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Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction

Transforming infrastructure through smarter information

The CSIC-convened Carbon Reduction Code for the Built Environment is included as a key policy recommendation in the Pathway to Net Zero for the UK Built Environment which was launched by the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) on 11 November, at the main COP26 venue on COP’s dedicated day for cities and the built environment.

The Code, which has now opened its sign-up process, is designed for clients, contractors, and supply chain members working in the built environment to provide a mechanism that enables individual organisations to publicise their annual progress, and thereby collaborate and share best practice on their journey to Net Zero with the intention of accelerating progress across the industry.

The Roadmap

Throughout 2021,UKGBC has been working with a cross-industry team to develop a Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap (the Roadmap) for the UK built environment. The built environment is directly responsible for 25% of UK emissions and the Roadmap urges cross-industry and policy action: “The urgency to act on climate change has never been greater, and the built environment sector has a moral and legal responsibility to address the climate emergency and accelerate sector decarbonisation.”

The Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap aims to outline a common vision and agree upon industry-wide actions for achieving net zero carbon in the construction, operation and demolition of buildings and infrastructure in the UK. It consists of four key elements: a carbon footprint of the UK built environment, defined on a consumption basis (including emissions from imported construction products and materials); a net zero emissions budget and trajectory to 2050 for the UK built environment; recommended policy interventions for central and local government; and recommended actions for industry stakeholders. It brings focus to the emissions footprint specific to the UK Built Environment and presents a view of the actions and steps needed throughout the sector to reduce emissions through the lens of whole-life carbon (to include construction, operation, end-of-life stages).

Policy recommendations

The introduction to the ‘Embodied and Operational Carbon, Infrastructure’ section of the Roadmap (p52) states: “The decarbonisation of the infrastructure sector therefore requires a systems-thinking approach aligned with the national Net Zero target, balancing embodied carbon impacts of infrastructure investment with the full emission impacts in other sectors. All sources of carbon therefore need to be at the forefront of infrastructure decision-making in the context of the overarching carbon budgets, and with an understanding of the inter-relationship between embodied, operational, and use emissions of different infrastructure assets.”

This section’s policy recommendations for the integrated decarbonisation of infrastructure systems (p54) includes the Carbon Reduction Code for the Built Environment in its list of proposals: “Demonstrate leadership within public procurement via Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) commitment to the CSIC Carbon Reduction Code (which includes integrating carbon reduction targets and reporting commitments explicitly in all procurement documents from 2021).

Dr Jennifer Schooling, Director of CSIC, said: “I am delighted that the Carbon Reduction Code for the Built Environment is a policy recommendation by the UKGBC Roadmap. Both the roadmap and the Code are the result of input, collaboration and consensus across industry and built environment organisations keen to identify paths to net zero. There is wide agreement that we are in a climate emergency so let’s treat it as one. We must all hold ourselves and our organisations to account on our journey to decarbonisation. Creating a community of built environment organisations to support each other will help everyone to reach the destination of net zero.”


• The UKGBC is launching the Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap to industry at an event on Wednesday 8 December. The event will focus on the implications of the Roadmap for industry stakeholders. Register and read more here.


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