UK Green Building Council publishes new guide for retrofitting commercial buildings

The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) has published a roadmap to guide efforts to retrofit the country’s energy inefficient commercial building stock in line with the government’s climate goals.

The industry group said the report, published today, offers practical guidance to help owners and landlords of commercial buildings upgrade their stock in order to meet legal requirements for energy performance set to come into force later this decade.

UKGBC said the “consistent approach” to retrofit projects outlined within the report provides property owners and key stakeholders with a “transparent picture” of the value and the benefits of opting for a net zero-focused retrofit, as opposed to more standard practices.

“Drawing from established industry thinking and discussions with built environment professionals, this foundation-setting publication has outlined key information to support and ensure the right considerations are made from beginning to end of the project to deliver net zero,” said UKBGC’s head of climate action Yetunde Adbul.

Experts have warned the UK will fail to meet its net zero goals if significant action is not taken to slash emissions from the country’s commercial and residential building stock, with analysis from UKGBC suggesting that aligning the UK built environment with the Paris Agreement will require energy consumption across commercial buildings to be reduced by 59 per cent by 2050.

Businesses are also facing a combination of financial pressure from soaring energy bills and more demanding compliance requirements relating to the efficiency of their buildings. For example, from 2030 all commercial buildings being let will be required to have a minimum Energy Performance Certification (EPC) rating of at least B on an A to G energy efficiency grade scale that Ministers have indicated they will make more demanding over the coming years .

Abdul said mobilizing industry and driving consensus behind the drive to enhance the energy efficiency of existing commercial buildings would be critical to delivering on the UK’s climate goals.

“Improving the energy efficiency of commercial buildings could slash nearly one quarter of the UK built environment’s total carbon footprint,” she said. “Whilst government regulation in this space is beginning to recognize the need to improve the performance of commercial real estate, without accelerated industry action we will fail to achieve our net zero goals – both as a sector and as an economy.”

The guide, titled Delivering Net Zero: Key considerations for Commercial Retrofitsalso attempts to clear up confusion on what constitutes a ‘light retrofit’ or a ‘deep retrofit’, in a bid to provide a common terminology for built environment practitioners.

It outlines 10 considerations for how low carbon focused retrofits should be delivered, illustrated by real-world case studies which exemplify these considerations. It also sets out the benefits low carbon retrofits have in supporting corporate net zero goals.

David Bownass, head of UK net zero design consulting at real estate company JLL, said that companies that failed to make their buildings net zero-aligned could soon be penalized by regulation and disregarded by investors.

“Demand for sustainable space is surging, with occupiers driving towards net zero targets and investors responding to market expectations and increasing regulation – not only to avoid ‘brown discount’ and risk of stranded assets, but increasingly acknowledging the need to act to secure a global sustainable future, “he said. “Collaboration across the sector is now key to drive towards this common purpose.”

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