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News & opinion

23 JUN 2022

Opportunities to meet net zero in the UK

The need to address climate change has become an increasing priority globally in recent decades, accelerated by the race to reach net-zero carbon. Rising temperatures are having an impact on the environment, ways of living and the future of the planet.

As construction generates around 40% of the world’s emissions, the industry is itself looking to adapt and ensure it is actively supporting the effort to achieve net . Professionals wanting to learn more can hear from a range of experts on this and other issues at the RICS UK QS and Construction Conference 2022.


Setting net-zero targets

Governments around the world have set targets to reduce emissions. Events such as COP26, held in Glasgow last November, have given global leaders an opportunity to unite and outline both their intentions and the actions they are currently taking to reach net zero.

This includes the UK, which reaffirmed in Glasgow its net-zero target for 2050, as well as sharing detail of how this would be achieved in its Net Zero Strategy.

The construction industry contributes to around 40% of the world’s carbon emissions. With rising concerns, the industry is looking at ways to adapt to ensure that UK construction is actively supporting the path to Net Zero.The strategy focuses on a variety of actions. These include developing greener energy supplies, transport systems and buildings, as well as initiatives supporting the transition to net zero across the economy.

But while these are positive goals, how does the UK government decide the targets it sets?

These are based on a body of evidence put forward by industry experts, community action groups and policy-makers. This has led to the introduction of that make it mandatory for the UK’s largest companies to disclose their climate-related risks and opportunities, and commit more explicitly to making the world greener. This affects every aspect of the built environment sector.


How can UK construction help achieve net zero goals?

The highlighted the need for construction to make a greater contribution towards meeting net-zero ambitions. Almost two-thirds of the thousands of professionals consulted for the report named minimising waste as a priority for the sector. However, only half suggested there had been an increase in demand for recycled and reused construction materials.

Debate about the pros and cons of concrete, cement and steel is ongoing, and the desire to repurpose and reuse buildings instead of demolishing them has been steadily increasing. Rather than putting up new buildings in place of old ones, the construction sector can help to meet net-zero goals by making repairs or replacing less eco-friendly materials with greener alternatives.

The UK Net Zero Strategy also aims to decarbonise buildings’ heating and power, and gives construction a key role in fulfilling this goal.


RICS standards and the path to net zero

With the UK’s largest businesses now mandated to disclose their climate-related risks and opportunities, in line with recommendations from the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), there is greater emphasis on surveying and construction professionals having the knowledge necessary to evaluate a building’s sustainability in a holistic way.

RICS is working to help the sector comply with its new obligations, and has joined a coalition to develop a net-zero verification standard. This involves built environment and real-estate bodies working together to ensure a comprehensive and consistent approach to defining and verifying buildings as net zero.

With so many influences on what we build, how we build and what materials we use, the construction sector must adapt. ICMS 3, the whole life carbon assessment for the built environment, RICS professional statement, and the International Building Operation Standard can offer global consistency across construction projects.

Given this growing need for better visibility of construction’s climate impacts, quantity surveyors can play a key role in supporting the net-zero transition.


RICS UK QS and Construction Conference 2022