There are a range of terms used to describe buildings that are on a path to Net Zero. As WorldGBC’s vision calls for total decarbonisation for the built environment, we call the industry to adopt the whole life carbon approach that addresses emissions from operational energy use in buildings, and the embodied carbon which comes from the building materials and construction or renovation processes.
As the golden rule of achieving Net Zero, measures that will help reduce energy demand to ensure buildings are highly energy efficient are always prioritised.
How the energy is supplied to meet the remaining demand varies. For example, if 100% of energy demand is met by on-site renewable energy, it can be called a net zero energy building.
In reality, it may not be possible in all building types and locations. If renewable energy from off-site is imported to meet the balance, it can be called net zero operational carbon.
In new building developments, maximum embodied carbon reductions should seek to achieve, for example by choosing to renovate existing buildings or through building material selection. If the remaining residual emissions from embodied carbon and any remaining fossil-fuel use within the building during the operational stage are compensated for, for example through the use of offsets, the building asset is net zero whole life carbon.
WorldGBC recognises the role of offsets as part of the transition towards total sector decarbonisation that also enables tangible environment and social co-benefits in support of the Sustainable Development Goals.
At an entity level, and as per the Science Based Targets Initiative’s Net Zero Standard published in 2021, total emissions for an entire company’s carbon footprint should be reduced by 90% and the remaining offset by carbon removal projects, in order to classify as net zero.
It requires innovative design approaches focused on optimising performance, and collaboration across the entire project team. By reducing reliance on fossil fuels, buildings achieving these high performance classifications, with energy and carbon budgets verified based on actual consumption data, are therefore Advancing Net Zero.