Actions to reduce embodied carbon

Practicable steps to reduce embodied carbon and achieve net zero:

New guidance offers practical action points for clients to reduce the negative environmental impact of construction projects.

The LETI Client Guide for Net Zero Carbon Buildings provides simple steps for clients to develop and deliver net zero carbon projects.

The London Energy Transformation Initiative (LETI) was established to support the built environment sector in London and across the UK. The member organisation, comprising 1,000+ built environment professionals, produces guidance on how clients and contractors can help to achieve net zero targets.

This new guide complements other documents published by LETI, including the Climate Emergency Design Guide, which informs on how to design and build zero carbon buildings.

LETI’s work and publications are seeking to address the lack of knowledge and awareness which industry professionals believe leads to net zero carbon criteria not being included in project briefs.

The Client Guide covers “the ways in which briefing, designing, procuring, constructing, occupying, managing and valuing buildings must change”. As well as demonstrating the long-term value, both environmentally and economically, of committing to net zero it outlines how clients can complete specific actions throughout projects, to bring all contractors and suppliers in-line with a strategy for sustainable construction.

The guidance advocates introducing a commitment to net zero from the get-go of a project, outlining how this should form the foundation of all Stages of a project. (To work with other industry guidance and understanding, LETI defines project Stages based on the RIBA Plan of Work 2020.)

While the Guide is aimed primarily at clients, it can be a useful document for all stakeholders across the industry. It shows how the whole project team, from client to sub-contractor to supplier, can deliver on net zero targets. It also shows how early involvement in design and procurement will drive this. For contractors and suppliers keen to contribute to lowering embodied carbon the Guide offers readymade routes to working collaboratively with clients.

It outlines practical steps for each Stage in detail, offering between four and seven ‘key points’ for each. These are clearly set out and are practicable for all project types and sizes, making the Guide an accessible ‘go-to’ document.


Sustainable construction action examples

  • Stage 0 – Ensure cost forecasts account for the sustainability aspirations of the project
  • Stage 1 – Establish operational energy and embodied carbon targets and identify measurement tools
  • Stages 2 – Use embodied carbon assessment to inform decisions
  • Stage 3 – Include a Sustainability Strategy with planning applications
  • Stage 4 – Agree carbon reduction targets and options to influence specifications
  • Stage 5 – Identify a site-based net zero carbon ‘champion’ and ensure all personnel understand the strategy
  • Stage 6 – Simplify building user guides and training, detailing energy efficient operation, for all occupants
  • Stage 7 – Compare predicted energy performance to actual energy performance


To encourage accountability and collaboration, the Guide also outlines at which Stages different client types should typically be involved – and therefore championing net zero commitments.

Achieving global net zero targets – to reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050 – is the responsibility of all within the construction and built environment sectors. It will require action to reduce both operational and embodied carbon from buildings:


  • Embodied carbon – the emissions created through the construction and end-of-life of a building.
  • Operational carbon – the emissions created through lighting, powering, heating or cooling buildings day-to-day.


By publishing guidance and providing technical advice, engaging with stakeholders across the industry and local authorities, and encouraging collaboration, LETI is defining how the sector can reduce its environmental impact and deliver sustainable construction projects.

Download the LETI Client Guide for Net Zero Carbon Buildings for more information.

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