In recent times, there has been more than one occasion where clients have come to us asking for their project to be net zero carbon. However, when we continued the conversation and discussed their expectations, it came to light that they were unsure on what net zero carbon really means.

The most common mistake that clients make is misunderstanding that net zero carbon includes the design, construction, operation and demolition of the building. Too often, the understanding is that a few solar panels and some offsetting will satisfy the net zero carbon requirements. Net zero carbon and carbon neutral are used interchangeably too, which has a damaging effect. 

It is great that our clients are coming to us and asking for us to make net zero carbon a reality for their project, but it's vital that we as an industry are singing from the same hymn sheet and can align expectations with outcomes.

The trouble with new buzzwords is that they are used incorrectly too often. In this example, we need to help educate at an industry level, ensuring that clients understand how net zero carbon is not something we can simply add to the project at RIBA Stage 3. Instead, it is a goal which requires a holistic approach that needs to be considered at the earliest stage of the project.

We have pledged to give our time and expertise to help develop the new UK Net Zero Carbon Building Standard, which will shape the definition and parameters for net zero carbon in our industry.

The creation of a net zero carbon technical standard will ensure a minimum is achieved before a credential can be associated with a project. The ability to see comparisons will enable clients to better understand what is possible and what the benchmark is – similar to the way the BREEAM rating system works.

Although it’s early days, we’ve already been given the option to provide data, run projects and scenarios, and be involved in discussion groups focussing on different tools and approaches – all which will help develop the most beneficial standard possible.