Verifying net zero carbon buildings

Verification is essential to credibly demonstrating that a building is net zero carbon
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August 4, 2020

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This page provides further clarity on how building developers, owners or occupiers can use UKGBC’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Framework to demonstrate how a building, tenancy or portfolio of buildings has achieved net zero carbon, either for construction or operational energy.

Verification process

In order to demonstrate that a building is net zero carbon, a minimum level of information is required to be publicly disclosed, as per the templates in UKGBC’s framework (downloadable versions below). This information should be disclosed through an easily accessible publication, such as an organisation’s annual sustainability report or clearly presented on a website.

The information should be the subject of a third-party audit by an organisation with relevant expertise. The audit should provide transparency on the sources and processes used to determine the net zero carbon balance, however auditors would not be required to verify specific figures (e.g. checking of energy meters).

This approach is intended to encourage a culture of transparency in the industry and to openly share the approaches used to achieve net zero carbon. Additionally, it ensures any net zero claims are robust and stand up to public scrutiny. Links to example reports are included further below.

Note that the verification templates have been updated following the publication of the Renewable Energy Procurement & Carbon Offsetting guidance in March 2021. As this guidance superseded some of the information contained within the April 2019 version of the Framework Definition, UKGBC has produced a primer document which seeks to provide clarity on the levels of building performance expected for net zero claims, and acts as an initial foundation for future discussions on net zero verification.

Net Zero carbon buildings: Levels of Performance – Primer Document

 

 

Guidance on marketing and communications

Many organisations that are leading the way on net zero are rightly keen to profile their ambitions and achievements. However, it is vital that communications around net zero are specific and transparent to avoid misinterpretation.

Once the net zero carbon achievement has been verified, any public announcement should seek to provide clarity on exactly what the claim relates to, with a link to the supporting report. Some of the key parameters that should be made clear are:

  • Type of net zero achievement i.e. construction or operational energy.
  • Building type e.g. office, residential, retail, industrial etc.
  • Scope e.g. tenancy, base building, whole building, portfolio etc.
  • Dates of achievement e.g. 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020 (for operational energy).

The claim should use wording to the following effect: “net zero carbon has been achieved in line with UKGBC’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Framework”. The achievement is not equivalent to a certification and so terms such as “certified” or “validated” should not be used. It is important to note that a building cannot be confirmed as net zero until data has been verified based on as built LCA data for construction and one year’s in-use energy data for operational energy.

Current listing of net zero carbon buildings

Below is a current list of organisations that have verified buildings (buildings, tenancies or portfolios) as net zero carbon using UKGBC’s framework, including a link to their publicly-available report.

Date achieved

Organisation

Description 

January 2020

11 properties, including 6 whole buildings, verified as net zero carbon – operational energy (reports)

February 2020

5 office tenancies verified as net zero carbon – operational energy (report)

August 2020

New logistics warehouse verified as net zero carbon – construction (report)

[to be verified] 

Committed to achieving net zero carbon – construction for all new developments

[to be verified] 

Committed to achieving net zero carbon – construction and net zero carbon – operational energy for a new commercial building

[to be verified] 

Committed to achieving net zero carbon – operational energy for a new office building

Please note, this list is not exhaustive and is based on public announcements that UKGBC has been made aware of – UKGBC is not a registrar of net zero carbon buildings. If you would like to include your net zero carbon achievement in this list, please email a link to the relevant net zero carbon report to ANZ@ukgbc.org.

Improving the verification process

UKGBC is keen to hear feedback from across the industry about the application of the framework and the verification process. Some initial feedback on the process has highlighted demand in the market for a net zero ‘badge’ for buildings that meet the requirements. In response, we will be developing proposals to share with the industry over the next few months on how the verification process could be made clearer and more visible.

Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment

The reporting requirements for organisations signed up to WorldGBC’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment are separate to the requirements set out on this page. A key difference is that Commitment signatories are required to report on their entire building portfolio on an annual basis and must achieve net zero carbon by 2030. Further details on the reporting requirements can be found on this page.