Editor: The prime minister’s recent changes to the UK’s important environmental commitments means there is an opportunity for a new focus when it comes to reaching net zero.
For decades, the built environment has been well aware of its responsibility to reduce its carbon footprint. As construction, maintenance and use of buildings is widely understood to account for more than 40% of UK emissions, the PM should also be laser focused on this sector’s contribution.
We understand the need to ensure the UK’s homes are safe, decent and energy-efficient, as we also work hard to repair crumbling schools, bring innovative science, technology and research to bear and create world-leading hospitals.
By supporting regenerative building and future-proof design, the government could make major inroads towards net zero. So much progress has already been made. Embodied carbon calculations are made for almost every significant sized new-build project. Our sector is adapting and restoring heritage buildings, investing in sustainability credentials, data capture and buildings analysis, and employing more experts. Many firms, like mine, are setting science-based targets.
Today’s projects prove buildings can operate efficiently by greatly reducing energy demand and their reliance on imported gas and oil, while improving the quality of spaces and occupiers’ wellbeing.
Climate-resilient architecture and our advance toward net zero is having a positive influence on the economy. Sustainable construction practices often use recycled materials and green technologies that save on construction costs.
Net zero buildings also tend to have lower operating costs due to their high energy efficiency. For example, adopting Passivhaus measures in the design of the Harris Academy in Sutton enabled savings of around 80% on heating bills, significantly reducing the school’s environmental impact.
All of this helps offset the initial investment required for sustainable construction. It can also regenerate and enliven urban areas, improve air quality, increase biodiversity and bring health benefits to our communities, reducing the impact on the NHS and the public purse.
Our industry is committed to reaching its goals. The PM should follow our lead and advocate for regenerative building design.
Golnaz Ighany, sustainability director, BDP