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2030 Climate Challenge FAQs

What is the 2030 Climate Challenge?

The 2030 Climate Challenge is a voluntary initiative for RIBA Chartered Practices to join to demonstrate their commitment to attempting to meet key sustainability targets on the buildings they design. It includes targets for annual energy use, embodied carbon over the buildings lifecycle and annual water use. It provides a stepped approach towards reaching net zero.

The challenge is not mandatory, it is a commitment to show leadership on your projects and attempt to meet the targets.

Download the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge targets and checklist.

Why has RIBA launched the 2030 Climate Challenge?

The built environment is responsible for around 40% of global carbon emissions and architects have a significant role to play in reducing UK greenhouse gas emissions to net zero.

RIBA Chartered Practices that join the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge and start working towards the targets, they will play their part in addressing this global crisis.

How were the targets set?

The targets consider the latest recommendations from the Green Construction Board and have been developed in consultation with industry experts and UK professional bodies from across the built environment industries. The targets align with those set by LETI on operational energy and embodied carbon.

With specific targets adjusted for domestic buildings, offices and schools typologies, the RIBA will seek to develop additional metrics for other sectors and project scales with other UK bodies over time.

Who can take part in the 2030 Climate Challenge?

The targets are for everyone working in the construction industry. Becoming a signatory to the 2030 Climate Challenge is currently open to RIBA Chartered Practices.

Find out how to become a RIBA Chartered Practice.

How do I sign up?

RIBA Chartered Practices can sign up online.

Is the 2030 Climate Challenge mandatory?

The 2030 Climate Challenge is not mandatory, nor does it seek to replace existing environmental or sustainability assessment schemes. Instead, it is an invitation to radically transform the built environment through design approaches that target performance outcomes. The built environment is responsible for about 40% of global carbon emissions and it is vital that the construction industry takes responsibility to reduce its contributions to carbon emissions. The RIBA encourages all RIBA Chartered Practices to join this task.

Do I need to submit any data to the RIBA?

Yes. Signatories who join the challenge are asked to submit data relating to their 'significant' projects to the RIBA.

‘Significant’ projects will vary between practices, depending on their size. Significance may also be reflected in project cost or size or complexity/cultural value.

How do I submit data?

A data submission form is available for signatories to complete and includes the in-use energy and water performance data of the building one year after completion.

This information needs to be obtained from the client and should be taken from energy/water meter readings (or energy/water bills) for the building over a year, so that both winter and summer seasons feature in the calculation.

A client guide and client letter template is available for 2030 Climate Challenge signatories to use to assist in gathering the necessary client commitment.

Once the form has been completed, you should return it to practice@riba.org.

What will the RIBA be doing with this data?

The RIBA provides assurance that all submitted data will remain anonymous and will only be used by the RIBA to:

  • grow industry knowledge of trends in building performance
  • identify trends in building performance gaps between predicted design targets and actual building performance data
  • identify opportunities for improvements for sectoral carbon reductions
  • deliver targeted research and knowledge development to the profession
  • inform future engagement activity for the RIBA membership

What do I do if I cannot get hold of the data required?

We understand that, for some projects, operational data from energy or water bills is not available to the practice. If this is the case, it is helpful for us to know why. Please use the supplementary data field in the data submission form to add an explanation of why the in-use data is not available. Doing so may help us and the industry talk with clients about making in-use data available.

The RIBA encourages practices and design teams to undertake whole life or embodied carbon analysis as soon as the design process begins. This is a critical part of climate action and whole life carbon assessment will need to become a standard service on all projects to meet the UK's net zero carbon ambition.

Undertaking whole life carbon analysis is becoming easier, but still requires resourcing by the client and the design team. If such studies are not undertaken on the project, the RIBA does not expect practices to retrospectively embark on this analysis solely for data submission purposes.

What is operational energy? How can it be measured?

The built environment contributes around 40% of the UK’s total carbon footprint. Almost half of this is from energy used in buildings, known as operational energy.

Operational energy includes all the energy used by a buildings’ occupants (such as kettles, computers and other plug-in items) as well as the energy by building systems (such as lighting and heating): the latter of which is regulated by legislation.

