Updated WLCA standard widens carbon assessment scope

The recent publication of Whole life carbon assessment for the built environment second edition enables consistent reporting across more asset types – supporting surveyors' public interest remit


  • Brian Ward

18 October 2023

RICS published a second edition of Whole life carbon assessment for the built environment last month.

This new edition of the professional standard expands its scope to include infrastructure and all built assets, as well as making it more applicable internationally.

During the public consultation, RICS received more than 1,300 comments and suggestions from members and non-members alike, indicating the high level of interest in the standard throughout the industry and the appetite for guidance on this important issue.

Update positions standard in wider context

At the launch event for the standard on 18 September at RICS headquarters in Westminster, lead author Simon Sturgis took time to praise the authorship and working groups, as well as editorial and surveying practice staff at the institution who participated in this monumental project.

Sturgis noted that since 2017 a number of organisations had brought out their own standards, often based on or referencing the RICS document, and Whole life carbon assessment has been updated in relation to these.

The author felt the first edition had also been somewhat narrow in scope, hence the expansion of the second edition to include infrastructure as well as different building types, retrofits and mixed-use schemes.

The updated standard takes a much more international approach as well, acknowledging the options and benefits of national databases where possible.

In addition, the document aims to be more accessible, making greater use of relevant diagrams and visual content where possible.

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Document supports surveyors' public interest remit

During the event, RICS director of surveying practice Charlotte Neal also spoke of the standard's importance, not just to professionals but to the public as a whole.

'RICS is a professional body, subject to a royal charter. Not only do we have a duty but we have an obligation to act in the public interest,' she said.

'I'm not sure what could be more relevant than climate change and looking to address decarbonisation in our industry. At RICS, my team deliver the global standards … required to allow our member chartered surveyors to [give] their advice and work consistently to a very high standard.

'The industry has been calling out for clear, concise measurement of carbon. This standard came about to support compliance with the government's carbon reduction commitments and industry reporting requirements.

'The first edition from 2017 has been the pre-eminent UK industry standard for calculating whole-life carbon, and in fact was strongly supported last year in [a] House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee report.'

Aligning with industry enables consistent reporting

Neal explained that, by extending the application to buildings and infrastructure, the second edition enables whole-life carbon assessment to be undertaken across all sectors and assets.

It also aligns with the International Cost Management Standards (ICMS), which aim to provide greater global consistency in construction costings. In the UK, it aligns with the recently launched Built Environment Carbon Database as well.

Neal added: 'The second edition sets a consistent approach for accurate whole-life carbon assessment, benchmarking and early-stage advice across the whole life cycle, which is absolutely key.

'It incorporates the latest industry-agreed definitions for carbon terminology, enabling a clear and consistent approach and interpretation. It also standardises the approach to assessing and reporting contingency in carbon assessments.

'Whole life carbon assessment second edition is important to a broad range of people – not just the surveyors and others undertaking assessment, but also the investors and lenders who will rely on the outputs in their business and lending strategies, and policymakers [who need] help to measure success against targets.

'We believe that this method of measurement will help our industry identify ways to reduce its carbon impact and accurately measure success.'

The second edition of Whole life carbon assessment for the built environment is effective from 1 July 2024 and can be downloaded from the RICS website.

Brian Ward is the editor of RICS Construction Journal

Contact Brian: Email

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