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CN Briefing: COP21; Buildings Day; carbon emissions; Balfour Beatty; British Land; Hammerson

Today is Buildings Day at the Paris climate change conference (COP21), and it has been marked with a late flurry of built environment announcements.

Thousands of businesses across the UK are left at the mercy of government policy each year, as we’ve seen with the recent cutting of Feed-in Tariffs and its impact on solar firms, for example.

But we’ve written about that plenty.

Instead, let’s celebrate when industry clients throw down the gauntlet to their peers and say: ”We’re ready to implement change.”

Built environment leaders need to recognise the damage this industry does, with buildings contributing between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of total global carbon emissions.

Which is where the ‘nearly zero energy buildings’ initiative comes in.

Granted, using the word ‘nearly’ doesn’t tend to fill people with confidence (consider its impact on the following industry initiatives, for example: Target (nearly) Zero; Built to (nearly) Last; The (nearly) 5% Club).

However the news today that 16 European built environment companies will target ultra-low energy buildings for new build by 2020 and refurbs by 2030 through the nZEB initiative is a great first step.

A simple way to initiate positive change is to have big companies demand it. And there are some big names on this list: Acciona, British Land, Doosan, Ferrovial, GlaxoSmithKline, Hammerson, Heathrow, Interface, JLL, Kingfisher, Land Securities, Lloyd’s Banking Group, Philips, Skanska, Sky and Tesco.

And, not to be outdone, private sector companies - including contractors - are making pledges of their own which have been published at a ‘Buildings Day’ meeting led by French minister of ecology Ségolène Royal.

Later, they will formally announce a global alliance for buildings and construction. But for now, their have been individual pledges from powerful companies.

These include:

  • Balfour Beatty: To reduce Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions per £1m turnover by 50 per cent by 2020 relative to 2010 baseline.
  • British Land: To deliver a 15 per cent reduction in landlord embodied carbon intensity for projects over £50m against 2015 per sq m by 2020.
  • Carillion: To reduce carbon footprint by 24 per cent by 2020 based on a 2011 baseline.
  • The Crown Estate: To “improve carbon emissions intensity by a further 50 per cent from a 2012/13 baseline for property under its direct control (by 2022)”.

It’s also interesting to note climate change creeping into the built environment leader’s professional discourse, such as Hammerson CEO David Atkins saying a forum for collaboration between property companies has the potential to drive significant results in our immediate challenge of limiting the damaging effects of climate change”.

This is likely to be simply due to the timing of the Paris event, but is a message that could do with being repeated.

The commitments today will be worth more than any fact-finding mission or dust-gathering report. For that, on behalf of future generations, we should all be thankful.

Got 5 minutes?

Read our story on how the UK’s biggest nuclear decommissioning clients are changing their procurement to reduce tier one suppliers.

Highways England is also shaking up its procurement, and it means mega deals to come in the South-west.

Got longer?

Read our full sector analysis on nuclear decommissioning, described by one Twitter user today as “incredibly well written”. He’s not wrong, or being sarcastic.

Our features editor has a soft spot for tall buildings. So we sent him to the world’s tallest pure CLT building in Hackney.

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