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Frequently Asked Questions

Use the below headings to navigate to a specific section. These are frequently asked questions, answered by the Standard's Technical Steering Group.

Definitions

What do you mean by a "Net Zero Carbon Building"?

A building whose operational and embodied carbon performance is within limits which allow the UK built environment to stay within its own allocation of remaining carbon budget, in order to limit warming to 1.5°C.


We are currently seeking input via consultation on whether the Standard should require offsets to be purchased to balance the asset-level emissions.

2

What do you mean when you say that the Standard will be "science based"?

The Standard will set science-based limits and targets. According to the Science Based Targets Initiative, these are considered ‘science-based’ if they are in line with what the latest climate science deems necessary to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. We have apportioned the UK’s remaining carbon budget to determine a budget for the built environment, and this has been used to set limits and targets.

3

Can the Standard ever be 1.5°C-aligned if the world is set to pass that point?

Even if other sectors exceed their 1.5°C carbon budget, it is important for the built environment to aim to stay within its own. The 1.5°C pathway sets the budget - the Standard sets out what individual buildings must achieve to stay within it. This will need to be continually reviewed based on discussion and agreement between ours and other sectors.

4

Is this a certification scheme / assessment scheme / tool?

It is a ‘Standard’ and not a scheme or tool. It will provide a consistent approach to assessing whether a building can be defined as ‘Net Zero Carbon’, which can then be used as the basis for verification by other independent bodies, and could be incorporated into tools.

Technical

5

What will the Standard set limits and targets for?

A full list of characteristics and metrics are shown in the Technical Update and Consultation document. This includes setting limits on embodied carbon and operational energy, and minimum targets for aspects such as on-site renewables, demand flexibility, etc.

6

What do you mean by "limits and targets"?

"Limit" is used to describe maximum requirements that must not be exceeded, such as an embodied carbon limit. "Target" is used where describing a minimum requirement, such as an on-site renewable power generation target.

7

Why is Whole Life Carbon not used as a single metric?

We need to stay within a renewable energy budget for the UK, if the country is to reach Net Zero Carbon. This means that energy use is as important as carbon use, and so limits for embodied carbon and operational energy are set based on their allocated share of the whole-life carbon budget, and the renewable energy budget, for the built environment.

8

Will the Standard advocate specific design solutions or accreditations, such as Passivhaus?

No. The Standard is solutions agnostic. The Standard will set out out the performance criteria, but how the performance criteria are met is not mandated.

Application

9

What types of buildings will the Standard apply to?

The Standard will apply to new buildings, existing buildings and retrofits. The initial focus will be on the most common building typologies, especially those for which industry stakeholders already have robust performance data available to develop the targets and limits.

10

Who is the Standard being written for?

It is for anyone who wants to either fund, procure, design, or specify a Net Zero Carbon building, and anyone wanting to demonstrate that their building is Net Zero Carbon in accordance with an industry-agreed Standard. As a robust industry-backed initiative, the Standard may also be useful to policymakers looking to create policy to support a Net Zero Carbon transition.

11

Will there be different limits and targets for heritage buildings?

We have assembled a working group looking specifically at the challenge of applying a Net Zero Carbon Standard to historic buildings or those with heritage aspects. It is our intention that heritage buildings will form part of the Standard, but that they will need a parallel approach that takes routine account of conservation principles, as well as energy and carbon. This approach will be developed by the Heritage sector group.

Creation

12

How have you decided how much carbon budget the buildings sector gets?

An extensive literature review has shown that there is no agreed method for how to define a sectoral carbon or energy budget for the built environment, either in the UK or elsewhere.

 

Analytical work is ongoing to derive robust carbon and energy budgets from the Climate Change Committee’s Sixth Carbon Budget, the carbon budget will be ‘upscaled’ to reflect consumption-based emissions, rather than territorial (i.e., including embodied emissions that originate outside of the UK)

13

Who is making the decisions behind the Standard?

The Standard development is being led collaboratively by nine of the leading built environment organisations from which a Technical Steering Group and Governance Board is formed. The work is supported by over 300 expert volunteers working in a series of Task Groups and Sector Groups

14

When will the Standard be introduced?

For the Standard to be adopted in a way that ensures its traction and integrity in the long-term, it needs to be both technically robust and have a supporting strategy for implementation and governance.

 

As such, the Standard will be published for use when we are confident these requirements are fully met. Subject to receiving further funding to maintain momentum behind the current programme, we are aiming to produce a version of the Standard for Beta Testing within the next 6 months.

15

Why is it taking so long to write?

