Plenty of work has gone into making buildings more energy efficient and encouraging the switch from fossil fuels to renewables, but much less attention has been given to reducing the carbon in the materials they are made from. Experts are now examining how best to cut these “embodied emissions”
REDUCE, REUSE & RECYCLE
Only using the amount of steel or concrete required for structural stability and reusing and recycling materials or even whole parts of existing buildings is key to emissions reduction in the construction business
A building should have a carbon budget just as it has a financial budget
Work to make buildings more climate-friendly tends to focus on operational emissions produced by the energy used for heating, cooling, cooking and other activities. But increasingly attention is turning to so-called embodied carbon, emissions released during the making, transport, assembly, installation, demolition and decomposition of buildings and construction materials. “You follow the brick all the way back to the quarry and you [also] figure out what is going to happen to it in 100 or 2000 years,” is how architectural historian Kiel Moe explains the concept. A building’s fuel efficiency may be important, but it is missing the big picture, he says.
As much as 11% of global emissions are represented by embodied carbon, says the non-profit World Green Building Council (WorldGBC). As operational emissions have decreased with increased renewables and energy efficiency measures, embodied carbon, which until now has remained hidden further down the supply chain, has become the biggest climate problem from buildings. Bringing Carbon Upfront, a report published in September 2019 by WorldGBC, engineering company Ramboll and NGO C40 Cities sets the goal of reducing embodied carbon in new and renovated projects by 40% within a decade and to net zero by 2050. ...
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The Canadian city of Vancouver is leading efforts in North America to slash emissions released in the production of building construction materials, setting itself a 40% by 2030 reduction target
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The overproducing cement sector is a low-hanging fruit that could help China curb its vast carbon emissions
Massive investment opportunities exist for those deciding to use their cash to help renovate buildings, says Jennifer Layke, Global Director of Energy at the World Resources Institute
Energy expert Brian Vad Mathiesen from Aalborg University in Denmark describes Vårgårda’s system as a “limousine solution”
The argument for natural gas as a bridge to a cleaner renewable future has grown weaker as the case for electrification as the most efficient way to decarbonise has grown