects, contractors, and property managers around how the carbon associated with buildings and property portfolios translates into a business’s Scope 3 emissions, and how the sector can achieve net zero while continuing to build for the increasing demand. 

This guidance will provide the tools and methodologies for this industry to align with the 1.5-degree pathway set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement. The aim is to establish global pathways for buildings embodied and in-use emissions, and provide guidance for emissions accounting and reporting, as well as target setting and validation. 

3. Upcoming net zero building standards: 

UKGBC’s Embodied Carbon: Improving your Modelling & Reporting  ​

The UKGBC’s guidance builds upon existing industry outputs to enhance the transparency of embodied carbon assessments. It assists the industry in accurately modelling and reporting on embodied carbon within construction projects. The guidance offers clarity on best practices for embodied carbon calculations, focusing on both life cycle assessments for accuracy and business-level reporting to ensure organizations capture the correct Scope 3 emissions. 

4. Tackling operational emissions 

MEES (commercial property) 

The Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) put pressure on landlords to improve the operational performance of their commercial buildings. From 1st April 2023, all existing and new tenancies fell under scope, and properties must now achieve an EPC rating of E or higher. 

It is expected that requirements will become increasingly stringent: in 2027 buildings will likely have to achieve an EPC rating of C or higher, and in 2030 that will increase again to B or higher. In any case, it’s going to be important for landlords to start tackling the energy efficiency of their buildings sooner rather than later, if they want to save money, achieve future compliance, attract and retain clients. 

5. Whole Life Cycle Approach  

Part Z Building Regulations 

Reflecting on industry consensus for further building carbon regulation, Part Z is a bill calling for requirements around reporting the whole-life carbon emissions of buildings over 1,000sqm, and setting limits on embodied carbon emissions in the construction of buildings. 

While not yet part of Building Regulations, the movement towards regulating embodied carbon is gaining traction – Planet Mark is one of over 200 organisations who have supported the bill. See below for how whole life-carbon assessments are already a requirement in London. 

6. Local council  

The London Policy Plan 2021  

The London Plan Policy SI 2 requires a third-party verified calculation of Whole Life Carbon emissions for each project, achieved through a building Life Cycle Assessment. This assessment must demonstrate how emissions can be reduced. The policy applies to both the City of London and the 32 London boroughs. It impacts any development meeting specific criteria: those with more than 150 residential units, buildings exceeding 30 meters in height, and commercial buildings larger than 2,500 square meters. 

7. Improving our homes  

Future Homes Standard – coming 2025 

From 2025, this standard will require CO2 emissions produced by new homes to be 75-80% lower than those built to current standards. This is essentially making homes “zero carbon ready”, to limit the amount of retrofit work that will be required. This will look at improving heating, hot water systems, and reducing heat waste, as well as replacing current technologies with lower-carbon alternatives (e.g., triple glazing, heat pumps, higher quality insulation). 

The standard is currently in development and is expected to be released soon. In 2023, a technical consultation on the proposed specification of the FHS was announced. Throughout 2024 and 2025, the standard will be implemented to prepare for regulations to take effect. 

8. Biodiversity  

Since February 2024, England has become the first country in the world to enact biodiversity net gain (BNG) as a legal requirement. Developers in England are now required to deliver 10% biodiversity net gain when building new housing, industrial or commercial developments. Introduced via the Environment Act, this mandate aims to ensure that development projects are planned and executed in a manner that will result in a measurable, positive impact on biodiversity and natural habitats. While numerous housing developers have already embraced BNG voluntarily, it is now compulsory for all.  

How to measure and reduce Scope 3 emissions

Wednesday 7th August 2024, 12:00pm - 1:00pm