British Ceramic Confederation SBE0064


Written evidence submitted by the British Ceramic Confederation


About the British Ceramic Confederation

As a trade association, BCC represents the collective interests of UK ceramic manufacturers. We have around 90 member companies (75% of which are SMEs) that operate from 150 sites across the country.

Our sector is extremely diverse containing both foundation industries and advanced manufacturing / materials and comprises: producers of heavy clay construction products (such as bricks, blocks, roof tiles and drainage pipes); sanitaryware; wall tiles; tableware; giftware; refractories (that are vital in all high-temperature process industries); advanced ceramics (for numerous electronic, medical, aerospace, environmental, military and structural applications) as well as suppliers of raw materials to the sector.

The sector is energy-intensive (but not energy-inefficient), with energy costs and taxes making up to 30-35% of total production costs. By virtue of regulatory obligations such as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (now UK ETS) and the importance of energy to their overall costs, our members focus is already to maximise the energy efficiency of their operations. The sector has already taken extensive action to decarbonise and has some of the world’s most efficient ceramic manufacturing operations.

The ceramic sector (and energy intensive industries in general) are central to supporting the transition to a competitive low-carbon and resource-efficient economy, including the production of highly durable products with low lifecycle carbon footprints.

Achieving ‘net zero’ greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 will be very challenging for the ceramics industry and its supply chain. The UK ceramic industry is a solution provider for the net-zero economy and is committed to working in partnership with Government and others to decarbonise in line with net-zero. To build on considerable progress made in tackling manufacturing emissions so far, companies are working together under the auspices of a new sector initiative: British Ceramics: Towards Net Zero”.

More information is available at:

  1. Evidence

This is a response to the Select Committee’s call for evidence on the sustainability of the built environment. Our evidence responds to each of the Committee’s questions in turn:

Q1              To what extent have the Climate Change Committee’s recommendations on decarbonising the structural fabric of new homes been met? No response.

Q2              How can materials be employed to reduce the carbon impact of new buildings, including efficient heating and cooling, and which materials are most effective at reducing embodied carbon?

-          Ceramic construction products are durable and have long service lives (brick, 150 years, roof tiles, in excess of 60 years and clay pipes, 100 years).(iii)

-          Products will have different repair and maintenance requirements (and associated emissions) during their lifecycles.

-          The source of construction products (indigenous or imported) will impact carbon emissions from transport.

-          Building design and the products used will impact the need for heating and cooling during the in use’ phase. Ceramic bricks and roof tiles have a high thermal mass which is a material's capacity to absorb, store and release heat. This means that there can be benefits of solar gain, and peak temperatures can be reduced, limiting the need for additional heating and cooling. (Examples include the Wienerberger E4 house(iv) and Passivhaus(v)).


Q3              What role can nature-based materials play in achieving the Government’s net zero ambition?


Q4              What role can the planning system, permitted development and building regulations play in delivering a sustainable built environment? How can these policies incentivise developers to use low carbon materials and sustainable design?

Currently there is insufficient data to make detailed, evidenced based analyses of embodied carbon at the building level and there is the danger that an overly-prescriptive approach will not actually lead to the best outcome for the environment as a whole or for those that will be living or working there. It is our view that the planning system and building regulations should reinforce the principles of circular design, with carbon impact an important aspect to be balanced with other sustainability and circular economy objectives:


Q5              What methods account for embodied carbon in buildings and how can this be consistently monitored and applied across the sector?


Q6              Should the embodied carbon impact of alternative building materials take into account the carbon cost of manufacture and delivery to site, enabling customers to assess the relative impact of imported versus domestically sourced materials?


Q7              How well is green infrastructure being incorporated into building design and developments to achieve climate resilience and other benefits?  No response.

Q8              How should we take into account the use of materials to minimise carbon footprint, such as use of water harvesting from the roof, grey water circulation, separate foul and surface water drainage systems, porous surfaces for hardstanding, energy generation systems such as solar panels?


Q9              How should re-use and refurbishment of buildings be balanced with new developments?


Q10              What can the Government do to incentivise more repair, maintenance and retrofit of existing buildings?



May 2021



  1. Examples of recent investment in brick manufacturing plants: Forterra Desford (, Ibstock Eclipse ( and Ibstock Atlas Works (
  2. Generic Brick Environmental Product Declaration (
  3. Service lives of clay bricks, roof tiles and clay pipes: 

-        Clay brick (Brick Development Association - Clay Brick: End of Lifecycle

-        Roof tiles (BRE -

-        Clay pipes (Clay Pipe Development Association -

  1. Wienerberger Plc E4 house (
  2. Passivhaus (
  3. Examples of guidance and tools to calculate embodied carbon:

-        The Institution of Structural Engineers – How to Calculate Embodied Carbon (

-        UK Green Building Council – Practical How to Guide: Measuring Embodied Carbon on a Project (

-        RICS Whole life carbon assessment for the built environment (

-        EN 15978 Sustainability of construction works. Assessment of environmental performance of buildings. Calculation method

-        BRE – IMPACT specification and database and associated tools:

-        Carbon footprint calculators for construction:

  1. More than 10,000 EPD verified to EN15804 have been calculated:
  2. UK Housing: Fit for the Future? The Committee on Climate Change (2019).
  3. UK Green Building Council:,is%20decarbonising%20our%20existing%20stock



[1] Please note, for simplicity the term ‘product’ has been used throughout this document and should be taken to relate to both products and materials.