What is the construction industry’s blueprint for reducing carbon?

The construction industry has focused on improving building design for decades. But now, as value chain actors see the need to increase decarbonization actions, more architects, builders and contractors than ever are increasing their investments in sustainable building design innovation. .

They recognize that it is important for the construction industry to mobilize to meet the global temperature limit set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 1.5 to well below 2 degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial age. Of total global emissions, construction operations are responsible for 28% annually, while building materials and construction (usually referred to as embodied carbon) are responsible for an additional 11% annually.

Achieving zero emissions from the existing building stock will require leveraging building intervention points to accelerate the pace of energy upgrades – by increasing energy efficiency, eliminating on-site fossil fuels, and generating and/or providing 100% renewable energy.

It’s kind of hard to comprehend the immediacy of carbon reduction targets – in less than 9 years, these construction industry milestones for carbon reduction are coming due. At that time, contractors who are willing to reduce carbon emissions at multiple stages of the construction process will be well positioned in an aggressive market. They will have a powerful competitive advantage.

The journey to this place of the zero-emissions construction industry will be fraught with unexpected obstacles and detours, of course; this is how all innovation becomes mainstream.

What will it take for the construction industry to reduce carbon? By streamlining the construction process and considering a building’s entire life cycle – emissions embedded in materials, building energy efficiency, and end of life or repurposing – the construction industry could achieve zero carbon footprint by 2050.

There is hope.

The task is enormous. The projects of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs 2.5 billion more people will pour into cities in the next 30 years, and 60% of the buildings required by 2050 have yet to be built. Growing energy consumption from inefficient buildings will impact us all, whether through access to affordable energy services, poor air quality or higher energy bills.

What is built today will become an emissions legacy. The construction industry today is striving to lock in tomorrow’s new energy efficiency standards, green materials and best practices in design and construction.

Building with carbon reduction in mind

The iterative process is a series of repeated steps, refining and improving the product with each cycle. As with any process, the business needs to focus on tools and systems so that continuous improvement increases efficiency. Reducing carbon requires iterative approach to construction which makes the construction industry more precise and efficient. The iterative process contributes to improved building design and overall profitability, creates predictability for clients, and reduces marketing risk for investors and the contractor.

The result is buildings worth repeating.

There is help to achieve zero emissions targets for the construction industry. the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (GlobalABC) new Buildings Climate Tracker, for example, takes into account measures such as additional investment in building energy efficiency and the share of renewable energy in global buildings. GlobalABC recognizes that the number of new buildings is likely to grow rapidly in the coming years, particularly in Africa and Asia. This rapid growth will challenge the purpose of a 30% improving the energy intensity of buildings by 2030, needed to put the sector on track to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

What does it take to reduce carbon from the construction industry?

  • expertise in design, material sourcing, manufacturing, logistics and technology
  • proficiency in supply chain management
  • knowledge on how to address fragmentation and inefficiencies
  • combine design and construction services
  • ability to target waste reduction
  • integrating software and technology at every stage of construction

Because buildings use 75% of the nation’s electricity, they have the vast potential to help the United States achieve net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest.

Various approaches can accelerate the construction of a low-carbon economy.

  • Some contractors are re-adopting the fundamentals of historic techniques while adding today’s best efficiencies, enhanced by innovative construction technology to create a new sustainable construction industry.
  • Green roofs, rainwater harvesting, energy consumption and production, and stormwater treatment are just a few examples of the best regenerative design strategies.
  • computer scientists are developing software that uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to help construction reduce the amount of embodied carbon in their buildings and infrastructure.
  • Companies with a strong desire to reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption are installing solar panels.
  • 3D printing is a relatively new technique in the construction industry, with the aim of improving economy and mitigating environmental impacts.
  • The modular and off-the-shelf design quickly scales low-carbon energy infrastructure because it has a fast and repeatable design. A recently published report, Decarbonization during the pre-development of modular building solutionstalk more about it.

Certainly, it will take more data sharing, collaboration and transparency to be able to achieve the decarbonization that the world demands of the construction industry in the coming decades. It starts with the composition of the building materials themselves, as different composites and sources allow for different manufacturing processes. Half of all emissions are embodied in buildings – caused by the manufacturing of materials and the construction process – so when companies are responsible for multiple stages of construction, design can lead to collaborative relationships and shorter construction times.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development released a report in 2021 that called on the construction industry to adopt lifelong carbon assessments and set clear targets to decarbonize the sector. the report identifies critical next steps to support the sector’s journey towards decarbonization:

  • Adopt a clear definition of a net zero building, taking into account carbon throughout the life cycle.
  • Carry out WLCA on all projects, using a consistent methodology and open-source sharing of the data obtained.
  • Commit to achieving clear and simple global targets across the building industry, including a meaningful approach to residual emissions (offset).
  • Develop consistent and transparent carbon intensity certification for components, systems and materials used by industry.
  • Achieve broader collaboration, because individual organizations taking action are not enough.


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