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Zero Carbon Game Changers Series 2019-2020 | Part 2: Embodied Carbon

In recent months, the UK property industry has done more to advance the environmental agenda than ever before.

Developers, consultants and professional bodies have come together to declare a Climate and Biodiversity Emergency and have taken concrete action. Together we developed much needed clarity and guidance on how to truly achieve Zero Carbon by 2030.  Hilson Moran has worked with local government to develop policy and supporting guidance and we have responded to key consultation documents published by Central Government on your own merit and with our industry peers.

Hilson Moran is one of 77 signatories of the Building Services Engineers Declare commitment

In the UK, 49% of annual carbon emissions are attributable to buildings. This note forms part of our Zero Carbon Game Changers Series and summarises key documents that were issued between April 2019 and now.

Part 2 focusses on embodied carbon from buildings, which refers to the carbon emissions emitted from producing a building’s materials, their transport and installation on site as well as their impact at end of life. This part also covers industry update on the application of a Circular Economy approach to materials and waste, because of the opportunities that reducing embodied carbon brings to it.

Whole life carbon analysis and a circular approach to design are increasingly becoming the norm and there is a market expectation for buildings to meet newly established performance targets.  In addition to prioritising refurbishment, modular and demountable design, resource optimisation and upcycling of waste, there is a strong drive to engage with material and system supply chains to improve the level of carbon and end of life transparency and opportunity.

If you would like more information please contact Marie-Louise Schembri at



Industry-led game changers

The UKGBC issued two key documents that paved the way to setting industry energy performance benchmarks:

1.        The ‘Net Zero Carbon Buildings: A framework definition’ (April 2019) provides the industry with clarity on how to achieve net zero carbon in construction and operation

2.        ‘Circular economy guidance for construction clients’ (April 2019) sets out how to practically apply circular economy principles at the project brief stage

The UKGBC is intending to issue further guidance on carbon offsetting in 2021, and Hilson Moran is happy to announce that we have secured a place on the Task Group.

LETI or the London Energy Transformation Initiative (LETI) is a network of over 1,000 built environment professionals that are working together to put London on the path to a zero carbon future. The voluntary group is made up of developers, engineers, housing associations, architects, planners, academics, sustainability professionals, contractors and facilities managers. Hilson Moran has been involved from its launch; together we helped influence the New London Plan and was heavily involved in developing embodied carbon guidance:

1.        Climate Emergency Design Guide’ (January 2020), which outlines the requirements of new buildings to ensure our climate change targets are met

2.        Embodied Carbon Primer’ (January 2020), which offers supplementary guidance to the Climate Emergency Design Guide for those interested in exploring embodied carbon in more detail

RIBA declared a climate emergency on June 2019. In addition they published the following guidelines:

1.        Sustainable Outcomes Guide’ (December 2019), on targeting, designing and evaluating sustainable outcomes for buildings of all scale

2.        RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge’ (January 2020), explains the different targets and clarifying what net zero really means in practice

3.        Embodied and whole life carbon assessment for architects (February 2018), introduces architects to carbon assessment in the built environment and its application through the RIBA work stages.

In addition to numerous publications about passive design, energy efficiency and low and zero carbon technologies CIBSE has recently published:

1.        Research Insight: Circular economy principles for building services’ (May 2020), which introduces circular economy principles for mechanical, electrical and public health (MEP) systems, building on the work presented in CIBSE TM56: Resource efficiency of building services

Government-led game changers

The New London Plan

The current 2016 Plan is still the adopted Development Plan, but the Draft London Plan is a material consideration in planning decisions. The Mayor is to publish final London Plan working towards summer 2020. Associated guidance includes:

Embodied carbon: The draft Whole Life-Cycle Carbon Assessments Guidance’ explains how to comply with the requirement for all referable planning applications to calculate and reduce whole life-cycle carbon (WLC) emissions to fully capture a development’s carbon impact. This document will be formally consulted on following publication of the new London Plan. Highlights include:

1.        Whole Life-Cycle assessment to be submitted to the GLA at pre-planning, planning and Practical Completion stages

2.        Applicants are to follow BS EN 15978 using the RICS PS as the methodology for assessment

3.        The assessment should cover all stages from product sourcing (A) to beyond a building’s end of life (D)

In addition Circular economy: The Design for a Circular Economy Primer’ has been written to help support organisations in the built environment sector understand how they can embed circular economy principles into their projects and design processes.

This is accompanied by a pre-consultation draft Circular Economy Statement Guidance.  The draft guidance shows a detailed step change in project approaches to materials and waste strategies and reporting. Highlights include:

1.        All referable projects to describe CE approach and aspirations to conserve resources, increase resource efficiency, source materials sustainably, design to eliminate waste and reduce maintenance, and manage waste sustainably and at the highest value

2.        A statement needs to be submitted in draft form at pre application stage and outline applications and detailed as part of a full application.


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