London Energy Transformation Initiative (LETI) Releases New Climate Emergency Design Guide

A coalition of leading architects, engineers, and building professionals launch LETI’s new Climate Emergency Design Guide, providing a blueprint on how the construction industry can react to the climate emergency.

The industry has come together to provide a consensus on how to design new buildings in a way that does not jeopardize national emissions targets. The Climate Emergency Design Guide is published by LETI – the London Energy Transformation Initiative, a group that was initiated by Elementa Consulting. Groups backing the call include the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the Chartered Institution of Building Service Engineers (CIBSE).

The Climate Emergency Design Guide outlines the requirements of new buildings to ensure our climate change targets are met. It marks the start of a milestone new phase: a consensus on how to design new buildings. This free to access major new publication written collectively by more than 100 industry professionals and supported by thousands more, offers a blueprint on how the construction industry can react and work together to tackle the climate emergency.

“Delivering zero carbon buildings is a huge challenge. LETI has taken a major step to help the industry to work out how this is to be done for new buildings.” Hywel Davies, Technical Director, CIBSE

“2020 is the year of climate action. We urgently need clear and practical guides on how to deliver net zero carbon future now. The new LETI guides fulfill this aim and are a timely addition to the growing suite of guides. This is a must read for construction professionals” Gary Clark, Chair, RIBA Sustainable Futures Group

Unlike other parts of the economy, carbon emissions from UK buildings are not falling. The built environment has an essential role in meeting the Government’s target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and playing a part in stopping runaway climate change. Currently, the UK is not on a coordinated track to meet these goals. LETI has been driving to create coordinated consensus and simple road maps to achieve our climate aims.

Commenting, Clara Bagenal George, Associate at Elementa Consulting, who initiated LETI the London Energy Transformations Initiative (LETI) and lead editor of the report, said “The building industry knows that we should be designing climate-friendly buildings now, but unfortunately only a fraction of new properties are of the standard needed to meet our climate targets. We know how to do it, but without the Government showing similar ambition, unfortunately, we will drift further from where we need to be. This collective call from all parts of the building industry is a clear and straightforward explainer of what is expected of us and how we can get there.”

Achieving the UK’s net-zero emissions target will require cutting carbon emissions from all areas of the economy, before balancing the rest with negative emissions, such as planting trees or investing in technology to remove carbon from the air. Recent polling has shown that the efficiency of a building was the third most important factor for prospective house buyers, and that more than 35% of respondents would be willing to pay extra for a more efficient home.

Building new homes to the highest efficiency standards is the first step in cutting emissions from housing. The Government’s statutory advisors on climate change, the Committee on Climate Change, have said that new homes should use much less energy than those currently being built, that in-use performance should be used instead of modeled performance, and that a plan to retrofit the existing building stock is urgently needed. Many of these points are echoed by industry in the Climate Emergency Design Guide.

Commenting, Clare Murray, Head of Sustainability at Levitt Bernstein and design editor of the LETI guide, said “The Climate Emergency Design Guide has been a year in the making and forms a consensus from over 100 professionals on how we can meet net-zero carbon. It graphically explains the definition of whole life carbon, how to achieve net-zero operational carbon, the relationships between operational and embodied carbon, and much more. With spreads providing guidance for domestic and non-domestic archetypes and key performance indicators – this guide aims to make technical guidance on zero-carbon accessible to the wider industry.”

The research and thought presented in the document demonstrates that the building industry knows how we should be designing buildings now, from 2020, but that clear leadership and guidance is required to promote wide-ranging positive change. Buildings that adopt these requirements now will be seen as leaders. By 2025 for new buildings and 2050 for our existing stock these requirements must become standard design practice otherwise the building industry will not meet our collective responsibility in this Climate crisis and we will fail our next generation.

The Guide represents voices from across the buildings sector, including Allies and Morrison, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, Levitt Bernstein, Elementa Consulting, Hawkins\Brown, DRMM, Haworth Tompkins, Woods Bagot, Etude, Cundall, AECOM, BDP, Hilson Moran, Thornton Tomasetti, ACAN, XCO2, Currie & Brown, Verco and Twinn Sustainability Innovation.

“In March 2017, I watched Clara Bagenal George make an impassioned pitch to an Elementa Consulting client gathering: our approach, regulations and policies to tackle climate change in our buildings were all broken. That room challenged her to translate frustration into action, and so began the LETI journey. Two months later over 100 stakeholders gathered at the Building Centre. Two years later over 1,200 have registered to join LETI’s team of volunteers from across the building sector at the launch of their Climate Emergency Design Guide. LETI is a story of hope and inspiration, of collaboration and leadership – essential ingredients for a zero carbon future.” Kevin Hydes, Chair & Founder, Integral Group

“Hawkins\Brown are happy to have collaborated with LETI on the production of the Emergency Climate Design Guide. Ensuring the construction industry, as a collective, recognise and minimise their impact on the environment must be one of the key design drivers for the coming years. This will take a collaborative, multi- disciplinary approach, which is why we have backed this important initiative with our time and support.” Roger Hawkins, Founding Partner, Hawkins\Brown

“Clients and local authorities have set a high bar with declarations of climate emergency and carbon neutrality. Our built environment must respond. The Climate Emergency Design Guide provides the perfect primer for different stakeholders to facilitate meaningful change and help navigate the route to zero carbon. LETI represent what is possible when committed volunteers unite to enable and enhance change – and there is no greater cause than the climate crisis that threatens our future.” Simon Fraser, Partner, Allies and Morrison

“The LETI Climate Emergency Design Guide is a must read for all built environment professionals wanting to better understand how to deliver climate positive developments. The publication of this document demonstrates the power of collaboration. It’s clear the built environment sector has the knowledge and some of the skills to address the climate emergency. However, we lack pace. Our industry needs to rapidly scale up our response if this Design Guide is to reach its potential and be truly put into practice. Well done to LETI for helping us get on our way.” Emily Hamilton, Associate Director, Grosvenor Britain & Ireland

Download the Climate Emergency Design Guide here.

About the Climate Emergency Design Guide

Developed by LETI over the last 12 months, the Climate Emergency Design Guide covers 5 key areas: operational energy, embodied carbon, the future of heat, demand response and data disclosure. Alongside the Design Guide, LETI is also publishing the Embodied Carbon Primer which offers supplementary guidance to those interested in exploring embodied carbon in more detail.

They follow the publication of the Net Zero Operational Carbon 1-pager which outlines the industry consensus of the key features of Net Zero Operational Carbon buildings. This was developed in collaboration with the UKGBC and the Better Building Partnership and is being supported by the Good Homes Alliance, RIBA and CIBSE.

The guidance in the document demonstrates that the building industry knows how we should be designing buildings now, from 2020. Buildings that adopt these requirements now will be seen as leaders. By 2025 these requirements must become standard design practice otherwise the building industry will not meet our collective responsibility in this climate crisis.

The London Energy Transformation Initiative (LETI) is a network of over 1000 built environment professionals who are working together to put London on the path to a zero-carbon future. The voluntary group is made up of dedicated and passionate developers, engineers, housing association professionals, architects, planners, academics, sustainability professionals, contractors and facilities managers, with support and input provided by the GLA and London boroughs.

LETI acknowledges that global temperature rise needs to be kept below 1.5 degrees to avoid catastrophic climate change. To achieve this, all new buildings must operate at Net Zero Carbon by 2030 and existing buildings by 2050. As a global city, London has a responsibility to help lead the transition to a low carbon future.