Bruntwood's Ev0 scheme will feature a timber frame and is billed as one of the UK's most sustainable buildings. Credit: via Citypress

MPs want mandatory whole-life carbon assessments 

“If the UK continues to drag its feet on embodied carbon, it will not meet net zero or its carbon budgets,” warned the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee.

Introducing mandatory whole-life carbon assessments to address the impact of embodied carbon in the built environment was the top priority put forward by the committee in a report published today (Thursday). 

Whole-life carbon assessments should be introduced no later than December 2023, the committee said. 

Fewer demolitions and a push towards using more timber in construction were among the other recommendations in the report. 

The committee said that the government has shown a “lack of impetus or policy levers” to reduce emissions in the built environment, which is responsible for 25% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. 

“With climate deadlines looming, urgent action is needed,” the report warns. 

The three keys to tackling emissions in the built environment according to the report are: 

Introducing standardised, mandatory whole-life carbon assessments – The committee is calling for more of a focus on addressing embodied carbon, rather than just concentrating on how efficient a building is operationally. At present, there is no policy in place in the UK that forces developers to assess or control embodied carbon, which “leaves the UK slipping behind comparator countries in Europe”, the report states.  

– Introducing incentives to encourage increased use of low carbon building materials such as timber – It is hoped that introducing incentives will see an uptake in the use and development of sustainable materials in construction. These obstacles include fire risk and insurance, price volatility, securing sustainable and local supply chains, and addressing skills gaps, according to the report. “The Government has made little progress addressing these barriers in the last three years,” the committee said. 

Fewer demolitions, more refurbishments – The committee said there is “insufficient evidence” to suggest the government is promoting the benefits of re-using and retrofitting buildings ahead of demolition. “Retrofit and reuse of buildings, keeping the carbon locked in, should be prioritised over new-build,” the committee said. 

Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, said: “From homes to offices, retail units to hospitality venues, our buildings have a significant amount of locked-in carbon, which is wasted each time they get knocked down to be rebuilt, a process which produces yet more emissions. 

“As in many other areas in the drive to net zero, the UK must have the green skills to make its low carbon future a reality. Before the summer recess in July, I urge the government to publish a retrofit strategy and upskilling programme that can ensure the UK economy will have the green jobs necessary to deliver a low-carbon built environment.” 

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Absolutely right. It’s well past time that we legislate on embodied carbon, standardise mandatory whole-life carbon calculations, and make sure that renovating buildings costs the same or less VAT than new builds.

By W

As a designer I also support this and hope that there will be a clear and robust strategy to ensure consistency in methodology and presentation of the assessments. I hope that it becomes mandatory to update the assement at key milestones and to include it as essential information as part of any sale/lease of property; along with energy use intensity.

By Paul

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