Better use of current buildings to reduce new construction demand are among the key points of a new report presented at COP26 today.

Regeneration developers Galliford Try, housebuilders Wilmott Dixon and residential developer Wates Group were among the 200 endorsers of Built Environment produced by Architects Declare.

The Royal Institute of British Architects president Simon Allford said: “Our buildings are responsible for almost 40 per cent of global carbon emissions. For the benefit of humanity, we need bold regulations and purposeful policies that will secure our future.”

The report highlights that about half of the estimated 255bn m2 existing buildings will still exist by 2050 and that more investment is needed to improve these buildings to hit net-zero targets.

Around 10 per cent of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions are from materials and products used in the construction and maintenance of buildings known as ‘embodied carbon’.

Over a quarter of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions are due to heating, cooling, and operating buildings.

“The most effective way to avoid embodied carbon emissions is to refurbish, retrofit, and extend the lives of existing buildings, instead of demolishing them and building a new,” said the report.

Brokers Hank Zarihs Associates said there was an increasingly wide range of lenders keen to offer development and refurbishment finance for retrofits.

Greater commitment from global governments needed

Built Environment pointed out an estimated two-thirds of new properties constructed between now and 2050 will be built in countries without energy codes.

It calculates that the number of buildings constructed every year grows by 5.5bn m2 a year with the city the size of Paris built every week.

The report authors call on governments worldwide to show leadership, regulatory oversight and infrastructure to support the building sector and the wider community in collective action.

“Well-designed regulations can promote innovation, allowing us to achieve broader social, economic, and environmental goals.”

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