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RICS: Less than half of UK construction projects measure embodied carbon

by Sion Geschwindt
RICS: Less than half of UK construction projects measure embodied carbon

A significant share of construction professionals say they do not measure operational and/or embodied carbon emissions on projects, according to the 2022 RICS Sustainability Report launched today.

The annual report, which collated sentiment from almost 4,000 chartered surveyor contributors, around 1200 of which are from the UK, across commercial and construction sectors globally, shows that some improvement in the push for sustainability has been made in the past year.

However, the data also shows there has been little or no change in some important areas in the past 12 months.

Survey respondents report that while construction professionals in the UK are beginning to embrace digital tools and technologies to complete sustainability-related analysis for construction projects, this is predominantly to assess energy needs and costs.

They are less likely to utilise these tools to reduce embodied carbon or to measure the impact on biodiversity.

Only 24% measure operational carbon, less than half measure embodied carbon

47% of respondents in the UK report that digital tools and processes are used to complete sustainability assessments on less than half or none of their projects.

This year’s results also show that there is much room for improvement in measuring carbon emissions.

76% of professionals in the UK state that they make no operational measurement of carbon emissions on projects, which is in line with the whole of Europe, but slightly higher when compared globally (72%).

With more than half of the UK respondents also saying that they don’t measure embodied carbon, even for those that do, less than 14% use it to select the materials they use in their project.

When probed on the barriers to reducing carbon emissions, around 38% of contributors identified both the lack of established / adopted standards, guidance and tools  and high costs or low availability of low-carbon products as the most fundamental issues.

Alongside this, contributors also highlight cultural issues and established practices as a challenge.

We must measure “all forms of carbon

Kisa Zehra, RICS Sustainability Analyst, commented: “It is of benefit to all to embrace climate strategy, and we must reduce our impact as the built environment. 

“Behaviour change is happening, with higher rents and prices being seen for the more desirable sustainable properties, and climate risk assessments by investors on their built assets rising across the globe. 

“But, measuring all forms of carbon, is also critical to the changes we need to see from the built environment.

“Barriers to progress cited in the report have included a lack of established standards, guidance and tools. However, it is equally fair to say that industry must adopt these tools and standards where they are available and should make carbon assessment and management an integral part of business practice.

“Industry needs to work in collaboration to succeed. The work RICS is leading with partners, for example the ICMS coalition in developing a cost measurement standard that combines cost and carbon reporting, is a key example.

“RICS will continue to promote research, and demand policy changes while working in collaboration with industry, governments and our professionals to increase the impact of the built environment on positive climate strategy.”

Image credit: Matej Kastelic/Shutterstock

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