The new plan from Future Homes Hub sets out the construction sector’s path to whole-life carbon assessments
The Future Homes Hub has published an Embodied and Whole Life Carbon Implementation Plan for 2023-25. This plan follows the publication of the Government’s Net-Zero Strategy in 2021, which set out ambitions for the construction sector to improve reporting on embodied carbon and the Environmental Audit Committee’s May 2022 report, which recommended the government introduce whole-life carbon assessments for new builds.
What is in the Hub’s plan?
The Hub’s plan lays out a clear set of actions for the home-building industry to find the most practical ways to measure and reduce whole-life carbon at scale, whilst continuing to build better homes and communities for those living in and near them.
- the development of a measurement framework
- the establishment of benchmark figures
- the development of a pathway to industry-supported targets.
Timber Development UK welcomes the practical steps set out in the plan. As the representative of an industry supplying the world’s most carbon-friendly building material, TDUK enthusiastically supports embodied carbon and whole-life carbon assessments. After all, embodied carbon emissions can account for up to 75% of a building’s lifetime greenhouse gas emissions and are responsible for over 10% of our national emissions.
In many ways, the UK’s homebuilding industry has sleepwalked into the situation it now finds itself in. For decades, there has been little change in the way we build our homes, and the use of energy-intensive materials has been baked in without any real assessment of the impact. Meanwhile, investment in green construction skills continues to lag behind the realities of the climate crisis.
To reach net-zero targets by 2050, we need to reduce carbon emissions from the built environment each year by half. Given the contribution of embodied carbon emissions, it is clear we need to move beyond the regulation of operational carbon to achieve this – and housebuilders will need to play a major part.
Timber frame solutions
Timber frame construction rightly features in the Hub’s assessments as a leading solution to reducing upfront carbon emissions. Timber frame homes can provide quick build times, cheap costs and options for offsite construction, all whilst saving an average of four tonnes of CO2 compared with an equivalent masonry house.
While 85% of Scottish homes are already built using timber, only 22% of English new-build homes are currently timber-framed. This demonstrates that the means to reduce embodied carbon using this method already exists in the UK. Implementation of the Hub’s plan may be the shot in the arm the industry needs to recognise this.
Overall, the plan is forward-thinking and will hopefully set the house-building industry on the right path. In turn, we hope that the Government will give it backing and offer incentives for home builders who sign up for voluntary targets – especially if it continues to promote national housebuilding targets in the hundreds of thousands. Meanwhile, the long-term goal must be the regulation of whole-life carbon and embodied carbon targets, in line with existing operational carbon requirements.