UK sustainable building groups become UN centres of excellence
At COP26, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) recognised the UK’s Sustainable Development Foundation (SDF), along with South West College in Northern Ireland and the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre, as international centres of excellence for high performance buildings.
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The Association for Environment Conscious Building (AECB) and York City Council are among 35 other centres around the world that are in the process of joining.
“The time for talking is over. We haven’t delivered on the promises made in the Paris climate accord, agreed back in 2015,” said Jon Bootland, director of the Sustainable Development Foundation.
“This is a big problem for the UK because our building stock is the oldest in Europe, and 80 per cent of the homes we’ll live in by 2050 are already built. Our homes and buildings need an urgent rethink to meet the climate and ecological emergencies.
“What was different about COP26 was that today’s leaders have the evidence showing how to do this. Pioneers of building exemplars are sharing their evidence. Not only is this good news for the environment, it’s also great news for the people who live and work in these buildings because they promote health and wellbeing.
“Knowledge is one thing, but we need to act now. Actions bring about change and we must change how we tackle the climate and ecological emergency and meet our goals. The UNECE centre of excellence status will help us to achieve the transformation needed,” Bootland said.
Organisations holding the UNECE accolade are spread across the globe, with centres also found in Ireland, Bulgaria, New York, Canada, Washington DC, Pittsburgh and Maine. “It is fantastic to see Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC) recognised as a centre of excellence” said Stephen Good, chief executive of CSIC. “We look forward to working with the wider network to put the built environment commitments made at COP26 into practice.”
Barry McCarron, acting head of business development at South West College, added: “The announcement of the Erne Campus as the first building in Northern Ireland to join this global network is a significant show of faith from the international community in the work that has been undertaken by the college over the past ten years.”
The AECB’s chief executive Andy Simmonds also welcomed the initiative. “The AECB has long championed a fabric-first first whole-buildings and whole-system approach identified as the number one policy focus in the UK government’s strategy,” he said. “The AECB has developed a set of building standards and guidance including the unique self-certification AECB retrofit standard, published in March 2021.”
Jon Bootland of the Sustainable Development Foundation added: “At COP26 we launched a collection of real-world exemplar projects, to inspire the transformation needed to create a new era of buildings that are fit for the future. On our website [sdfoundation.org.uk], you can see these pioneering projects which demonstrate cross-cutting sustainability performance, designed and built to deliver whole-life net zero, promote occupant health and wellbeing, and enable sustainable communities.
“We have the knowledge to deliver exemplary sustainable buildings; we believe these projects are the most sustainable in the UK. What’s needed now are credible plans for widespread adoption of these approaches.”