Government and industry response

International deals on climate change have fed through to national and even local government policy and regulation, which in turn are influencing buying decisions among customers and clients.

The construction industry, led by product manufacturers, has responded.

International, national and local policy

2015 Paris Agreement

The UK government is a signatory of the 2015 Paris Agreement, which commits it to finding ways to reduce emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change (known as nationally determined contributions, or NDCs). The ultimate aim of limiting global warming to between 1.5°C to 2°C and all countries are required to outline and communicate their NDCs in 2020.

Sustainable Development Goals

The Paris Agreement also saw the adoption of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which place sustainability at the heart of economic growth. These goals include improving resource efficiency and clean energy, through to protecting biodiversity and improving food security.

Crucially, companies from all sectors of the economy, have pledged their commitment to SDGs, which will naturally influence their procurement decisions. The World Green Building Council has identified nine SDGs that relate directly to the built environment.

UK ‘net zero’ target

In 2019, the UK became the first country to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming by 2050. The target will require the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, compared with the previous target of at least 80% reduction from 1990 levels required under the 2010 Climate Change Act.

UK Industrial Strategy Construction Deal

‘Clean growth’ is central to the government’s Industrial Strategy, which forecasts the potential value of exports from the low carbon economy grow to £170bn a year by 2030. In 2019 the government announced its  Industrial Strategy Construction Deal  which includes a commitment to halve the energy use of new buildings by 2030, with a focus on digital technology and manufacturing processes.

Resources and waste strategy for England

This strategy sets out how we will preserve material resources by minimising waste, promoting resource efficiency and moving towards a circular economy in England. It sits within the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, which itself sits alongside the Clean Growth Strategy and the Industrial Strategy

London Plan

The London Plan is the Greater London Authority’s key planning strategy for housing, transport, infrastructure, land development and the environment within the capital. Local development documents produced by each London Borough must be ‘in general conformity’ with the London Plan.

The London Plan has a number of targets related climate change, mitigation and adaptation, including all major development proposals designed to include roof, wall and site planting, especially green roofs and walls where feasible. In fact, the London Plan has helped drive the adoption of green roofs so that the capital accounts for over 40% of the total UK green roof market and ranks eighth in the global league table of green roofs by density.

Manchester, Liverpool and other devolved cities are developing their own equivalent plans.

Sustainability standards and incentives

BS EN ISO 14001—Environmental management systems

Requirements with guidance for use
BS EN ISO 14001 maps out a framework that a company can follow to set up an effective environmental management system (EMS) to help it meet environmental regulations and improve efficiency and environmental performance.

BREEAM (BRE Environmental Assessment Method)

BREEAM provides independent third-party certification of the sustainability performance of buildings and infrastructure projects. Assessment can take place from design and construction through to operation and refurbishment and is based on a credit scoring system in a number of areas, such as energy efficiency, biodiversity and waste as well as the sustainability of building elements, including roofs. The result is a certificate with a rating that ranges from Pass, Good, Very Good, Excellent to Outstanding. A minimum BREEAM rating may be a condition of planning approval.

Green Guide to Specification

Part of BREEAM, the Green Guide provide specifiers with information about the environmental impacts of building elements, which are rated from A+ to E, based on their manufacturing process, how they are used in buildings, and their environmental performance. The environmental rankings are based on Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) using BRE’s Environmental Profiles Methodology 2008.

Environmental Product Declaration (EPD)

An EPD is a document that independently verifies the environmental performance of a product based on Lifecycle Assessment Data. The EPD can feed into BREEAM or other assessment scheme, or into a BIM model.


The Energy Company Obligation (ECO) is a government energy efficiency scheme to help reduce carbon emissions and tackle fuel poverty. Under ECO, medium and larger energy suppliers fund the installation of energy efficiency measures in British households, including roof and loft insulation, which accounts for a quarter of all heat loss in homes.

BS 8895-2:2015 Designing for material efficiency in building projects—Part 2: Code of practice for Concept Design and Developed Design

BS 8895-2 is a code of practice for designing for material efficiency, which is a key part to achieve higher levels of resource efficiency in a building project. The standard gives recommendations for the processes, information exchanges and responsibilities to incorporate into projects at the Concept Design and Developed Design Stages.

BS 800:2017—Framework for implementing the principles of the circular economy in organizations

The circular economy concept looks for materials to be repeatedly recovered and reused for as long as possible, in order to reduce waste-to-landfill. The standard provides guidance and recommendations that will help an organization turn the circular economy concept and theory into practical action.