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Workstream 3: Operational energy and whole-life carbon

Operational energy performance and embodied carbon targets (collectively whole life carbon standards) have been proposed for new build in the RIBA 2030 Challenge and retrofit standards are to follow. Subsequent work will be required on avoiding unwelcome and unintended consequences.

Work is taking place on building services and energy flows within and around buildings and the group seeks to develop proposals for the use of decarbonised energy where imported energy is still required.

Inputs on embodied carbon from workstream 4 will combine with the work on operational performance in workstream 7 to provide overall metrics and targets for achieving net-zero whole life carbon.

Workstream Leader
Workstream Leader

This workstream is co-ordinated by Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). and includes measurable deliverables divided into three priority groupings: short-term, medium term and long term.

What have we achieved in one year of the plan?

  • Cross industry groups are naturally occurring to address WS3 key actions, with the general support from core professional institutions and grass roots organisation.
  • The cross-industry NZ Standard working group is a huge step forward and will be the main forum to address many of WS3, 4, and 7 actions.
  • Lots of cross sector work has been carried out and fed into UKGBC Net Zero Pathway Roadmap which has set overall whole life carbon targets and a pathway.
  • WLCN, LETI, CIBSE have generated benchmarks for operational and embodied carbon for a number of building types.

Next steps

  • PIs to adopt and implement the guidance and policies that are being created into their own policies and workflows.
  • All PIs and cross sector groups to work with UKGBC to update the Net Zero Pathway. RIBA, CIBSE, RICS are working together on the UK Net Zero Carbon Building Standard. The key issue is to carry out a bottom-up model based on code red carbon budget and aligned with CCC carbon budgets.
  • CIOB to develop a Building Performance Guide to help improve measuring and tracking of carbon efficiency

Resource Library

  • LETI’s Climate Emergency Retrofit Guide

The Guide shows how we can retrofit our homes to make them fit for the future and support the UK’s Net Zero targets. It defines energy use targets for existing homes and provide practical guidance on how to achieve them.

The guide is useful for architects, engineers, Local Authorities, social landlords, energy professionals, contractors and clients looking for guidance about best practice retrofit. The guide provides a quickstart guide to retrofit as well as typical house archetype examples for four primary housing type

  • LETI Climate Emergency Design Guide

This covers 5 key areas: operational energy, embodied carbon, the future of heat, demand response and data disclosure. The methodology includes setting the requirements of four
key building archetypes (small scale residential, medium/large scale residential, commercial offices, and schools). The guide was developed by over 100 LETI volunteers over a period of 12 months.

  • LETI-CIBSE Net Zero FAQs

This guidance from LETI and CIBSE builds on the WLCN-LETI carbon definitions to try to make sure that the definitions are applied consistently and robustly in as many real-life situations are possible.

  • Carbon Definitions for the Built Environment, Buildings and Infrastructure (Version A, May 2021)

There remains significant inconsistency with respect to the basic definitions in use
with reference to carbon and net zero carbon terminologies over the life cycle of buildings
and infrastructure. This document provides a common set of definitions. It has been put together initially by a working group within the Whole Life Carbon Network. The Definitions are based on BS EN 15978: 2011 and use the life cycle modular structure. This has been adapted for National Infrastructure definitions as per PAS 2080: 2016.