Carbon Reduction Code for the Built Environment launched

Carbon reduction is more likely to happen when all the organisations within a value chain are committed to reducing their footprint and saving costs. The Carbon Reduction Code for the Built Environment is intended as first step to facilitate action and collaboration to reduce CO2 emissions related to the design, construction, maintenance, operation and decommissioning of built assets

On 15 June, Issue 1.0 of the Carbon Reduction Code for the Built Environment was launched by the Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure & Construction.

The code has been developed on behalf of the Construction Leadership Council as part of its Construct Zero Initiative, the construction sector’s response to the government’s 10-Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution published in November 2020.

It has been drawn up by the Achieving Net Zero Cross-Industry Working Group convened by the CSIC. The group was formed in March 2020 and comprises more than 40 representatives from a range of consultants, contractors, industry groups and local and central government, including the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, the Infrastructure Projects Authority, the Environment Agency, Highways England, Skanska UK and the National Association of Construction Frameworks (NACF).

The code is intended as a first step to facilitate action and collaboration between organisations to reduce carbon emissions related to the design, construction, maintenance and operation of built assets.

It is not intended to replace standards, such as PAS 2080, but instead provides a framework for organisations to make a public commitment to, and report on progress towards, achieving net zero.

The framework aligns with the government’s Procurement Policy Note PPN 06/21 for taking account of carbon reduction plans in public procurement.

It is expected that the Carbon Reduction Code for the Built Environment will be updated as carbon targets change and progress towards net zero is achieved.

The code comprises three parts:

  1. Code commitments for all organisations.
  2. Code commitments for all client organisations and further commitments to facilitate the transition to net zero.
  3. Core commitments for supply chain organisations and further commitments to facilitate the transition to Net Zero.

Commitments for all organisations

Commitments for all organisations include reducing direct and indirect (Scope 1, 2 and where appropriate Scope 3) carbon emissions by 75% by 2030 in order to meet zero carbon emissions by 2045 (or the relevant government-stipulated date, if earlier).

Organisations must also set out plans to meet net zero by 2045, including annual targets, recognising that the majority of cuts need to be made by 2030. Plans, and progress made, will be published annually.

Client commitments

For client organisations, there are core and further commitments covering procurement, data and reporting, learning and skills, design philosophy and knowledge sharing.

Among them is a commitment to include carbon reduction targets and reporting commitments explicitly in all procurement documents, as deliverable of the procurement process, to move the “cost-carbon” balance in favour of low carbon choices.

In addition, organisations must commit to providing a carbon baseline for each project and setting targets for carbon reduction against these to drive innovation.

Where appropriate, organisations will also include progressive carbon reduction targets throughout the life of a project and appropriate financial incentives, having regard to the other commitments on the Carbon Reduction Code for the Built Environment.

Carbon offsetting should be a “last resort” and only used when all other carbon reduction efforts are exhausted.

Supply chain organisation commitments

Commitments for supply chain organisations include automating production and delivery of CO2 equivalent information through design and construction by using integrated approaches to data creation and management. This will inform optimal solutions through the build phase and streamline delivery of information to clients.

They must also commit to reduce the carbon intensity of projects year-on-year and proactively recommend and adopt carbon measurement and reduction methodologies in all projects for both design and construction, including whole-life carbon approaches, regardless of whether the clients have requested them.

Another core commitment is to work in close collaboration with clients and supply chain partners to deliver clients’ carbon requirements and inform the development of approaches and standards.

Launch event

The code was official launched at an online event hosted by the CSIC at the University of Cambridge on 17 June.

The launch event was introduced by Hannah Vickers, chief executive of the Association for Consultancy & Engineering, and Dr Jennifer Schooling OBE, director of the CSIC.

The event included short presentations by organisations that are currently conducting trials of the code, including: James Wilcox, representing the NACF; Kat Ibbotson, Net Zero Carbon Infrastructure programme manager at the Environment Agency; and Chris Hayes, sustainability operations director at Skanska UK. Feedback from the trials have helped to shape the development of the code, which is broad in intent and designed for participating organisations to share experience and learn from each other.

“It is essential that our industry reduces carbon emissions and the more organisations that sign up to the code, the more we will achieve,” said Dr Schooling.

“Carbon reduction is much more likely to happen when all organisations within a value chain are committed to working together to reduce their footprint and save costs. Collaboration is the key to success and with alignment across all parties, we can progress towards the net zero carbon objective at the pace required.

“There are already many excellent examples of carbon reduction measures among our Achieving NetZero Cross-Industry Working Group and the code builds upon these strengths to provide an encouraging, supportive and collaborative approach to reducing carbon.”


Dr Jennifer Schooling OBE


Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure & Construction

Twitter: @CSIC_IKC

Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction

YouTube: Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction

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