Last week's surprise announcement of 2019 as the deadline for building zero carbon non-domestic buildings will require radical rethinking for design teams, reckons Sean Lockie

The 2008 budget provides more opportunity for the UK to show the rest of the world that it is putting in place the fiscal and regulatory mechanisms to lead the world on addressing climate change. This will result in big opportunities for design teams, surveyors and built environment professionals who have 'cracked' the low carbon question and opportunities to export this expertise overseas.

Non-domestic code

The statement with the biggest impact is the surprise announcement that all new non-domestic buildings will become zero-carbon from 2019. The 'non domestic' sector covers a huge range in building types. A supermarket, a hospital, an office or an industrial shed all fall within this sector and all have different energy or carbon demands. To meet this ambitious target there will need to be a 'paradigm shift' in the way we design and procure buildings, the way design teams work and cooperation of our supply chains.

Carbon intensive buildings (in their use) such as hospitals and inner city offices offices (with say trading floors), will require a radical rethink and will push technology levels, risk profiles and costings to their limits. There will no doubt be some interesting debates over defining zero carbon in all these sectors and as always with these schemes, greater integration with site based electricity generation schemes and the utilities providers.

More targets

The second announcement is that 'Consideration is being given to raising the UK target for emissions cuts to 80% by 2050. This is an improvement on government existing targets which are an already ambitious 60%+ reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050.

A third development area has been the statement that the ground work will be put in place for the introduction of five year carbon budgets, and announces that the first carbon budgets will be set alongside Budget 2009. To deliver this we will need carbon accounting standards and new skill sets to provide a robust of carbon accounts.

Missed opportunity

The big issue which does not seem to be addressed is carbon emissions of existing buildings and any economic incentives for meeting reductions in their consumption (such as tax relief or reductions in council rates for example). There is a statement to make £26m available to make homes greener which seems like a small token given the scale of the issue.