Monthly Archives: August 2020

UKGBC: playing its part in making a greener world

A green world in our hands
A greener world. Photo: pxfuel

The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) is a charity that aims to unite the building industry under the shared umbrella of sustainability. Its aim is nothing short of a radical transformation of the way in which the UK’s built environment is planned, designed, constructed, maintained and operated.

It’s not just here, either; the UKGBC is a constituent member of the World GBC, a global network of over 70 GBCs, all aiming to transform the places in which we live, work, and play.

Mainer Associates is one of over 400 members. We’re doing lots of work on Net Zero, which is itself a major part of the WGBC’s work on market transformation towards the 2050 target of 100% net zero carbon buildings.

In the 13 years since the UKGBC was founded in 2007, it has succeeded in bringing together what was a disparate sector in need of cohesive leadership. It shares best practice, develops guidance and solutions, lobbies for better standards, and perhaps most importantly, starts conversations in a diverse sector, the constituent parts of which wouldn’t always necessarily talk to each other otherwise. The work library on its website sets all this out by topic, activity and type, in easy to navigate sections. As you’d expect, it also runs courses and events, and has a news section offering insights. A yearly impact report of its achievements is produced, which you can download here.

In terms of lobbying, it’s not slow to do what needs to be done. Last year, it was a prominent in a letter sent to then prime minister Theresa May, calling for the government to commit to net zero carbon by 2050.

But it’s net zero where it concentrates much of its energy.

The first development to meet the UKGBC net zero carbon definition began in south Wales this spring. As one of the world’s first net zero carbon neighbourhoods, it will track its energy use and carbon emissions in real time. Richard Twinn, a policy adviser at the UKGBC, had this to say:

“Meaningful action over the next 10 years will be critical to help avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The energy used in homes accounts for around 20% of the UK’s emissions, so if we’re going to radically reduce emissions, we need all of our new homes to be net zero carbon in operation by 2030 at the latest.”

This is a very clear example of the positive effect that the charity has had recently. There will be others to come.

Even more recently, it had a role in a letter sent to the prime minister from over 200 business leaders, over a third of which were UKGBC members. It called for a ‘clean, inclusive and resilient’ recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, which would include an investment drive in low carbon innovation, the focussing of support on sectors that can best support sustainable growth, and financial support packages being managed based upon science and the achieving of national climate goals. Julie Hirigoyen, Chief Executive of UKGBC, suggested that:

“A clean, inclusive and resilient recovery from coronavirus is vital if we are to learn the lessons from this health emergency and ramp up action to tackle the climate and ecological crisis and reduce social inequality. The built environment can plan a pivotal role in helping the country to build back better. We can unlock huge opportunities for resilient recovery through measures such as introducing ambitious new build standards; prioritising home energy efficiency; and investing in urban greening.”

Of course, UKGBC wasn’t set up with coronavirus in mind; no one knew what the environment was going to be like in 2020 back in 2007.

But it is the case that the above measure is an excellent example of sustainability leaders thinking on their feet, reacting to what they see around them, and pushing for transformation.

Furthermore, it has refocussed its 2020-21 plan in the context of the crisis, with a greater emphasis being placed upon maximising its digital platforms for the New Normal. In order to optimise access to benefits for members, its L & D strategy is now 100% online in the form of a Virtual Learning Portfolio, comprising courses, webinars and resource packs. This is part of the plan’s overall aim of refocussing around a small number of critical priorities in these trying times.

What is clear is this: 2020 can’t be the year in which the built environment industry loses its focus on its role in the fight for a sustainable future. The UKGBC has an important role to play in ensuring that the vital transition to net zero carbon stays on track, as part of the battle to mitigate the climate crisis.