Operational energy is measured in kilowatt-hours per metre squared per year (kWh/m2/y) based on the gross internal area (GIA) of the building. This measurement should be taken from energy meter readings (or energy bills) for the building over a year, so that both winter and summer seasons feature in the calculation. If needed, the measurement can be extrapolated to a year based on a shorter period but should still include the summer and winter months.

What is embodied carbon? How can it be measured?

Embodied carbon emissions are generated from the processes associated with extracting and processing materials, fabricating them into products and systems, transporting them to site and assembling them into a building. Embodied carbon emissions also include emissions arising from to maintenance, repair and replacement, as well as final demolition and disposal of the building materials.

Embodied carbon is measured in kilogrammes of carbon dioxide equivalent per metre squared (kgCO2e/m2) based on the gross internal area (GIA) of the building. The measurement should be developed in the design process using the RICS whole life carbon assessment for the built environment standard (modules A-C excluding B6-7, assuming a 60 year life)

Why are there targets for operational energy and embodied carbon but not whole life carbon emissions?

The RIBA have set operational energy use and embodied carbon as targets rather than whole life carbon because reducing energy demand is necessary regardless of the use of renewable energy. Attempting to meet net zero whole life carbon by 2030 is included in the 2030 Climate Challenge checklist.

What is potable water use? How can it be measured?

Potable water is water that is safe to drink or to use for food preparation: in the UK all mains water is potable water. The effects of climate change will require the UK to find at least 3,300 million litres per day of additional capacity in the water supply system by 2050 according to DEFRA.

Potable water is measured in litres per person per day. This measurement should be taken from water meter readings (or water bills) for the building over a year, so that both winter and summer seasons feature in the calculation. If needed, the measurement can be extrapolated to a year based on a shorter period but should still include the summer and winter months.

What are the health targets and why are these important?

The health targets in the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge are included to ensure designers consider the unintended consequences of their designs. The 2030 Climate Challenge targets should be met without compromising comfort, daylight or indoor air level standards.

What happens if my project does not meet the targets?

The RIBA would like feedback on why Chartered Practices believe their projects have not managed to meet the targets as this information is as useful as the data for improving the impact of this initiative.

How can I gain access to data I need to measure building performance?

During a project’s briefing process, you should seek client buy-in for submitting operational energy and water data to the RIBA one year after project completion. You should make sure your client is made aware of the benefits of undertaking post occupancy evaluation (POE) including simple data collection from energy and water bills.

Agreeing the need to collect this information from the outset makes it easier to collect in the long term. For the 2030 Climate Challenge, POE should ideally be undertaken after the building has gone through both summer and winter seasons to make sure more accurate data is available. The RIBA Plan for Use Guide provides more information and support, and the data submission form should be completed for signatories' ‘significant’ projects.

What guidance does the RIBA have to help practices take part?

The RIBA Sustainable Outcomes Guide aims to distill the complexity of sustainable design into a set of measurable and manageable outcomes that can be used on projects of all scales. Based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals common to all built environment projects, the Sustainable Outcomes Guide encourages a radical shift in attitude towards a design for measurable sustainability outcomes. It provides guidance on metrics and design principles to achieve these, and describes approaches that can be used to verify performance using post occupancy evaluation and certification.

The RIBA Plan of Work 2020 includes detailed sustainability guidance for each work stage to encourage and embed sustainable design throughout project programmes.

The RIBA Plan for Use Guide is an architectural interpretation of the Soft Landings Framework produced by the Usable Buildings Trust and BSRIA. Its aim is to encourage a more outcome-based approach to briefing, design, construction, and handover. Complete with case studies, the Plan for Use Guide sets out actions for each RIBA work stage that are based on evidence, data and lessons learned to help deliver a sustainable built environment that has building users at its heart.

Read more guidance from RIBA designed to support you in taking the 2030 Climate Challenge.

Are there any key guides from others to help us meet the 2030 Climate Challenge?

The RIBA supports the following core guidance developed by LETI:

The RIBA supports the cross-disciplinary approach of the Climate Framework, which aims to create the knowledge base from which the entire built environment sector can consistently and continuously upskill.

The RIBA supports the UK Green Building Council net zero carbon buildings definition and associated guidance as part of the UKGBC advancing net zero programme.

Find more guidance and resources from our partners.

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