Download PDF

RICS publishes report on decarbonising UK real estate

November 2022
Nathan Modell, Harry Coates and Rhia Gould

RICS has recently produced a report on decarbonising UK real estate (“the Report”), which can be found here. With buildings currently producing around 25% of all UK emissions, the Report concludes that the government’s existing policy around decarbonising real estate is insufficient. The Report recommends urgent actions for the government to take so that the UK can reduce the carbon emissions from buildings and meet its climate targets (a 78% reduction of emissions by 2030 and net zero by 2050).

Specifically, the Report calls for the modernisation of the Energy Performance Scheme (EPC), the establishment of a UK-wide retrofit programme, and a whole life approach to measuring carbon emissions with metrics and benchmarks to regulate emissions. A snapshot view of the Report’s recommendations can be found here.


The publication of the Report demonstrates that there is an urgent need to make buildings, their construction, and their management more sustainable if the UK is to reach net zero.

This has also been highlighted in the recent inquiry into Marks & Spencer’s (“M&S”) plans to demolish and rebuild its Oxford Street store and the suggestion that this should be rejected in favour of a retrofit solution.

M&S announced a scheme to demolish and rebuild its iconic store on London’s Oxford Street. While approved by the local council and the Greater London Authority, it has sparked huge controversy, with opponents saying that the scheme would release almost 40,000 tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere. This led to an eight-day public inquiry into the future of the store, overseen by an independent planning inspector whose report, expected in January 2023, is likely to be highly influential for the future of major proposed demolish-and-rebuild projects.

Campaign group ‘Save Britain’s Heritage’ was granted main party status in the case. The charity’s barrister, Matthew Fraser of Landmark Chambers, told the inquiry that “it is not an understatement to say that the survival of the human race is at stake if we do not all play our part in addressing the climate emergency”.

M&S announced that it will leave Oxford Street if it is blocked from realising its scheme and rebuilding its Oxford Street branch in closing statements of the inquiry, which finished on Friday 4th November.

It is clear that more is being done to address the role that the construction industry plays in the climate crisis and the recommendations made by RICS are positive. We are hopeful that the recommendations from the Report will encourage the government to update construction and real estate regulation, and that this will in turn hold private companies and practitioners accountable when undertaking construction projects, with a greater emphasis on the retrofit or reuse of existing structures where possible.

Download PDF