Verifying net zero carbon buildings
Currently, built environment stakeholders can demonstrate a building has achieved net zero carbon, in line with UKGBC’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Framework, by publicly disclosing information and ensuring third-party verification. This approach is intended to encourage a culture of transparency in the industry, to drive the uptake of net zero carbon buildings.
To demonstrate that a building is net zero carbon, a minimum level of information is required to be publicly disclosed, as per the templates 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 and independence from the stakeholder making the claim. The audit should clearly provide the sources and processes used to determine the net zero carbon balance. However, auditors are not required to verify specific figures (e.g. checking of energy meters).
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.
11 properties, including 6 whole buildings, verified as net zero carbon – operational energy (reports)
5 office tenancies verified as net zero carbon – operational energy (report)
New logistics warehouse verified as net zero carbon – construction (report)
2021 – ongoing
Best practice service aligned with net zero carbon – construction for nine projects (project register)
[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
[to be verified]
Committed to achieving net zero carbon – construction for a new restaurant
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.
Beyond UKGBC’s framework
In 2021, UKGBC – in collaboration with a number of other key industry stakeholders – conducted a process of market analysis to better understand the drivers for, and characteristics of, a potential verification scheme for net zero carbon buildings. The conclusions indicated a clear market need for a robust, accessible, and transparent verification process as soon as possible, which could be delivered through deploying an asset-level standard. Read the findings of this market analysis here.
UK Net Zero Carbon Buildings Standard
Responding to the conclusions of the market analysis, UKGBC has been working with other organisations and institutions to establish a project to deliver the UK’s first Net Zero Carbon Buildings Standard.
UKGBC sits on both the Technical Steering Group and Governance Board, responsible for the delivery of the Standard.
The call for applications to join the five task groups, each focused on developing a separate element of the Standard, received almost 900 responses. The Technical Steering Group is in the process of reviewing and confirming the task group representatives and the project should be progressing in earnest by August 2022.
Keep an eye on the website and sign up for the mailing list to stay up to date as the project progresses.