The term built environment refers to man-made structures, features and facilities viewed collectively as an environment in which people live and work.
According to the UKGBC, the built environment contributes around 40% of the UK’s total carbon footprint. Heating alone accounts for 10% of the nation’s carbon footprint, with homes being more significant emitters than all other building types put together. Decarbonising our heat supply is one of the big policy challenges ahead.
Newly constructed buildings are more energy efficient, but 80% of the buildings that’ll be around in 2050 have already been built. A major priority, therefore, is decarbonising our existing stock - whether that’s through retrofitting (promoting retrofit is a key component of Zero Carbon plans at city and regional level) or other means. Even most homes built now could require retrofitting, unless and until we establish Net Zero building standards.
Another major challenge is the carbon embodied through construction. Annual embodied emissions alone are currently higher than the GCB’s target for total built environment emissions by 2050.