7 Effective Ways The UK Is Reducing CO2 Emissions In Buildings

reducing uk co2 emmisions

The UK has seen a dramatic reduction in CO2 emissions in the last 20 years. This has largely been achieved with a shift away first from coal to gas in the 1990s, and more recently to renewable energy sources.

In this article we look at ways the UK is reducing CO2 emissions in buildings.

The current breakdown of the UK’s source of carbon emissions are as follows:

Business: 18.7%

Transport: 34.0%

Residential: 17.0%

Public sector: 2.3%

Energy supply/ Power stations: 16.0%

With Agricultural, Industrial processes, Land use, waste management forming the remainder.

According to the UK Department of Energy Security and Net Zero, total greenhouse gas emissions were 48.7% lower than they were in 1990.

Energy-efficient building design and construction

The UK is focusing on promoting energy-efficient building design and construction practices to reduce CO2 emissions.

This includes the use of sustainable materials, insulation, and efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.

a) Passive design strategies: Implementing passive design strategies like orientation, shading, and natural ventilation to minimize energy consumption.

b) High-performance building envelopes: Using advanced insulation materials, airtight construction, and efficient windows to reduce heat loss or gain.

c) Daylighting and artificial lighting optimisation: Incorporating design features to maximize natural light penetration and utilising energy-efficient lighting systems.

Renewable energy integration

The UK is actively promoting the integration of renewable energy sources, such as solar panels and wind turbines, into buildings. This allows for the generation of clean energy on-site and reduces reliance on fossil fuel-based electricity.

The key technologies used to achieve this are:

Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems

Installing solar panels on rooftops or facades to generate clean electricity from sunlight.

Wind turbines

Incorporating small-scale wind turbines in buildings or nearby areas to harness wind energy.

Biomass heating systems

Utilising renewable biomass sources, such as wood pellets, for heating and hot water generation.

According to statistics gathered by The National Grid Group:

• Wind power contributed 26.8% of the UK’s total electricity generation. In November 2022, more than 20GW of electricity was produced by wind for the first time, representing over 70% of electricity generated on that day.

Since then, this record has continued to be broken, with 30 December delivering the largest generation to date of 20.918GW.

• Biomass energy, the burning of renewable organic materials, contributed 5.2% to the renewable mix.

• Solar power contributed 4.4% to the renewable mix

• Hydropower, including tidal, contributed 1.8% to the renewable mix.

Energy performance standards and regulations

The UK has implemented energy performance standards and regulations for buildings.

These standards aim to improve the energy efficiency of both new and existing buildings, ensuring they meet certain energy performance criteria.

Building Energy Performance Certificates (EPC)
By implementing mandatory EPCs that assess and rate the energy efficiency of buildings, properties can be compared against each other or compared against regulatory targets.

Minimum energy performance requirements
There are minimum energy efficiency standards that new and existing buildings must meet.

There are Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) that all rental properties need to meet which is an EPC rating of an E. This rating is set to be raised to a C rating in 2025.

Building codes and regulations
Enforcing building codes and regulations that promote energy-efficient construction practices and systems.

The building regulations were updated for the first time in ten years in 2021.

The Associated Document Part L 2021 (the conservation of power and fuel in building) lays down targets that all new buildings need to achieve in terms of target emissions, fabric energy efficiency and primary energy rating.

According to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities
• Changes to building regulations will help UK deliver net zero
• New homes will have to produce around 30% less CO2

Retrofitting and refurbishment

The UK is emphasizing the retrofitting and refurbishment of existing buildings to enhance energy efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions.

This involves upgrading insulation, replacing outdated systems with more efficient alternatives, and optimising overall building performance.

Certain refurbishments come within the current building regulations such as dwelling change of use, for example changing an office block to residential properties.

Low-carbon heating systems

Low carbon heating systems are one of the key elements that lower CO2 emissions.

Some of the building targets laid down in the new building regulations can only be achieved by using one of these systems.

The main systems are:

Air-source heat pumps
Air-source heat pumps extract heat from the outside air to provide space heating and hot water.

Ground-source heat pumps
Ground-source heat pumps extract heat from the ground to provide efficient heating and cooling.

District heating networks

These are centralised heating systems that distribute heat produced from renewable or low-carbon sources to multiple buildings.

An example of this is the Kings Cross District Energy Network which provides energy to local buildings both residential and commercial.

It is one of the most advanced district energy networks in the UK and it is powered solely by renewable energy.

This shows how major urban areas such as London can reduce CO2 emissions.

Grants to install renewable heating systems.

Although more expensive to install than traditional gas central heating and electric heating, government grants are often available such as the previous Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and the more recent Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) which provides financial incentives towards some of the costs.

Smart building technologies

The UK is leveraging smart building technologies to optimise energy use and reduce CO2 emissions. This includes the use of energy management systems, smart meters, and building automation systems to monitor and control energy consumption in real-time.

Occupancy sensors and automated controls: Installing sensors that detect occupancy and adjust lighting, temperature, and ventilation accordingly.

Energy management systems: Utilising advanced energy management systems to monitor and optimize energy consumption across multiple building systems.

Demand response systems: Implementing systems that automatically adjust energy usage based on grid demand and pricing signals.

Public awareness and education

The UK is focusing on raising public awareness and educating individuals about the importance of reducing CO2 emissions in buildings.

This involves campaigns, incentives, and educational programs to encourage energy-conscious behaviours, such as turning off lights when not in use and using energy-efficient appliances.
Some of the strategies used to reduce carbon emissions.

Energy-saving tips and guidelines: Providing information and resources on energy-saving practices, such as setting thermostats, using energy-efficient appliances, and reducing standby power.

Energy literacy programs: Conducting educational campaigns and programs to improve public understanding of energy use, efficiency, and climate change impacts.

Financial incentives and grants: By offering incentives, grants, or subsidies to encourage individuals and businesses to adopt energy-efficient measures and technologies.

Stop guessing EPC rating



The UK is taking proactive measures to significantly reduce CO2 emissions in buildings.

They are prioritising energy-efficient design and construction practices, which involve using sustainable materials, insulation, and efficient HVAC systems.

Additionally, the integration of renewable energy sources, such as solar panels, wind turbines, and biomass heating systems, is being actively promoted, leading to on-site generation of clean energy and a decreased reliance on fossil fuels.

To ensure energy efficiency, the UK has implemented energy performance standards and regulations for both new and existing buildings.

These standards include Building Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) that assess and rate the energy efficiency of properties, minimum energy performance requirements, and building codes and regulations that enforce energy-efficient construction practices.

The retrofitting and refurbishment of existing buildings play a crucial role in enhancing energy efficiency and reducing CO2 emissions.

This involves upgrading insulation, replacing outdated systems with more efficient alternatives, and optimizing overall building performance.

The UK also encourages the use of low-carbon heating systems like air-source and ground-source heat pumps, as well as district heating networks, to further lower emissions.

Smart building technologies are leveraged to optimise energy use and decrease CO2 emissions.

These technologies include energy management systems, smart meters, and building automation systems that monitor and control energy consumption in real-time.

Furthermore, the UK emphasizes public awareness and education to promote energy-conscious behaviours.

Campaigns, incentives, and educational programs are employed to encourage customer behaviour that helps in reducing energy.

Through these comprehensive efforts, the UK is making significant progress in reducing CO2 emissions in buildings and fostering a sustainable future.


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Rickie Dickson
Written by Rickie Dickson

Rickie Dickson is an experienced and qualified domestic and non domestic energy assessor. He helps homeowners and businesses in all matters relating to energy efficiency, from meeting building regulations compliance to improving a property’s energy rating score.