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Operational Net Zero Carbon Buildings Position Statement

Summary of issue

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) recommended a target for the UK of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, which became a legally binding target in June 2019. The CCC assessed that this is achievable with known measures and technologies, alongside improvements in people’s lives, and within the expected economic cost that Parliament accepted when it legislated the existing 2050 target for an 80% reduction from 1990. However, this is only possible if clear, stable and well-designed policies to reduce emissions further are introduced across the economy without delay.

Key Points

  1. We consider that all new buildings should be net zero carbon in operation from 2030 (including all energy uses) and to allow this, all new buildings should be designed as net zero carbon from 2025.
  2. Requirements should be introduced on the operational performance of all buildings and incentives provided for industry to adopt operational targets; this should prioritise demand reduction and include targets both in energy consumption and in carbon emissions, in order to reflect the building’s overall impact as well as its performance independently from energy supplies.
  3. Mandatory disclosure of building energy performance should be introduced. This could be based on tailored approaches in different sectors, for example starting with the commercial office sector; in the housing sector, disclosure could be on an aggregate sample basis rather than per individual dwelling, to protect privacy and account for variations in consumer behaviour.
  4. As-built and commissioning compliance checks for all buildings should be strengthened and expanded.
  5. Appropriate skills and knowledge need to be developed to deliver net zero buildings at scale.

CIBSE’s Position

CIBSE has long been active on the topic of climate change mitigation and adaptation, and linking it to building performance. Nearly every new building constructed in the UK from now on will be part of the existing stock in 2050. Therefore, a policy that all new buildings should be net zero carbon from 2030, whilst ambitious, will reduce future challenges as retrofit is harder than building net zero from new.

Moving to a regulatory regime based on operational energy performance is a major change and will be hugely challenging. However, this is in line with the challenge of meeting the statutory net zero carbon emissions target. If that target is to be met, we need to start work now on developing an operational based regime, which should be ready for full introduction by 2025.

Further Information


Technical Team
[email protected]

Date approved by Technology Committee: March 2020

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