Carbon emissions in global construction
Large-scale construction is a significant contributor to global climate change. In fact, a 2019 report published by the IEA notes that the building and construction sector accounts for approximately 36% of final energy use and 39% of energy and process-related carbon emissions. In 2018, nearly 11% of carbon emissions in construction were contributed to the manufacture of building materials and products such as steel, cement and glass.
The process of construction creates large amounts of waste, including emissions from heavy machinery and equipment. In addition, the use of construction materials such as concrete and asphalt can release harmful pollutants into the air and water.
An emphasis on carbon reduction in construction is critical
Construction is a massive industry - and it’s quickly expanding. An estimated $13.6 trillion in global revenues were reported in 2021, and experts predict the construction sector will see unprecedented growth in the coming years. Many project that the global construction sector will nearly double in size within the next decade - with revenues expected to reach at least $22.9 trillion by 2026.
With so much at stake, carbon reduction in construction is critical to combating climate change. It’s imperative that developers and builders embrace technologies which support more sustainable construction, and take swift action to reduce the carbon footprint of construction.
While addressing the carbon emissions of construction activity is imperative, it’s also important to remember that the construction industry plays a vital role in global development. In particular, the development and maintenance of critical infrastructure is essential to humans, worldwide - and can make an immeasurable positive impact on the lives of global citizens. In order to maintain these global benefits, efforts to support sustainability in construction are increasingly important.
The reduction of construction’s carbon emissions is essential to the long-term sustainability of global construction efforts. Incentivizing developers who offset or reduce the carbon footprint of construction will have a positive impact on both the environment and the economy.
Government steps to support carbon reduction in construction
Governments and countries around the world now recognize the need to support carbon reduction in construction - and many are actively adopting initiatives to encourage sustainable building. Some of these include:
The United Kingdom
The UK government has set a target to reduce carbon emissions 80% by 2050, and has put in place a number of policies to support this goal. These include the establishment of the Carbon Trust, which provides funding for low-carbon construction projects; and the Future Buildings Standard and Future Homes Standard, which require that all new non-domestic buildings and homes meet new zero-carbon readiness standards by 2025.
The German government has also set ambitious targets for carbon reduction, with a goal of reducing emissions by 95% by 2050. A key part of their strategy is the Energiewende, or energy transition, which aims to shift the country away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy sources. A number of policies and initiatives have been launched as part of this transition, including the zero-energy building standard for new buildings. This standard, which came into effect in 2021, will be progressively developed to create virtually climate-neutral buildings. By 2050, existing buildings will also undergo climate-neutral upgrades, to meet energy efficiency measures and new standards for renewable energy use.
Japan has set a target to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, and is investing heavily in low-carbon technologies such as solar and wind power. The Japanese government is also supporting the uptake of these technologies through financial incentives to builders and developers.
Reducing construction's carbon footprint can help GCs and developers grow
As the world becomes increasingly focused on reducing its carbon footprint, the construction industry is under pressure to do the same. What many don't realize is that reducing construction's carbon footprint can actually give contractors and developers a competitive edge.
Being seen as a leader in sustainable construction attracts green investors and customers - and can help GCs and developers land lucrative government contracts. What's more, reducing construction waste and increasing energy efficiency can actually reduce the total cost of construction - helping GCs and developers save money, and keep projects on budget.
So if you're looking for ways to give your construction business a competitive edge, reducing your carbon footprint is a great place to start. And with more and more regulations requiring builders to reduce their emissions, a focus on sustainable building is something GCs and developers can no longer afford to ignore.
The competitive advantage builders gain by reducing carbon emissions
As governments shift emphasis to sustainable construction and development, builders who proactively demonstrate their commitment to reducing carbon emissions experience a competitive advantage.
Potential customers are interested in working with companies who embrace initiatives with positive environmental impact - and by reducing the carbon footprint of construction, builders demonstrate leadership in sustainable building practices.
There are many ways to reduce carbon emissions in the construction process - from using low-carbon materials, to investing in energy-efficient technologies or tools and solutions which make construction more sustainable, by optimizing the build process itself. By taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint, builders will not only gain a competitive edge, but also help create a more sustainable future for us all.
The future of carbon reduction in construction
The future of carbon reduction in construction is promising. The development of innovative technology and processes for sustainable construction is quickly accelerating - offering the construction industry ample opportunities for improving its environmental impact.
It’s clear that the builders and developers who take carbon reduction seriously will benefit from investment in solutions with real impact. Those who embrace these changes ahead of the curve can expect to see both the environmental benefits of reducing construction’s carbon footprint, and the competitive rewards of proactive efforts to build more sustainably - and their continued success in a swiftly developing global industry.