Policy in focus
RICS Government Relations team set outs its three policy priorities for 2019/20.
Whether it's an accumulation of chronic stresses, or abrupt events such as flooding, cities must now adapt and build capacity in order to thrive. A city's resilience is the combined capacity of its businesses, civic bodies, communities, and individual inhabitants to sustain economic and social growth in the face of adversity. Fundamental to city growth is infrastructure.
Infrastructure includes a wide portfolio of interdependent building blocks and systems that are critical to, and define patterns of, strategic development. Innovations and evolving technologies have meant that services including telecommunications, transport and utilities are becoming increasingly more intelligent and connected. Such major projects need large investment, require years in planning and construction, and are built to last decades.
Given the longevity of service provision, infrastructure assets are at risk of the effects of climate change. While climate change considerations can be factored into planning and design of projects, processes of construction, maintenance, and operation can significantly contribute to the inherent mitigating problem. Therefore, those decisions made at the front end of design which may seek to address climate change impacts, and in which the client must ultimately agree too, must be supported by cost data.
Buildings account for 60% of global electricity use and produce more than one-third of all greenhouse emissions.
Co-ordinator, Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative, United Nations Environment Programme
ICMS 2nd Edition (ICMS2), to be published in autumn 2019, extends the current global standard into life cycle costs and enables decision-makers to assess the cost impacts of design trade-offs. This is a critical area in achieving sustainable design. A product for example which has a higher capital cost, but a lower life cycle cost, may also have a higher embodied carbon value; giving rise to a carbon lock-in effect. To facilitate that design decision, ICMS2 provides a tool to approximately assess the optimum cost and drive more whole life cycle sustainable infrastructure.
The UK has recently toughened up its legally-binding commitment to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and has undertaken various assessments over the past decade, including The Infrastructure Carbon Review which provided recommendations to industry in reducing carbon within infrastructure assets. More recently, in October 2018, the then-chancellor of the exchequer confirmed in his budget, that the National Infrastructure Commission would be examining the resilience of the UK's infrastructure. Additionally, a report published by The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee in July 2019, sets out the steps that must be taken for the UK to meet its emissions targets; including decarbonisation of the transport sector.
The Commission's resilience study sets out several aims, of which is to "develop a framework to assess the resilience of economic infrastructure systems and the costs and benefits of improvements". Not only is ICMS2 a valuable cost benchmarking tool in assessing cost impacts of design trade-offs, but also provides the potential to form a carbon assessment review framework. Currently RICS' Whole Life Carbon Assessment guidance note depends upon an elemental building taxonomy, which is based upon the BCIS standard form of cost analysis. As we work to deliver confidence to markets worldwide, RICS are updating this taxonomy to accommodate ICMS and therefore provide a carbon benchmark in the global marketplace.
Firms adopting ICMS2 can work collaboratively in order to maximise the opportunities of urbanisation. As cities continue to push toward greater growth, major global disruptive trends demand smarter and more resilient support systems. Infrastructure must not only be planned and designed to adapt to future shocks but must also strive to minimise embodied carbon and support low growth in carbon emissions. A balancing act may be required, but equipped with globally benchmarked cost data, front end project decisions can be taken with confidence.
Parliament’s summer recess is traditionally a time of reflection, but not for RICS' UK Government Relations team.
Dr Patrice Cairns
Policy Manager, Northern Ireland
Dr Cairns is a policy manager within the RICS UK Government Relations team. In addition to developing UK policy and promoting RICS thought leadership, Dr Cairns is responsible for leading RICS public policy work in Northern Ireland across all priority issues and key sectors. She works to build RICS' influence, credibility and profile.