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Strategies to Decarbonize Construction and Building Materials

The built environment is a massive CO2 emitter, approximately 40% of total emissions annually. This includes energy consumption within buildings and infrastructure, but majorly it’s the production and transportation of construction and building materials.

In the process of sustainable construction, we must not only focus on reducing operational emissions but also look at decarbonizing construction and building materials. This is essential for mitigating the environmental impact of the construction industry and achieving our carbon reduction goal.

How can we approach decarbonizing construction and building materials?

When talking about greenifying the built environment, concepts such as passive design strategies, sustainability ratings, and the use of sustainable materials are often mentioned. But how do we truly integrate sustainability into materials?

In the Building Materials and the Climate: Constructing a New Future report, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), along with Yale Center for Ecosystems + Architecture highlighted three strategies that can be implemented to decarbonize construction and building materials.

Avoid Unnecessary Extraction and Production

The construction industry’s growth demands more materials, but their extraction and production come at a heavy environmental cost. We must prioritize resource efficiency, reduce waste, promote reuse and recycling, and source locally to minimize transportation is reduced. By doing so, we can minimize the industry’s carbon footprint.

Use Regenerative Materials

Regenerative materials offer sustainable alternatives to traditional ones. Examples include bamboo, which grows rapidly and sequesters carbon, and reclaimed wood, which reduces the demand for new resources. Embracing regenerative materials not only mitigates carbon emissions but also enhances biodiversity and resilience to climate change.

Decarbonize Conventional Materials

Despite reliance on conventional materials like concrete and steel, advancements in technology offer avenues for decarbonization. From alternative cement formulations to integrating renewable energy into manufacturing processes, innovation can significantly reduce the environmental impact of these materials. By investing in research and incentivizing the adoption of low-carbon technologies, we can accelerate the transition to a greener construction industry.

By adopting sustainable practices such as prioritizing resource efficiency, reducing waste, promoting reuse and recycling, and sourcing locally, the construction industry can significantly reduce its carbon footprint.

Furthermore, by integrating modern technology into operations will contribute to building a more resilient and sustainable future.

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