RICS new global carbon assessment standard set to 'cement Britain's place as global leader on net zero construction'

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has launched the second edition of its Whole-Life Carbon Assessment for the Built Environment (WLCA) standard, produced in partnership with the UK’s Department for Transport and Net Zero Waste Scotland.

First published in 2017, the new edition is a global version of the standard designed to provide a more in-depth understanding of the carbon costs and benefits of design choices in construction and infrastructure projects and assets.

The new WLCA standard — which covers all built assets and infrastructure projects throughout the built environment lifecycle — can be used by assessors to estimate the amount of carbon emitted throughout the life cycle of a constructed asset, from the early stages of development though to the end of life, giving visibility to embodied carbon, operational carbon, and user carbon.

The standard can also be utilised by contractors and developers for a consistent reporting approach, as well as by lenders and investors to make financial decisions.

The new RICS WLCA standard’s methodology will be incorporated in the Net Zero Carbon Building Standard that is currently being developed, to assess upfront, embodied, operational, user and whole-life carbon.

“The built environment has been crying out for tools to measure its impact on climate change, which is crucial for developing mitigating practices to significantly reduce the industry's carbon output,” said RICS’ director of surveying standards Charlotte Neal.

She added that the second edition of WLCA would significantly improve the industry's ability to measure and manage its impact on climate.

Ben Colling, director of portfolio management and ESG at Maslow Capital, agreed with this view, saying: “In order to scale net zero buildings, the RICS WLCA framework provides the requisite data capture needed to inform the decision-making processes for all value chain members throughout the cradle-grave-reusability lifecycle.

“There is dire urgency to decarbonise, address the UK’s existing energy inefficient stock and meet a Future Homes Standard standard in 2025 that would be unattainable without this guidance.”

Chris Gardner, joint CEO at Atelier, commented: “RICS is a cornerstone of the UK’s real estate sector, and its decision to make its WLCA standard international will help cement Britain’s place as a global leader on net zero construction.

“It’s a recognition too of the huge impact that reducing the carbon released both during a building’s construction and its lifetime is already having.

“The consolidation of the WLCA also takes the UK a step closer to a Net Zero Carbon Building Standard, which I hope will one day become a benchmark for the whole property sector to aspire to.”

“Over time EPCs — which provide a snapshot of a building’s operational energy and carbon use, but overlook the carbon released during construction — will fade from view as the real estate industry adopts a more meaningful gold standard that recognises the link between long-term sustainability and value.”

Justin Young, CEO at RICS, concluded: “The second edition of WLCA for the Built Environment encapsulates RICS's role as a global leader in the built environment and its duty to steer the industry towards decarbonisation — it is a truly global standard for a global problem.”

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