The Standard is the most thorough attempt yet to set science-based limits and targets for Net Zero Carbon Buildings in the UK. It must be sufficiently robust to ensure that it will continue to be useful throughout the country's transition to Net Zero.

 

Achieving this robustness requires; consensus to be developed and achieved from the full range of built environment stakeholders (each with different priorities and perspectives); management of the delivery of work by hundreds of volunteers working around other pressing commitments; and striving to back up all decisions with data as far as possible.

16

What happens if the "bottom up performance levels" and "top down pathways" don't meet?

If the top-down budgets cannot be balanced with the bottom-up performance levels through appropriate redistribution of carbon and energy budgets, then we will consider further consultation on the next steps.

12

How have you decided how much carbon budget the buildings sector gets?

An extensive literature review has shown that there is no agreed method for how to define a sectoral carbon or energy budget for the built environment, either in the UK or elsewhere. Analytical work is ongoing to derive robust carbon and energy budgets from the Climate Change Committee’s Sixth Carbon Budget, the carbon budget will be ‘upscaled’ to reflect consumption-based emissions, rather than territorial (i.e., including embodied emissions that originate outside of the UK)

13

Who is making the decisions behind the Standard?

The Standard development is being led collaboratively by nine of the leading built environment organisations from which a Technical Steering Group and Governance Board is formed. The work is supported by over 300 expert volunteers working in a series of Task Groups and Sector Groups

14

When will the Standard be introduced?

For the Standard to be adopted in a way that ensures its traction and integrity in the long-term, it needs to be both technically robust and have a supporting strategy for implementation and governance. As such, the Standard will be published for use when we are confident these requirements are fully met. Subject to receiving further funding to maintain momentum behind the current programme, we are aiming to produce a version of the Standard for Beta Testing within the next 6 months.

15 

Why is it taking so long to write?

The Standard is the most thorough attempt yet to set science-based limits and targets for Net Zero Carbon Buildings in the UK. It must be sufficiently robust to ensure that it will continue to be useful throughout the country's transition to Net Zero. Achieving this robustness requires; consensus to be developed and achieved from the full range of built environment stakeholders (each with different priorities and perspectives); management of the delivery of work by hundreds of volunteers working around other pressing commitments; and striving to back up all decisions with data as far as possible.

16

What happens if the "bottom up performance levels" and "top down pathways" don't meet?

If the top-down budgets cannot be balanced with the bottom-up performance levels through appropriate redistribution of carbon and energy budgets, then we will consider further consultation on the next steps.

Interaction & Impact

17  |

How does the Standard interface with existing Net Zero Carbon Standards for the UK Built Environment, such as the NHS NZ Standard, and the Scottish Net Zero Public Sector Buildings Standard?

The Standard will be a voluntary document that can be used across the UK on many different building types. Requirements for healthcare buildings in the Standard will be aligned with the NHS NZ Standard as far as possible.

It is likely that following the publication of the Standard, other voluntary schemes, such as the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge will be updated to align with the UK NZCBS target trajectories.

18  |

How does the Standard interface with the Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) buildings target-setting tool?

The Standard is an asset-level set of performance requirements covering embodied carbon, operational energy, and several other Net Zero Carbon related metrics, for UK buildings. The SBTi buildings guidance provides a target setting approach at the corporate level for companies in the building sector, designed to be applicable globally.

19

How does the Standard interface with other existing voluntary targets such as LETI/RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge targets etc?

The Standard is the most thorough attempt by industry to set science-based NZC limits and targets for UK buildings. The limits and targets defined within the Standard will reflect the most up-to-date knowledge and expertise on what's needed to remain within 1.5°C warming scenario.

 

It is likely that following the publication of the Standard, other voluntary schemes, such as the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge will be updated to align with the UK NZCBS target trajectories.

20

How does the standard interact with PAS 2080?

PAS2080 is a carbon management standard, whilst the UK Net Zero Carbon Buildings Standard sets the requirements for individual projects within the wider system of the UK built environment. The aim is for the Standard to be fully compatible with PAS2080 processes.

21

Will the Standard inform regulation?

This is a voluntary Standard for use by those wishing to describe a building as Net Zero Carbon. It could, however, be used to support policymakers in setting robust requirements that deliver buildings aligned with a 1.5°C decarbonisation pathway for the UK.

 

The Governance Board and Technical Steering Group are open to engagement with local and national planning authorities to enable this.

22

How will the Standard influence specification criteria?

The Standard will influence specification criteria for buildings through mandating certain performance limits, targets and requirements to allow buildings to be classified as Net Zero Carbon. These limits, targets and requirements will influence system and material choices and specifications.

Check out our Technical Update & Consultation - comments received until 31st August.

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