It is almost 3 years, (October 2019), since the UK Government set out its, ‘Net Zero Strategy’, in the ‘Climate Change Act’, targeting net-zero emissions by 2050.

With COP26, in 2021, reviewing, ‘The Paris Agreement', to target 1.5C, revised down from 2C, the Government introduced its interim target of a 78% reduction by 2030. With this date less than 10 years away, the property industry must play its part in shaping the built environment. Whilst the ‘UK’s Committee on Climate Change’ has recommended carbon reductions for new and existing assets, it has yet to put the legislation in place to support this. Some Local Authorities have been taking a leading role by targeting net-zero prior to 2050 and some developers are making commitments by way of signing up to standards regulation bodies, such as the Better Buildings Partnership, which sets minimum standards for developers committed to achieving net-zero carbon, but the need for more comprehensive standards across real estate have been recognised.

Mandatory Standards, across the industry, will be invaluable in effecting real change. It is almost 15 years, since the Government introduced EPCs in England and Wales, resulting from the EU Directive on measuring the energy performance of buildings and 14 years since DECs, ‘Display Energy Certificates’ for public buildings, categorising buildings A-G, making occupiers aware of energy usage and encouraging users to make recommendations to owners on energy use reduction. Since the start of 2022 there have been an increasing number of consultations on refining EPCs with the construction industry and
Government recognising the necessity to consider additional new metrics in EPC grading, such as carbon emissions and primary energy.

EPCs are only one tool in reducing emissions, and this has clearly been recognised across the property industry, resulting in a new coalition being formed to develop a ‘Net-Zero Verification Standard’, a comprehensive approach to verify and define buildings as ‘net zero’. The RICS, having recently joined, this coalition will have an important role to play, as a member of the Technical Steering Group, in setting performance targets to address both operational and embodied carbon emissions in existing and new buildings in line with the UK’s 2035 and 2050 targets. The Standard is to be comprehensive, extending into procurement and residual environment treatment, such as carbon offsetting. 

RICS members will have a significant role to play in the future, in the implementation of The Standard by utilising the RICS developed tool, ‘Whole Life Carbon Assessment’, to capture and measure carbon emissions data, aimed at supporting a  building’s strategy in achieving net-zero. It is also anticipated that surveyors will also be utilising the data collected in a new, shortly to be launched tool, ‘Built Environment Carbon Database’, which is to become the UK’s main source for carbon estimations and benchmarking for the construction industry and real estate.