Achieving a net zero carbon emissions trajectory is a crucial goal in the fight against climate change. The UK’s 30 million buildings are responsible for 30% of our greenhouse gas emissions. The built environment and construction activity are significant contributors to carbon emissions in the UK.
It has been estimated that around 43% of UK emissions are from the built environment (both buildings and infrastructure), mostly from the heat and energy that buildings consume, but also from the production of energy-intensive products and materials that are widely used within the industry, such as concrete.
As the buildings industry is responsible for a significant portion of global emissions, engineers and industry professionals have a vital role in achieving the UK”s net zero target.
The Net Zero Review recognised this and provided a range of recommendations for reducing emissions from buildings and infrastructure.
Improving the energy efficiency of buildings
In the Net Zero Review, we found that it was the government’s responsibility to establish a comprehensive national programme to retrofit existing buildings, which included the option of providing financial incentives to households and businesses to make those vital upgrades.
Additionally, the review called for a new buildings standard to be implemented with the highest possible energy efficiency standards, with a minimum Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) C rating by 2033.
There are many issues with the EPC rating system, which is why government urgently needs to create a new Net Zero Performance Certificate (NZPC). Net zero homes are the only homes of the future, and the fact that homes are allowed to be constructed now that will have to be retrofitted in just a few years time is a national scandal.
From artificial intelligence (AI) to insulation, the review found that the development of new energy-efficient technologies, such as carbon capture and storage and smart energy systems, would be key to achieving net zero goals.
The review recommended the government accelerate the transition away from fossil fuel heating systems, such as gas boilers, by promoting the use of low carbon alternatives, such as heat pumps and district heating systems.
Both government and the private building sector have a responsibility to employ and encourage the use of renewable energy technologies, such as solar panels and wind turbines.
As the building industry is responsible for a significant portion of global emissions, industry professionals have a vital role to play
This is especially prevalent for residential buildings and factories, both of which currently face incredibly detrimental planning frameworks and red tape. As is so often the case, government needs to get out of the way of the private sector and allow the natural adoption of these technologies, which will undoubtedly foster a solar rooftop revolution.
Another critical aspect of achieving a net zero carbon trajectory is the need for collaboration between industry stakeholders, policymakers and community organisations.
The opportunity to achieve net zero through decarbonisation of buildings requires an end-to-end approach that recognises the need to reduce emissions and the carbon content of buildings, from materials and construction through to the maintenance, retrofit and installation of energy efficient and low carbon insulation and heating systems.
During the review, we heard that the government’s Heat and Buildings Strategy does not go far enough to ensure all households benefit from the transition: long-term support to low-income households with upfront capital costs, electricity rebalancing, electric vehicle charging price, and access to finance.
I have set up the Buildings & Infrastructure networks for the Mission Zero Coalition. This coalition will be dedicated to bridging the information gap by working with communities to promote sustainable building practices and encourage the adoption of renewable energy systems.
Engineers will also be able to work with policymakers to develop building codes and regulations.
Buildings services engineers and the construction industry have a crucial role to play in helping to achieve a net zero carbon trajectory as the world moves towards a sustainable future.
If you would like to get involved in the coalition, please get in touch at email@example.com
- Chris Skidmore is the Conservative MP for Kingswood and author of Mission Zero: Independent Review of Net Zero