Managing suppliers and understanding the embodied carbon is necessary across the construction supply chain – so that everybody is coordinated could make a big difference – and it’s not happening enough,” says Teri Wills, CEO of the World Green Building Council (WGBC).
“The current diffused responsibility makes green building that much more difficult, but this is also where the opportunity lies. There are great examples like Energiesprong, who will retrofit your house – everything from solar panels to insulation – and deliver you a net zero carbon home. Streamlining the process like this, instead of leaving individuals to coordinate 15 different suppliers, encourages people to aim for zero carbon.”
There are significant energy usage in the construction process, so if you can find ways to be more energy efficient, you will become more cost efficient, she explains. “Consumer demand is having an effect. As more and more companies want to know about the carbon going into the making of a product – what we call ‘embodied carbon’ – the construction sector will have to work to bring down its emissions if it wants to meet this market need.
“90% of many companies’ costs are people, so if you can find ways to reduce illness and absenteeism by creating a more productive environment, you’re halfway there. Green buildings and living walls foster a sense of health and wellbeing – and you’re also adding economic value by creating a company ethos that employees want to be a part of,” she adds.
28% of energy related global greenhouse gas emissions come from the operations of a building, compared to 11% from the construction process.
“Interestingly, the operating emissions are actually decreasing because of this shift to renewable energy, Wills explains. “At WorldGBC, we have a big push on net zero carbon buildings, which we feel is contributing to this reduction in operating carbon.”
But the carbon problem differs around the world, she says. “In emerging economies like China, where the equivalent of Rome is built every week, you have a very different problem than that in Europe or America. While there is still a lot of construction in more developed regions, we tend to focus on retrofitting existing buildings, which has a lower carbon cost. But in newly urbanized areas like Africa, where the pressure to build is so huge there isn’t as much consideration of their emissions profile, carbon reduction can be more difficult to control.
“The challenges differ from country to country, so it’s finding ways to keep our focus on the global goals while working at a local level. In South Africa, for example, they’re focused on reducing emissions, but are in the middle of a water crisis. So, it’s often down to finding effective ways to reprioritize while still implementing targeted carbon reduction plans.”
Terri Wills, will be a guest speaker at the CCC Summit in Gothenburg, 19 June, entitled “The Road to Carbon Neutral Infrastructure”.