A new edition of the Whole Life Carbon Assessment for the Built Environment (WLCA) standard has been launched.
First published in 2017 for the UK’s built environment sector, this 2023 edition is a global version of the standard that provides a greater understanding of the carbon costs and benefits of design choices in construction and infrastructure projects.
The new standard was produced by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) together with the UK’s Department for Transport and Net Zero Waste Scotland.
The standard has been updated for use globally and to cover all built assets and infrastructure projects throughout the built environment life cycle.
According to the United Nations, the built environment contributes around 40% of all global carbon output and 50% of extracted material, making the second edition crucial for meeting global emissions targets and achieving net zero.
In the UK, a Net Zero Carbon Building Standard is being developed incorporating the RICS Whole Life Carbon Assessment Professional Standard methodology to assess upfront, embodied, operational, user and whole-life carbon. It is hoped that the global focus of this edition will lead to more nations incorporating its methodologies into their regulatory structures, enhancing sustainability in the international sector.
Charlotte Neal, RICS director of surveying standards, said: “The built environment has been crying out for tools to measure its impact on climate change, which is crucial for developing mitigating practices to significantly reduce the industry’s carbon output.
“By providing a consistent methodology to assess the carbon output of buildings throughout their entire life cycle, the second edition of WLCA will significantly improve the industry’s ability to measure and manage its impact on climate.”
Jesse Norman, minister of state for decarbonisation, said: “The UK is a world leader in decarbonising transport. This new standard will help reduce the carbon footprint of not only transport projects, but also from projects across all buildings, as the UK works to grow its economy and reach its net zero goals.”
Stephen Boyle, built environment manager at Zero Waste Scotland, said: “This landmark publication will be a key driver for circularity as it provides a vital standard for assessing carbon over the whole life of a building.
“This whole life consideration prompts built environment professionals to confront the carbon impacts a building has before, during and after its use. Circular economy principles can provide a solution to this problem by encouraging use of secondary materials to displace virgin ones, to use renewable low-carbon materials and to use digital tools, such as materials passports to create end-of-life value.”
Alan King, Syntegra Managing Director, said: “Considering the lifetime impact of carbon in all its forms has rightly come under the spotlight in the built environment.
“The fact this standard will be used around the world is an excellent step forward given the scale of ongoing construction work and internationally agreed ambitious net zero targets.”