What is Net Zero?

The World Green Building Council, and the Green Building Councils participating in the Advancing Net Zero project (project steering committee), are dedicated to supporting market transformation towards 100% net zero carbon buildings by 2050. We support the follow definition of net zero carbon buildings:

A highly energy-efficient building with all remaining operational energy use from renewable energy, preferably on-site but also off-site production, to achieve net zero carbon emissions annually in operation. 

WorldGBC recognises that in most situations, net zero energy buildings, i.e. buildings that generate 100% of their energy needs on-site, are not feasible. Therefore net zero carbon buildings that supply energy needs from renewable sources (on-site and/or off-site) is a more appropriate target for the mass scale required to achieve Paris Agreement levels of global emission reductions.

In addition, the project steering committee have agreed upon the following key principles that are central to their approach to advancing net zero carbon buildings within their markets. This may include development, adaptation or adoption of a certification scheme recognising net zero buildings, corporate engagement, government engagement, training and awareness campaigns etc.:

1. Carbon is the ultimate metric to track - The goals of the Paris agreement make clear that we must decarbonise as quickly as possible. For this reason, carbon must be the focus so we can track progress against these goals.

2. A minimum level of building energy efficiency should be required - Decarbonisation will happen faster if we reduce our demand for energy, as we will need less of it for a building to function.

3. The balance of energy to be provided from renewable sources has a general hierarchical preference of on-site, off-site and then offset - On-site energy generation followed by off-site sources drives a closer link between a building’s own energy use and the carbon it emits. In some cases, offsets are allowable, or will phase out over time. In some circumstances neighbourhood, district and city-wide approaches to renewable energy generation will be appropriate, thereby supporting climate change goals through the decarbonisation of energy grids. 

4. Net Zero certification programmes should continually improve in terms of verification and rigour - All GBCs recognise the need for net zero certification to be based on performance in operation, and for transparency in standards developing over time to include, for example, lifecycle carbon calculations.

Our GBCs are exploring ways to incorporate these principles into their core activities.

Find out more in our Call to Action Report, From Thousands to Billions – Coordinated Action Towards Achieving 100% Net Zero Carbon Buildings by 2050.

 

Participating Green Building Council action

In November 2016, HQE Alliance, the Green Building Council in France, launched a voluntary labelling system E+C- Bâtiment à Énergie Positive et Réduction Carbone in conjunction with the Government, to ensure construction sector is part of the strategy to meet the challenge of climate change. The first seven labels were delivered to successful projects in July 2017, the highest performing being Le Themis d’Icade and La résidence Alizari à Malaunay.

 

In May 2017, Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) was the first GBC to launch a dedicated Zero Carbon Building Standard, making carbon emissions the key indicator for building performance. developed through extensive consultation with representatives from over 50 industry organizations, utilities, governments and companies across Canada. CaGBC is also working with 16 of Canada’s most sustainable projects in the Zero Carbon Building Pilot Program, which will inform further development of the Standard and accompanying resources and education. 

 

In August 2017, GBC Brasil launched their Zero Energy Standard. A program of 11 pioneering projects will evaluate the standard across five different states, and two projects have already received certification for demonstrating a net zero energy balance for one year of operation: the Sebrae Centre for Sustainability in the city of Cuiabá, Mato Grosso, and the Geo Thermal Energy Headquarters in Tamboará, Paraná.

 

The Australian Federal Government launched in October 2017 a National Carbon Offset Standard for Buildings and Precincts, developed in close collaboration with Green Building Council Australia. Utilising existing and well established rating schemes Green Star - Performance and NABERS as pathways to demonstrate compliance, the Standard sets rigorous requirements for achieving carbon neutrality by reducing demand from buildings, procuring renewable energy, and purchasing carbon credits to offset remaining emissions.

 

The Green Building Council of South Africa launched a labelling system in October 2017 designed to complement ratings under the Green Star South Africa tool, recognising buildings that completely neutralise or positively redress their carbon emissions, water consumption, solid waste to landfill and/or negative ecological impacts. Four projects have achieved certification, for one or more of the issues, in a scheme that recognises the urgency of impacts beyond energy consumption. 
 

