Monday 9th January 2023

How can we accelerate building green?

Construction techniques and materials substitutions that could have the most impact in reducing carbon emissions...

There has been less focus, historically, on earlier stages of the building life cycle, especially the construction phase. But over the last few years, more focus has been placed on this stage. Record levels of funding and R&D have been funnelled into materials and lower carbon building in the last year alone!

To reach net-zero emissions targets, the industry needs to triple pace of decarbonisation

"To meet net-zero emissions targets by 2050, various industries will need to triple the pace at which they decarbonize compared with the past 30 years. Several possible decarbonization pathways across materials, design, and technology collectively could help mitigate a significant portion of overall emissions. Some of these pathways, such as switching to renewable sources of energy for heating systems, have significant potential for reducing emissions, while others, such as reducing waste and improving circularity, are likely to mitigate a smaller proportion of emissions."[1]

McKinsey & Company, just last month, released a report that outlines some construction techniques and materials substitutions that could have the most impact in reducing carbon emissions or in acting as a form of sequestration. Carbon sequestration is the capturing, removal and storage of carbon dioxide from the earth's atmosphere e.g. industrial hemp construction products.

Looking to low-carbon building materials

Anyone in the industry knows that addressing emissions related to concrete is one source of huge potential impact — about 8% of the world’s emissions are linked to cement, used to bind the stuff together. Steel (the non-recycled sort) is also a big culprit (estimated at another 8%). Hence, there’s an increased interest in low-carbon versions of these materials as well as substitutions, such as the push for mass timber in increasingly taller buildings.

Green building benefits of retrofit

Aside from reducing waste, the approach promises to make buildings easier to retrofit. The most sustainable building is one that already exists! This approach requires deeper collaboration in the planning phases to ensure the right sort of materials procurement.

Read the full McKinsey report here.

[1] McKinsey Report https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/operations/our-insights/accelerating-green-growth-in-the-built-environment

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