The built environment contributes around 40% of the UK’s annual carbon emissions. To date, efforts have concentrated on decarbonising domestic operational emissions, such as heating and lighting, in the existing housing stock. To reach a truly net-zero built environment, the embodied carbon emissions must also be considered (from the production, installation, maintenance and disposal of a building and its materials).

The UK Government has stated its ambition to rebuild a greener economy following the COVID-19 pandemic. In its November 2020 National Infrastructure Strategy, it said that ‘bold action is needed to transform the UK’s infrastructure to meet net zero and climate change commitments.’ The Government recently outlined proposed changes to the infrastructure planning system in its 2020 Planning for then Future white paper. This included a plan for all new build homes to be ‘zero carbon ready.’

The POSTbrief will give an overview of the role of embodied carbon in the design of buildings and will discuss opportunities for achieving net-zero in the built environment. It will look at options for reducing carbon emissions across the lifecycle of buildings and how this could inform sustainability targets and construction standards, innovations in low carbon building materials, and the technologies that could be incorporated into buildings to reduce emissions.

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