The World Green Building Council, and the Green Building Councils participating in the Advancing Net Zero project (project steering committee), are dedicated to supporting market transformation towards 100% net zero carbon buildings by 2050. We support the follow definition of net zero carbon buildings:

A highly energy-efficient building with all remaining operational energy use from renewable energy, preferably on-site but also off-site production, to achieve net zero carbon emissions annually in operation. 

WorldGBC recognises that in most situations, net zero energy buildings, i.e. buildings that generate 100% of their energy needs on-site, are not feasible. Therefore net zero carbon buildings that supply energy needs from renewable sources (on-site and/or off-site) is a more appropriate target for the mass scale required to achieve Paris Agreement levels of global emission reductions.

In addition, the project steering committee have agreed upon the following key principles that are central to their approach to advancing net zero carbon buildings within their markets. This may include development, adaptation or adoption of a certification scheme recognising net zero buildings, corporate engagement, government engagement, training and awareness campaigns etc.:

1. Carbon is the ultimate metric to track - The goals of the Paris agreement make clear that we must decarbonise as quickly as possible. For this reason, carbon must be the focus so we can track progress against these goals.

2. A minimum level of building energy efficiency should be required - Decarbonisation will happen faster if we reduce our demand for energy, as we will need less of it for a building to function.

3. The balance of energy to be provided from renewable sources has a general hierarchical preference of on-site, off-site and then offset - On-site energy generation followed by off-site sources drives a closer link between a building’s own energy use and the carbon it emits. In some cases, offsets are allowable, or will phase out over time. In some circumstances neighbourhood, district and city-wide approaches to renewable energy generation will be appropriate, thereby supporting climate change goals through the decarbonisation of energy grids. 

4. Net Zero certification programmes should continually improve in terms of verification and rigour - All GBCs recognise the need for net zero certification to be based on performance in operation, and for transparency in standards developing over time to include, for example, lifecycle carbon calculations.

Our GBCs are exploring ways to incorporate these principles into their core activities.

Find out more in our Call to Action Report, From Thousands to Billions – Coordinated Action Towards Achieving 100% Net Zero Carbon Buildings by 2050.

 

Participating Green Building Council action

In November 2016, HQE Alliance, the Green Building Council in France, launched a voluntary labelling system E+C- Bâtiment à Énergie Positive et Réduction Carbone in conjunction with the Government, to ensure construction sector is part of the strategy to meet the challenge of climate change. The first seven labels were delivered to successful projects in July 2017, the highest performing being Le Themis d’Icade and La résidence Alizari à Malaunay.

 

In May 2017, Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) was the first GBC to launch a dedicated Zero Carbon Building Standard, making carbon emissions the key indicator for building performance. developed through extensive consultation with representatives from over 50 industry organizations, utilities, governments and companies across Canada. CaGBC is also working with 16 of Canada’s most sustainable projects in the Zero Carbon Building Pilot Program, which will inform further development of the Standard and accompanying resources and education. 

 

In August 2017, GBC Brasil launched their Zero Energy Standard. A program of 11 pioneering projects will evaluate the standard across five different states, and two projects have already received certification for demonstrating a net zero energy balance for one year of operation: the Sebrae Centre for Sustainability in the city of Cuiabá, Mato Grosso, and the Geo Thermal Energy Headquarters in Tamboará, Paraná.

 

The Australian Federal Government launched in October 2017 a National Carbon Offset Standard for Buildings and Precincts, developed in close collaboration with Green Building Council Australia. Utilising existing and well established rating schemes Green Star - Performance and NABERS as pathways to demonstrate compliance, the Standard sets rigorous requirements for achieving carbon neutrality by reducing demand from buildings, procuring renewable energy, and purchasing carbon credits to offset remaining emissions.

 

The Green Building Council of South Africa launched a labelling system in October 2017 designed to complement ratings under the Green Star South Africa tool, recognising buildings that completely neutralise or positively redress their carbon emissions, water consumption, solid waste to landfill and/or negative ecological impacts. Four projects have achieved certification, for one or more of the issues, in a scheme that recognises the urgency of impacts beyond energy consumption.