September 27, 2021

The World Green Buildings Council (WorldGBC) is calling for businesses to account for the whole lifecycle impact of all new buildings and major renovations, not just address operational carbon reduction.

The WorldGBC this month unveiled an update to its longstanding Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment, that aims to ignite a “reduction-first” approach to decarbonisation to halve emissions from the sector by 2030 and tackle lifecycle emissions.

A commitment is now in place to track and report business activities that influence the indirect reduction of whole life carbon emissions in building and major renovation projects.

The WorldGBC first issued its Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment in 2017, calling on companies in the built environment sector to ensure all buildings are net-zero carbon compliant by 2050.

They have now updated the mandate to account for the role that tackling embodied carbon can have as part of a “reduction-first approach to decarbonisation” – emissions found in the materials and construction processes throughout a building’s lifetime, not simply operational emissions from energy used to heat, cool and light buildings.

The built environment sector is responsible for 39% of global greenhouse gas emissions – and 11% of that derives from embodied carbon emissions.

The updated mandate still calls for all building assets to account for all operational carbon emissions by 2030. However, the WorldGBC is now calling for businesses to account for the whole lifecycle impact of all new buildings and major renovations, effective as of 1st January 2023, with requirements set for 2030 or sooner.

The WorldGBC’s chief executive Cristina Gamboa said: “The update to the WorldGBC’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment elevates the ambition for the building and construction sector to go further and faster to decarbonise. It sets a target for compensating for emissions associated with buildings and construction, and the tangible social and environmental co-benefits of this approach creates a powerful catalyst towards achieving the Paris Agreement goals and the Sustainable Development Goals.

“Achieving our vision of sustainable buildings for everyone, everywhere means acting now to tackle upfront carbon, whilst planning with whole life carbon in mind.”

Demands for green builders are increasing, a new survey shows. More than half of the respondents to a global survey of more than 4,0000 decision-makers in the corporate property built environment sector reported growth in demand for sustainable buildings in the past year.

The survey was conducted by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the World Built Environment Forum to form RICS’ latest annual sustainability report.

The highest increase in demand was reported in Europe, with 69% of respondents reporting a rise. In the Middle East and Africa region, where demand growth was the lowest, 39% of respondents reported increased demand.

Commenting on the new commitment, Nigel Topping, COP26 High Level Climate Action Champion, said: “With the buildings sector accounting for 40% of global emissions and 50% of resource consumption, the need for urgent action is critical. WorldGBC’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment provides a bold approach for businesses looking to be a front runner in decarbonising emissions from buildings by 2030.”

Syntegra MD Alan King said: “We wholly support this move to focus on embedded emissions, for so long seemingly ignored in the carbon reduction debate.

“As an industry, the built environment can have a huge influence on this whole area of sustainability and with all the innovation going on in the sector, I’m sure appropriate solutions can be found and implemented to improve rates of emissions but also overall building quality.”