With the COP26 Glasgow conference fast approaching, CIBSE’s Julie Godefroy outlines the associated events and activities in which the Institution is taking part and supporting, as well as its upcoming guidance

It seems everyone will be ‘at COP’ these days. In practice, professional institutions such as CIBSE typically do not attend COP, except on rare occasions as observers. COP itself is for the negotiating parties – governments and approved representations from communities, NGOs and scientists. 

However, many associated events are organised alongside the conference, either within the UN’s ‘Green Zone’ or independently, outside the UN umbrella, in Glasgow or online. 

With so many organisations wanting to contribute in one way or another in the past few months, COP has certainly proved useful for raising awareness and catalysing action among industry and policy-makers. CIBSE took the view that the most effective and appropriate way to play a part was to: 

  • Support the efforts of others for a high-profile and coordinated representation of the built environment sector and what it can contribute to net zero
  • Support our members with the ongoing development of guidance and events related to net zero. 

This column gives a summary of CIBSE activities and events during COP26; you can find a more detailed list – and information on our wider action on climate change – in our dedicated COP26 page.

Collective action

CIBSE’s work on climate action will be represented in the COP Green Zone as part of the Construction Leadership Council’s (CLC’s) event on 11 November, Built Environment Day. The Construction Industry Council will present Carbon Zero, the cross-industry climate action plan to which CIBSE signed up, and in which we have had an influential role from the start. 

There’s nothing like a big deadline to make things happen, and CIBSE will be having a series of events during COP

The actions we have committed to in this plan are substantial, and range from a review of accredited degrees and CPD requirements through to joint industry targets, guidance and associated professional obligations. Some actions can be implemented in the short term and are within the remit of individual institutions, while others are more deeply transformative, requiring longer-term work and collaboration across institutions. All signatories have committed to publish an implementation plan by COP, and CIBSE will publish its plan on 11 November, to coincide with the CLC event. 

CIBSE is also supporting several organisations arranging events around the timing of COP – for example, the UK Green Building Council’s Build Better Pavilion, and a series of videos produced by the Royal Academy of Engineering on net zero. 

CIBSE net zero guidance and events 

There’s nothing like a big deadline to make things happen, and CIBSE will be having a series of announcements and events during COP to capture activities from the past few months. 

These will include the launch of a new publication on electrical engineering for net zero. The guidance will add to the CIBSE body of guidance on net zero, all of which is mapped on our net zero page against each step of the recommended hierarchy, from passive design through to monitoring and evaluation. The page is regularly updated. 

In the following weeks and months, you can also expect new publications, including:

  • Embodied carbon in residential heating systems, following the huge interest in the TM65 methodology
  • A revision to TM54 on energy-performance modelling: this recognises the development of advanced modelling expertise and increasing onus on energy-modelling predictions in the context of net zero targets, contractual performance requirements, and the new requirements for energy-performance modelling in the draft Approved Document L for new non-domestic buildings. 

Our regular Grow Your Knowledge webinars, which are free to access for all, regularly include themes relevant to the net zero agenda, and we will highlight those during COP. 

Finally, we have been working on net zero definitions and are planning to produce an FAQ jointly with the London Energy Transformation Initiative (LETI), to accompany the LETI-Whole-Life Carbon Network set of definitions. 

We will run a survey over the first two weeks of November to gather feedback and test opinions from our members, and will have an event on 8 November – co-organised with the CIBSE Energy Performance Group (EPG) and Young EPG, for some live debate around key aspects of the survey. For example, the incorporation of energy targets and how to treat a decarbonising grid within the ‘net zero carbon – energy use’ definition. 

You can find some of the questions to be covered in the FAQs in my column in the October 2021 CIBSE Journal. Look out for the survey and event, and do get in touch to add your questions to the list, or to comment on the current definitions. 


Normal work also continues, with regular consultations on building performance and the net zero agenda. For example, CIBSE recently submitted a response to the consultation on a low carbon hydrogen standard. Given the significant uncertainty around cost implications and technical feasibility of low carbon hydrogen production, CIBSE has reservations about the suitability of hydrogen for building uses, compared with other applications that have few or no other options for decarbonisation. 

However, as the Climate Change Committee scenarios expect a significant contribution from hydrogen to the wider economy (comparable in scale to today’s electricity use), whether – and how – low carbon hydrogen can be produced clearly needs attention. 

The creation of a standard would therefore be useful to determine the carbon impact of hydrogen production options (whether UK-based or imported – for example, from solar-rich countries), drive innovation by setting ambitious requirements, identify the best routes to produce it, and allow a robust and fair comparison with other energy vectors. 

Upcoming consultations include Proposals for heat network zoning, run by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and closing on 19 November – get in touch with CIBSE by 12 November if you would like to contribute to our response. 

You can find our response to all past consultations, and a list of the current ones, here.