Skip to content

By Chris Brierley, Communications & Engagement Lead @ABC

Today is Built Environment Day at the COP26 summit, with industry and political leaders coming together to address the issue which we are working on more than any other.

The built environment will have a central role to play in dealing with the climate crisis. Building operations represent nearly 55% of global electricity consumption globally. In the UK, 40% of carbon emissions come from buildings, with half of these coming from residential homes. And of those homes’ emissions, over 70% come from heating.

The Tech is there – we just need to use it correctly

These are huge numbers and present a daunting task, but the good news is that we have the technology to help solve these problems. As the Build Better Now campaign’s research shows, it is possible to eliminate building emissions by 2050 through existing technologies and urgently adopting the policies and investments to do so.

That’s why we’re working on systems of heat pumps, insulation and energy storage which can make buildings self-sufficient, carbon-neutral and ‘active’. By making our buildings net contributors to the grid, we can cut emissions and cut costs in the long run.

The world’s building stock is expected to double by 2050, so ensuring that the right technologies are correctly integrated into new builds is particularly important. Getting this right now will save the retrofitting costs which we’re currently seeing here in the UK. Savills estimates that, with costs at current levels, it would take 36 years for the investment in upgrading an EPC D home to pay itself back.

However, currently only 1% of new homes in the UK are built to the standards needed for net zero.

That’s why we’re working with developers across the country to demonstrate, explain and install the technologies we will need for new homes to be net zero from the get-go. We’re working with local councils in Wales and England on social housing, and with large developers on their new projects.

It’s not just new builds either – cutting those prohibitive retrofitting costs will be just as important, if not more so. We’ve built model active homes from materials and designs that meet not just current and future regulatory standards but also the past ones, to demonstrate how these new technologies can work regardless of the age of the house.

And we’re always working on individual technologies – we’re on course to increase the efficiency of heat pumps by over two thirds. Through improvements like this, implemented across the country, we really can cut those heating emissions, and reach net zero.

So, it’s clear that there’s a lot to be done. But it should hopefully also be becoming clear that there’s a lot we can do. That’s why it’s so encouraging to see global industry leaders come together today on Built Environment Day at COP26.