Green Light for Net Zero Carbon and Circular Economy update to Sustainable Building Standard

3 August 2020

The latest update to the UCL Sustainable Building Standard (SBS) has been approved, introducing new approaches to reducing carbon emissions and improved material resource efficiency across all our construction projects.

Computer rendered image of an atrium in the PEARL building in Barking

First developed in the run up to the Transforming UCL programme, the SBS aims to balance environmental, social and financial considerations with an emphasis on life cycle value. It includes specific minimum standards and targets which all new build, refurbishment and minor works projects need to work towards.

The update reflects exemplary levels of performance across the capital programme: all of our new build projects have achieved at least a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating, whilst the Student Centre achieved a rare ‘Outstanding’ award. It also aims to align with emerging best practice and regulatory requirements.

The key updates are as follows:

1.            Approach to net zero carbon: All project teams will need to demonstrate how their work is addressing the institutional target for net zero carbon, with an emphasis on energy demand reduction. We now have a number of newer buildings which perform well beyond the energy requirements of Part L Building Regulations, and Pearl is set to be our first project which can truly claim to be net zero.

2.            Circular Economy: The efficient use of material resources is more clearly addressed under the circular economy agenda, reflecting anticipated requirements in the new London Plan; and an increasing number of relevant UCL research streams. The potential for capital cost savings is highlighted. Larger projects will need to carry out a life cycle assessment of construction materials.

3.            Biodiversity: With the introduction of the ‘Wild Bloomsbury’ programme, we have more clearly aligned requirements by adopting a target for net biodiversity gain.

Kevin Argent, Director Estates Development said “It’s great to see that UCL is leading the sector on sustainable design and construction. Achieving net zero carbon is a significant challenge and the updated Sustainable Building Standard helps to set out a clear and balanced approach for our project teams.”

Ben Stubbs, Senior Sustainability Manager said “We’ve been fortunate to work with some of the country’s leading consultants and contractors over the past few years, demonstrating that exemplary environmental performance can be achieved with the right level of ambition and early planning – whilst also achieving long-term value for UCL. The new SBS aims to ensure that we stay ahead of the game!”