Delivering net zero carbon buildings and a circular economy for UCL

University College London has committed to achieve net zero carbon buildings by 2024 and to be a net zero carbon institution by 2030.

Driving these goals, the Sustainable Building Standard (SBS) sets the benchmark for all new-build and refurbishment projects at UCL. Buro Happold’s sustainability consultants worked collaboratively with UCL Sustainability to update this standard drawing upon our global expertise on operational energy, circular economy and embodied carbon.

University College London are currently in year six of a ten year £1.25 billion Capital Programme with 14 projects in construction and 177 projects complete and in operation. Recognising the importance of a sustainable estate, UCL has a set out a commitment to achieve net zero carbon buildings by 2024 and be a net zero carbon institution by 2030.

Buro Happold’s sustainability consultants led an independent post project review of the Bartlett School of Architecture at 22 Gordon Street, winner of the 2020 ‘CIBSE Building Performance Project of the Year: Retrofit’. Image: Jack Hobhouse.

For all capital projects, UCL’s ‘Sustainable Building Standard’ sets the requirements for sustainable design, construction and operation. Originally published in 2016, the Standard has been drive operational efficiency at UCL through its requirements. These include; achieving a 40% improvement over Part L, undertaking operational energy modelling following CIBSE TM54 and targeting zero construction waste to landfill.

Earlier this year, Buro Happold was appointed to provide technical input and due diligence to update UCL’s Sustainable Building Standard setting ambitious new requirements for all capital projects. This includes benchmarking all new-build and refurbishment projects to the UKGBC Net Zero Carbon framework definition.

As part of the sign off process, Buro Happold and UCL Sustainability led three collaborative workshops with framework consultants, UCL staff and leading academics. Feedback from these sessions was used to strengthen requirements, for example around energy efficiency requirements for conservation buildings.

In support of UCL’s commitment to achieving net zero carbon by 2030, and the specific targets in our Sustainable Building Standard, Buro Happold have provided a wide range of valuable input. This includes the development of robust processes to support our project review framework; through to detailed technical input. This work has helped to stimulate meaningful, collaborative efforts to improve building performance and address our climate obligations and ambitions.

Ben Stubbs, Senior Sustainability Manager, University College London

The Strategy is underpinned by UCL’s three signature campaigns for “Positive Climate”, “Wild Bloomsbury” and “The Loop”, with latter focusing on circular economy. Updates include comprehensive new targets and requirements for net biodiversity gain, embodied carbon modelling, circular economy workshops and reporting from RIBA Stage 1. The standard also includes a much greater emphasis on in-use kWh/m² target setting, advanced simulation and applying Passivhaus principles where appropriate, as well as demonstrating life cycle value and adopting Soft Landings on all projects.

Building upon Buro Happold’s previous collaboration co-authoring the “UCL Post Project Review Guidelines”, the standard reinforces requirements for a Project Implementation Review (PIR) on all projects and a full Post Occupancy Evaluation (POE) for all business critical projects and works above £10m.

The updated Sustainable Building Standard is now published and enforced on all projects, with several projects underway already embracing the new requirements. It serves as a catalyst for transformational change at UCL and a benchmark for sustainable development across the sector.

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