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Last edited 14 Mar 2022
What is Net Zero Carbon?
In construction, ‘net zero carbon’ means that carbon emissions associated with a building, product and so on are zero, or even negative. It does not necessarily relate to emissions of carbon dioxide only. The impact of other greenhouse gases (such as methane) is measured as a carbon equivalent, so ‘carbon emissions’ can refer to all greenhouse gases.
The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) defines net zero in construction as, “When the amount of carbon emissions associated with a building's embodied and operational impacts over the life of the building, including its disposal, are zero or negative.” This is ‘whole life’ net zero carbon, but there are alternative definitions.
 Different types of carbon emissions
- Operational carbon, as the name suggests, is the carbon emissions that result from the building’s use. This includes regulated emissions, which are controlled by the Building Regulations and are associated with, among other things, a building’s heating and hot water systems. It also includes unregulated emissions, which result from the activities of the building users. Unregulated emissions are not accounted for in compliance calculations.
- Embodied carbon includes emissions due to the production and transport of building materials, the processes on site during construction, and the way in which components are reused, recycled, or demolished at the end of a building’s life.
 How do I define net zero carbon for my construction project?
For some buildings, it might only be viable to address regulated emissions. On other projects it might be possible or desirable to look at whole life carbon, addressing emissions across the building’s complete lifecycle.
The key is to establish what net zero carbon means for the specific project from the earliest possible stage of the process. If the definition is made and understood during the preliminary design stages, it can inform all the decisions that come after and save time and money.
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- Climate Change Act.
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- CO2nstruct Zero programme grows to over 70 businesses.
- Fabric first investigation into net zero for existing buildings.
- Half of public sector bodies not planning for net zero carbon.
- Heat pumps and heat waves: How overheating complicates ending gas in the UK.
- Infrastructure carbon reduction misses net-zero target.
- Low or zero carbon technologies.
- Making Mission Possible: report on achieving a zero-carbon economy by 2030.
- Nearly zero-energy building.
- Net zero.
- Net Zero All Party Parliamentary Group NZ APPG.
- Net zero by 2050.
- Net zero (whole life) carbon.
- Net zero carbon building.
- Net zero carbon emissions.
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- Planning the infrastructure transition to net-zero.
- Scotland publishes plans to reach net zero targets with Heat in Buildings Strategy.
- Skilled workforce unable to meet net zero ambitions.
- Smoothing the path to net zero.
- Thermal imaging of the building fabric in the net zero world.
- Transform to Net Zero.
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