Common UKGBC Workstream Phrases

These are terms we use throughout our work at UKGBC. This list of definitions aims to be a first port of call for understanding the basics of what it is we do at UKGBC.

Biodiversity Net Gain is the approach to building development that aims to have a net positive impact on biodiversity.  To achieve net gain, biodiversity value attributable to a development must exceed the pre-development value by 10%.

Learn more about Biodiversity Net Gain here.

A circular economy means moving away from the world’s current economic model of ‘take, make, throw away’, in which resources are extracted, turned into products. It suggests an economic system based on the reuse of materials and products as a means of continuing production in an environmentally sustainable way. 

Learn more about the Circular Economy here.

Refers to the adjustments in ecological, social or economic systems to limit the negative impacts of climate change. Essentially, climate change mitigation is preventative, adaptation is reactive.

Learn more about Climate Change Adaptation here.

Actions taken to reduce the production of greenhouse gases or removing these gases from the atmosphere to limit climate change.  

Learn more about Climate Change Mitigation here.

The ability to prepare for, anticipate and respond to dangerous events or disturbances related to the effects of climate change. E.g., resilient buildings built to withstand floods. 

Learn more about Climate Change Adaptation here.

Environmental Net Gain is a larger umbrella term for improvements to the natural environment.  

Learn more about Environmental Net Gain here.

A concept originating from 1970s USA, a just transition is a concept of moving to a more sustainable and regenerative economy using holistic approaches that are fair to everyone and reaps substantial green economy benefits. In short, it describes both where we are going and how we get there.

Solutions that are inspired and supported by nature, which are cost-effective, simultaneously provide environmental, social and economic benefits and help build resilience. 

Learn more Nature Based Solutions here.

The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate
change. It was adopted by 196 Parties at COP 21 in Paris, on 12 December 2015 and entered into force on 4 November 2016


(UNFCCC Campaign description) Race To Zero is a global campaign to rally leadership and support from businesses, cities, regions, investors for a healthy, resilient, zero carbon recovery that prevents future threats, creates decent jobs, and unlocks inclusive, sustainable growth. 

Learn more about the Race to Zero here.

Carbon and Net Zero

These terms are often used throughout our Climate Change Mitigation work and beyond as we guide the industry to build a net zero built environment.

Embodied Carbon or Life Cycle Embodied Carbon emissions of a product are the total GHG emissions and removals associated with its manufacture, transport, installation, maintenance, and end of life treatment

Learn more about Embodied Carbon here.

Emissions associated with materials and processes needed to maintain the building or infrastructure during use such as for refurbishments.

Learn more about Embodied Carbon here.

Net Zero is where all related Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions have been reduced in line with a science-based target which aligns with what has been determined to be necessary to stand a reasonable chance of limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5˚C above preindustrial levels as a minimum. These residual emissions are subsequently responsibly offset to achieve a sum total of zero emissions

Learn more about Net Zero.

When the amount of carbon emissions associated with a building’s product and construction stages up to practical completion is zero or negative.

Learn more about Net Zero.

When the amount of carbon emissions associated with the building’s operational energy on an annual basis is zero or negative.

Learn more about Net Zero.

Operational Carbon are the GHG emissions arising from all energy consumed by a product in-use, over the product’s whole life cycle.

Learn more about Net Zero.

The emissions caused in the materials production and construction phases of the lifecycle before the building or infrastructure begins to be used.

Learn more about Embodied Carbon here.

Whole Life Carbon emissions are the sum total of all the associated GHG emissions and removals, for the embodied, operational and disposal of a product through its whole life cycle..


*Note: The term ‘carbon’ is widely used as a shorthand expression to refer to multiple greenhouse gases. In this glossary and in our bitesize learning guides, we have chosen to use the term ‘carbon’ as a proxy for ‘carbon dioxide equivalent’ (CO2e). CO2e describes the aggregated global warming potential of multiple greenhouse gases in a common unit.

Emissions and Renewable Energy

These terms are often found in our more in depth guidance related to Renewable Energy, Embodied Carbon, and Carbon Offsetting & Pricing.

Additionality describes the situation where an action results in an activity or intervention that otherwise would not have occurred had the action not taken place (i.e., additional relative to business-as-usual). In the context of procuring renewable electricity, additionality is achieved where greenhouse gas emissions reductions/removals occur as a result of new or repowered generating capacity that would not have happened in the absence of engaging in a given procurement route.

A technology via which CO2 resulting from a process is captured and used for other process or stored long term.

Carbon Offsets are certifiable and transferable units of emissions, termed credits, which can be purchased by an entity to balance their emission outputs through investment in additionality projects that remove (preferred) or reduce emissions elsewhere.

A carbon price is a cost applied to carbon pollution to encourage polluters to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases they emit into the atmosphere. It means giving a monetary value to greenhouse gas.

Learn more about Carbon Pricing in our Carbon Offsetting and Pricing work here.

Compliance-based schemes where carbon pricing is implemented by national or international governments. 

Learn more about Emissions trading schemes in our Carbon Offsetting and Pricing work here.

Energy derived from natural sources that are replenished at a higher rate than they are consumed

Learn more about Renewable Energy here.

The greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that an organisation emits are categorised into three scopes in terms of reporting and accounting. 


Direct emissions from sources that are controlled or owned by an organisation. This includes any onsite combustion (e.g., from gas boilers for heating, and from company vehicles).

Indirect emissions that result from the purchase of electricity, heat, or steam that is generated offsite.

Indirect emissions from sources that aren’t owned or controlled by an organisation, but that they indirectly affect in their value chain.