Sustainability in Construction, Jargon Buster. Article 1: COP27

17 November 2022

With COP27 currently taking place in Sharm El Sheik, Ridge and Partners thought it would be a good time to break down the acronyms and jargon that we so often hear around sustainability in construction. Take a look at our jargon buster below:

COP27 – This is the 27th annual Conference Of the Parties (COP) where world leaders meet to discuss and tackle climate change. Key goals from COP27 are to mitigate, adapt, finance and collaborate on climate change issues. Further details can be found at here

Sustainability (suh-stey-nuh-bil-i-tee) – noun – 1) The ability to be sustained, supported, upheld, or confirmed, 2) Environmental science. The quality of not being harmful to the environment or deleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance.

Renewable Energy – Energy from a source that is not depleted when used. Examples include energy generated by solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, biomass, tidal or waves. Renewable energy sources for buildings include solar photovoltaics (PV), solar thermal, ground source heat pumps, air source heat pumps and biomass boilers.

Embodied Carbon – Embodied carbon is the carbon emissions associated with the construction and life-cycle of a building, but excluding the operation carbon emissions. This includes any carbon emissions associated with extracting building materials from the Earth, transportation of the materials, manufacturing building components, transporting the components to the building site, constructing the building, maintaining the building and even the eventual demolition, transportation and recycling of the building.

Operational Carbon – Operational carbon is the carbon emissions generated from the operation of the building. These can be divided into three groups; Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions from the building and operations such as heating, electrical consumption and company vehicles. Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions from the purchase of electricity, steam, heating and cooling for own use. Scope 3 emissions are any other indirect emissions such as purchased items, employee commuting and business travel. The below diagram from the Green House Gas (GHG) protocol website helps demonstrate Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions:

Carbon Offsetting – Investing or participating in schemes that undertake activities that results in reducing carbon emissions in the atmosphere. Carbon offsetting schemes include renewable energy projects, such as new wind, solar or hydro energy generators or tree planting. Carbon offsetting should be verified by top carbon registries such as the Verified Carbon Standard (VSC) or the Gold Standard (WWF).

Net Zero Carbon – Net zero carbon is when there is a balance between the amount of greenhouse gases generated and the amount of greenhouse gasses removed from the atmosphere. For buildings and construction, this can be broken down to the following key areas:

1) Net Zero Carbon – Construction – When the amount of carbon emissions associated with a building’s construction equals zero. To achieve this carbon offsetting will be required.

2) Net Zero Carbon – Embodied – When the amount of carbon emissions associated with a building’s construction and deconstruction throughout its whole life cycle equals zero. Note this includes carbon emissions through construction, but excludes operational carbon emissions. Again, to achieve this carbon offsetting will be required.

3) Net Zero Carbon – Operational – When the amount of carbon emissions associated with the building’s operational energy equals zero on an annual basis. A net zero carbon building is highly energy efficient and powered from on-site and/or off-site renewable energy sources, with any remaining carbon emissions offset.

4) Net Zero Carbon – Whole Life – When the sum of the embodied and operational carbon emissions equal zero.

We hope this is useful. Please get in touch if you require any further information and look out for the next Sustainability Jargon Buster Article.

About this Author

Dan Fisher
Chartered Associate Building Services Engineer
Ridge Reading Office

Contact Ridge Sustainability Specialists:

Nick Hayes

Abby Bartlett

Wendy Broomhead