Buildings and spaces

Almost half of the UK's carbon emissions are caused by buildings.

New developments and the refurbishment of existing buildings therefore offer huge opportunities to mitigate climate change.

The open spaces inbetween buildings are equally important important for helping places to adapt to climate change (e.g. by reducing the urban heat island or managing flood water) and creating attractive, pleasant places for people to live.

Groups of several buildings or city blocks can be used to deliver wider sustainability strategies for a neighbourhood, town or city. For example, they can link to district heating systems, walking and cycling routes or green infrastructure networks.

There is increasing demonstrable good practice of new buildngs being designed and built on low energy, resource efficient and sustainability principles. Now we urgently need to adapt the technological advances from new build to refurbish our existing building stock. This is an imperative given that 85 per cent of existing buildings will still be in use by 2050.

Standards and tools for sustainable buildings


Tools and guides:

  • UK Climate Impacts Programme Climate Change Adaptation Wizard
  • Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Climate Change Toolkit
  • T-ZERO (comparison website to help chose the best green home improvements for different types of dwelling)
  • National House-Building Council practical guides on key issues for building more sustainable homes
  • Building excellence in the arts online resource from CABE for anyone procuring arts buildings.

Local authorities

Local authorities can ensure the delivery of zero carbon new build - or sustainable refurbishment of existing stock - through their planning, commissioning and procurement strategies. Many are demonstrating good practice and influencing others through the sustainable refurbishment of their own estate.

Local authorities have a key role in influencing the sustainability of site development through:

  • masterplans
  • area action plans
  • development control policies
  • pre-application negotiation with developers.

Support is available from Local Government Improvement and Development and the Energy Saving Trust to develop strategies to reduce energy use and CO2 emissions. The Regional Improvement and Efficiency Partnerships provide support on procurement and construction.

More about the building scale

Advice for buildings and spaces

Advice for sustainable design and management at the building scale.

Examples for buildings and spaces

Examples of sustainable design and management at the building scale.

CABE and Urban Practitioners
with the cities of Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield