What you need to know about carbon-free construction

40% of global carbon emissions come from building and construction. Given that buildings are such a vital part of the way that we live and work, the demand for construction isn’t likely to drop any time soon. Which makes it incredibly important for companies across the construction sector to find ways to decarbonise through the net-zero building. From the perspective of meeting the targets in the Paris Agreement, as well as ensuring a greener future for everyone, carbon-free construction needs to become the norm.

Why does construction have such a big impact?

The world is still urbanising at a fast rate and it’s this that is behind the high levels of carbon emanating from building and construction. Over the next 30 years, another 2.5 billion people will surge into cities and 60% of the buildings that we’re going to need to accommodate this by 2050 have yet to be built. Carbon-heavy construction is currently the norm, which could be catastrophic if this is the only approach used to build the infrastructure and buildings that we are going to need.

Lots of different initiatives are springing up

Alongside the targets that have been enshrined in national regulation and laws, there are many other initiatives appearing to help carbon-free construction become a reality. For example, The World Green Building Council’s (WorldGBC) Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment is providing the motivation for a broad selection of different stakeholders to commit to net-zero emissions for all new buildings by 2030, and all buildings by 2050.

Cement is one of the biggest obstacles to carbon-free construction

Carbon-intensive cement remains one of the most often used materials in construction and this is problematic for achieving net-zero goals. On its own, cement accounts for 8% of global CO2 emissions. Reducing reliance on cement is one of the changes that could make the biggest difference when it comes to achieving carbon-free construction. One way to do this, for example, is using sustainable cross-laminated timber instead of concrete for framing – this would achieve a 26.5% reduction in the global warming potential of the building.

Scandinavia is leading the way towards net-zero construction

For example, in Oslo, the goal is for all city-owned construction machinery and construction sites to operate with zero emissions by 2025. In Copenhagen, net-zero targets are being achieved in many similar ways, including integrating fossils- or emission-free construction machinery in construction projects.

Changes need to be made across the entire supply chain

Building and construction can potentially influence many other sectors into making positive changes where climate commitments are concerned – and these can have a knock-on impact on how much progress can be made towards carbon-neutral targets. From materials suppliers to real estate companies, there is the potential for construction businesses to influence other stakeholders in order to start creating new standards for reducing carbon impact right across the supply chain.

Carbon-free construction is possible. However, there are some key shifts that need to take place before this can become a reality.

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