This World Green Building Week, the World Green Building Council is #BuildingLife and exploring how we can create a green, healthy and climate-resilient built environment for all.
This year’s campaign aims to raise greater awareness of the carbon emissions from all stages of a building’s lifecycle, and therefore encourage new practices and new ways of thinking to work towards reducing carbon emissions from buildings.
Did you know buildings and construction are responsible for 39% of global energy-related carbon emissions? 28% of these emissions come from the operational “in-use” phase — to heat, power and cool them, while 11% of these emissions are attributed to embodied carbon emissions, which refers to carbon that is released during the construction process and material manufacturing.
To date, the building and construction industry’s focus has been on operational emissions and how buildings actually perform in-use.
However, in order to fully decarbonize by 2050 to keep global warming to below 1.5 degrees, the building and construction sector must also tackle embodied emissions from the entire building lifecycle.
Therefore, this World Green Building Week, we’re calling on all of the building and construction industry supply chain to decarbonize.
Join your local Green Building Council and help us build a better future!
Across the world, the evidence is growing that green buildings bring multiple benefits. They can help us to tackle climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions; help create sustainable communities, and drive economic growth.
Did you know buildings and construction are responsible for 39% of global energy-related carbon emissions? 28% of these emissions come from the operational “in-use” phase — to heat, power and cool them, while 11% of these emissions are attributed to embodied carbon emissions, which refers to carbon that is released during the construction process, material manufacturing and deconstruction process — the “before-use” and “after-use” phases of a building’s life.
In order to achieve the Paris Agreement, the global building and construction sector must transition to and operate at net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Therefore, green buildings alone aren’t enough though to meet this current trajectory. We need zero emissions buildings and we need to advance net zero.
WorldGBC’s Advancing Net Zero global project was launched as a response to the Paris agreement in 2016 to inspire action from the Green Building Council network and its members towards this transition.
There are a number of measures we can take to reduce operating emissions from new and existing buildings. Here are just a few examples:
- Minimize energy use in all stages of a building’s lifecycle, making new and renovated buildings more comfortable and less expensive to run, and helping building users learn to be efficient too.
- Integrate renewable and low carbon technologies to supply buildings’ energy needs, once their design has maximized inbuilt and natural efficiencies.
Green Building Councils across WorldGBC’s network are developing market mechanisms such as certification schemes, training and education programs, and engagement tools with corporate members and governments, to help support industry towards net-zero carbon buildings, and significant operational emissions reductions from the sector. Find out more in the Advancing Net Zero Status Report 2019.
Embodied carbon refers to the carbon that is released during the material manufacturing and transportation process, and the construction and deconstruction process of a building’s lifecycle. In other words, the carbon emitted during the “before use” and “after use” stages of a building’s life.
Operational carbon refers to the carbon emitted during the “in use” stage of a building’s lifecycle.
- If you’re a product manufacturer, seek out ways to source, produce and transport materials more sustainably.
- If you’re responsible for designing buildings, consider designing with sustainability in mind to enhance resource efficiency and reduce harmful emissions to protect the environment.
- If you’re responsible for the construction process of a building, promote sustainable construction practices and ideally use sustainably sourced, locally available materials to reduce construction site and transport emissions.
- Promote deconstruction as opposed to demolition and seek to reuse and recycle as many materials as possible to close the loop, saving precious resources.
Along with its network of Green Building Councils and partners, WorldGBC is developing a ‘call to action’ report focusing on embodied carbon emissions, and the systemic changes needed to achieve full decarbonization across the global building and construction sector.
The objectives of the report are to:
- Establish a broadly accepted definition of net-zero embodied carbon
- Communicate globally the urgency and deadlines for goals to achieving net-zero embodied carbon buildings
- Set a global framework for actions at a voluntary and policy level to drive change
- Explain and demonstrate the feasibility of these goals, deadlines, and actions
- Generally, create a conversation around the value and importance of embodied carbon with the aim of creating and stimulating market demand for transparency, improvements, and verification of embodied carbon reductions
The report will be released in September 2019 during World Green Building Week.
Because we are running out of time: The IPCC has made it clear that we have 31 years to decarbonize to limit global warming to less than 1.5 degrees, beyond which the repercussions on our planet and everything that we do will be catastrophic. Therefore, the building and construction sector stands at a critical time and must fully decarbonize — including embodied emissions — by 2050, to deliver the ambition of the Paris agreement.
We now understand the challenges are global and multi-faceted. We need key targets and actions which can be implemented by all sectors:
- Demand side — real estate sector
- Supply side — materials and industry
- Policymakers — from cities, states and regions, and national governments
Ambient, or outdoor, air pollution is caused by a range of factors, including transport, agriculture, and waste. However, the contribution of the built environment, in both the construction and operational phases, cannot be underestimated.
- 39% of global energy-related carbon emissions are attributed to buildings.
- 28% of this is buildings in operation, predominantly for heating, cooling, and lighting. Energy use is heavily impacted by the quality of building envelope, with emissions especially substantial in the older building stock.
- The additional 11% of carbon emissions are attributed to emissions embodied in the construction process, which has a well-cataloged impact on air quality through its emissions released from product manufacturing and transportation, dust creation and fumes in construction and deconstruction.
For more information on the link between the built environment and air pollution, click here.
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