Part Z: The Proposed Amendment to the UK’s Building Regulations for Embodied Carbon
Around 40 to 50 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions are due to construction, refurbishment and demolition of buildings and infrastructure in the UK. A new building regulation sought to be passed through parliament (Part Z) by Duncan Baker could see the regulation of embodied carbon in the building process by requiring the whole-life carbon emissions of buildings to be reported and emissions limited.
So, what is embodied carbon? The materials used in construction are the physical embodiment of greenhouse gases which, in a typical new build, can account for half of the emissions that the building will be responsible for over its lifetime. This includes CO2 created in material extraction, transportation of materials and manufacturing – the carbon footprint of a building before it is operational. The advances in operational carbon such as renewable energy means that embodied carbon often makes up the larger proportion of a buildings carbon footprint and therefore, it’s becoming increasingly necessary to tackle this area of construction.
In the work towards a net zero future in the construction industry, the regulation of embodied carbon through cross-sector coordination could revolutionize our approach to built assets, in a growing population where new construction is inevitable. The construction industry has the opportunity to tackle the climate emergency head on and stimulate the demand for transparent construction practices and carbon reductions.
So, what will Part Z look like? Part Z is a proposed amendment to UK Building Regulations 2010 that will introduce legislation towards mandatory reporting of carbon emissions in the built environment, alongside limiting embodied carbon emissions. This assessment is supported by numerous organisations, including the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) and Elmhurst Energy, who are calling for the government to introduce regulations for consistent assessment, reporting and targets for embodied carbon.
The proposed bill by MP Duncan Baker could tackle carbon emissions that amount to more than aviation and shipping combined. He questions “It strikes me that when we are decarbonizing our electricity grid, ending our reliance on gas, phasing out coal – why we are leaving ourselves with a big concrete and steel elephant in the room,”. Will the government regulate this concrete and steel elephant, fulfil the demands of leading industry groups and address the reporting of whole-life carbon emissions? We welcome and encourage this pivotal amendment.