FOCUS ON: The UK Green Building Council

by: Felicity Cousins | May 17, 2023

In our new series we focus on common questions, acronyms and organisations when it comes to discussing sustainability and hotels. Today we are looking at the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC).

What is it? The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) was founded in 2006 and is a charitable organisation using its network of members to tackle the climate crisis. It does this by transforming the built environment with sustainable buildings and design. UKGBC aims to create positive community spaces, infrastructure and cities where people thrive together with a focus on nature and biodiversity, resource use, wellness and socio-economics. UKGBC has more than 700 members.

How does it work? UKGBC works with its members and the government (to help develop progressive policy) to reduce emissions and drive net zero carbon buildings. Businesses, government groups and partners focus on the infrastructure, the way buildings are planned, designed, constructed, maintained and even repurposed and operated. The UKGBC also works to reduce emissions through operational and embodied carbon across the building sector – something the hotel sector is taking onboard. Hotels being planned, and those already in operation, will be familiar with taking into account their embodied carbon emissions and put into place sustainable practices.

What makes a hotel a net zero carbon building? UKGBC published the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Framework Definition in 2019 to provide clarity to the building industry on the definition of net zero carbon buildings.

According to the framework: “Net zero carbon – operational energy can only be achieved one year after practical completion, once 12 months of in-use performance data has been publicly disclosed and third party verified. Prior to this, organisations can publicise their commitment to achieving this, with wording along the lines of ‘Committed to achieving Net zero carbon – operational energy’.”

Although the document has a list of principles set out to achieve net zero, the framework is flexible, and it was always intended as something which would be added to as stricter requirements develop over time. For example, new science based targets for embodied carbon do not yet exist and targets do not currently exist for refurbishment projects either. As such, the UKGBC suggests projects should work to new build targets where possible. Principles which do exist include the ‘reduction first’ approach to achieving net zero carbon. You can read the full framework here

What does the UKGBC do for the hotel sector? The UK has committed to reduce its emissions by 78 per cent by 2035 (compared with 1990 levels) and achieve net zero by 2050. The built environment has a huge part to play, currently producing around 25 per cent of the UK’s carbon footprint and global hotels still citing 2.3 million rooms in the pipeline, which will significantly contribute to the issue. To help achieve net zero for hotels the UKGBC partnered with The Sustainable Hospitality Alliance in November last year. The two organisations will use their expertise to enhance the sustainability of new and existing hotels and run pilot initiatives to drive green building across the sector.

Mike Clarke, director of membership at UKGBC said of the partnership: “Decarbonising the built environment is one of the biggest climate challenges facing the UK and indeed the world. Delivering on our net zero targets will require fundamentally changing the way we construct, operate and de-construct our built assets, including those within hospitality. UKGBC is delighted to announce our partnership with the Alliance and we look forward to learning from their sector expertise, as we work together to drive a more sustainable and resilient built environment.”

Anything else? The UKGBC has confirmed Smith Mordak as its new CEO from June 1, 2023 taking over from Julie Hirigoyen who has been in the post since 2014. 

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