The coalition has identified the creation of a genuine green economy as a top priority for this government.
This has a deep impact on the construction sector: low-carbon construction and energy efficiency improvements across our built environment are vital if the UK is to achieve its 2050 carbon reduction targets.
The government has already put a number of initiatives in place through its Low Carbon Construction Action Plan. In supporting this initiative, RICS has prioritised lower carbon by making it one of our three Cs of construction: cost, carbon and capital.
In turn, these drive the need for better data collection and analysis through the use of BIM. These ideas form the priority areas for RICS’ 2013 Construction Policy.
RICS’ lower-carbon agenda
We have already taken practical steps in supporting the industry with RICS’ information paper on the measurement of embodied carbon, which enables whole-life carbon appraisals – including embodied carbon – at every stage of the construction process and throughout operation.
As carbon measurement becomes more tangible and prevalent, we will also be undertaking further work and extending the information paper to support challenges such as how to deal with the carbon at the end of a building’s life, where there is significant potential for recovering and recycling products.
“Change will only come from a market that values energy efficieny and recognises the benefits it can bring in terms of cost savings”
With 80 per cent of our existing built environment stock likely to still be with us by 2050, refurbishment of residential and retrofit of commercial property will be crucial in lowering carbon emissions.
Our information paper can help to support this, but we have also outlined a commitment in our 2013 Construction Policy to publish guidance for members and property professionals on the adaptation of existing buildings for energy efficiency and low-carbon measures.
The biggest driver for change, however, will only come from a market that values energy efficiency and recognises the benefits it can bring in terms of cost savings.
Initiatives such as EcoPAS, which RICS is championing alongside IPD and a number of large institutional funds including Aviva Investors, Henderson Global Investors, Hermes Real Estate Investment, Legal & General and Prupim, has demonstrated the correlation between value and sustainability as well as the appetite among owners for energy-efficient buildings.
While change will arguably be largely led by the biggest players in the market, it is vital the substantial SME sector that drives the UK economy is not left behind.
Within our 2013 Construction Policy we have therefore called on the government to provide clearer guidance to SMEs on accessing the low-carbon market, including incentives and drivers needed to allow the market to flourish.
The targets and initiatives outlined above are ambitious. However, at RICS, we believe they can be achievable.
We recognise the industry needs to lead on delivery to be successful; however, support from the government and industry bodies must push the correct policies forward.
For more information on RICS’ 2013 Construction Policy and lower-carbon initiatives visit our website.
Alan Muse is director of built environment at RICS