The post-consumer age? CULS Articles
A review of the current UK legislation and standards driving sustainable development and carbon reduction.
have noticed a real shift change in the rhetoric around the climate crisis, biodiversity and the sustainability agenda, even since my article in the CULS Magazine a year ago. As we emerge from lockdown there is a renewed focus on wellbeing and the collective masses are increasingly woke to our own integral link with the environment, something that has arguably been lost in our post-war, consumer-driven age. I urge you to read HRH Prince Charles’ book ‘Harmony’, Professor Tim Jackson’s, ‘Prosperity Without Growth’ (2nd edition) and Isabella Tree’s book, ‘Wilding’ which all provide enlightened views on the historical context, current situation and future hope around the climate crisis. A good starting point on the built environment is the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) work on ‘Advancing Net Zero’. This is a framework document detailing the approach and how to monitor carbon use at different stages of a development and provides guidance to ensure all existing buildings are net zero carbon in operation by 2050 and all new builds by 2030. The UKGBC framework intends to bring all aspects of sustainability including construction emissions, materials, embodied carbon and operational carbon emissions together with annual reporting and verification when in-use to demonstrate net zero carbon. Carbon-offsetting may well be employed as a fall-back to achieve net-zero initially. BREEAM 2018 now includes credits for the topics in the UKGBC Framework including enhanced operational energy modelling and evaluation in conjunction with Post Occupancy Evaluation (PoE) monitoring and verification of energy use and whole life embodied carbon assessments. Consultants have historically resisted POE because it tests whether their design actually works. Commercial developers often look to achieve the minimum number of BREEAM credits in this area and don’t demand enough of contractors on the delivery side. Read through a BREEAM report and you’ll find there are relatively easy post-occupation credits that can be delivered at a proportionately low cost. The British Council for Offices updated their guidance in 2019, making reference to the mandatory carbon reporting in ‘Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmarking’ as a mechanism to provide transparency in performance. They talked about the updated London Plan energy hierarchy to include ‘Be Lean, Be Clean, Be Green, Be Seen’. They are keen to really accelerate the upgrading and decarbonisation of existing building stock, especially in light of Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) which from 1st April 2023 will require all existing properties and existing leases to have an EPC of at least an ‘E’. The BCO also provide guidance on designing for climate change including BREEAM 2018 Wst05 credits and embodied carbon guidance provided in BSEN15978:2011,
Cambridge University Land Society 2020