The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), working as part of an international coalition of built environment professional groups seeking to drive the industry in measuring carbon – and therefore to take effective action [KC1] on climate change – has jointly published for consultation the world’s first international standard for reporting carbon emissions across all areas of construction.
The consultation will seek input from industry on how to make sure carbon emissions factor directly into the extensive decision making that goes behind planning construction projects. This is to be followed shortly, by new RICS guidance for professionals on how to assess ‘embodied carbon’.
With construction contributing around 40% of the world’s carbon emissions, it’s crucial for the built environment to move towards more sustainable practices if communities are to realise their net-zero ambitions in time for 2050.
Therefore, and in addition, RICS has led a group of construction sector bodies in the development of an emissions database for logging the climate impact of all construction projects in the UK. Measuring carbon, and then logging and analysing the data will aid industry move forward in lessening their environmental impact.
Under development by RICS in partnership with BRE, CIOB, CIBSE, UKGBC, ICE, IStructE, RIBA and The Carbon Trust, the new built environment carbon emissions database will allow professionals to log construction projects – whether [KC2] that’s new homes, offices, or infrastructure – when ready later this year.
The database will give an indication of how much carbon has been emitted during the manufacturing and construction process (the ‘upfront embodied carbon’), along with future maintenance, energy use and demolition emissions, and enable designers to identify and avoid carbon-intensive products in favour of more sustainable materials that will help the UK get to net-zero by 2050.
James Fiske – Director of RICS’ Building Cost Information Service – said: “It’s not every day that an entire industry comes together in agreement over climate change. The new database – coupled with the ICMS consultation – are real examples of construction sector uniting in its mission to tackle carbon emissions and meet its commitment to net zero.
“We’re looking forward to launching the working database later this year and will be using the expertise within RICS and our partner professional bodies to make this happen.”
Moving back to ICMS, as a comprehensive standard developed by a coalition of [KC3] nearly fifty organisations (many of which in the UK are also working together on the built environment carbon database) including RICS, it will urge professionals to report the carbon emissions on every project.”
Following the consultation, the final ICMS standards are expected to be published in November 2021 [KC4] followed by updated RICS guidance on carbon assessment – which sets out a universal methodology for calculating carbon emissions.
This will form a toolkit to enable decision makers to minimise the carbon footprint of construction projects.
Alan Muse, Head of Construction Standards at RICS and ICMS lead, added: “This update to ICMS and subsequent RICS standards which our professionals follow when completing any construction project, will see the construction sector making a large and measurable impact when it comes to leading from the front and combatting climate change.
“Supported by the latest tech, such as the built environment carbon database, these new standards provide a professional toolkit to measure and consistently report on carbon and influence the most basic design and construction decisions.
“The new rules ask the industry to challenge themselves on every decision made – from choosing between double or triple glazing in new homes to the type of concrete used to lay track for high speed rail.
“While other aspects such as cost and safety will continue to play a key factor, of equal importance will be ensuring a greener future for the global construction sector.”
Both the UK-based built environment carbon database and the globally applicable ICMS consultation come as the world heads toward the COP26 conference in Glasgow this November, with the overarching goals set by national governments to achieve net-zero carbon emissions in the decades to come to battle the rapidly changing climate.