In 2022, the World Economic Forum reminded us the built environment – the construction industry – accounts for 39% of gross annual carbon emissions worldwide. Cement manufacturing causes 8% of global air pollution.
Reducing carbon emissions is something the construction industry is taking seriously. Evaluating the types of materials we use and data-tracking (using real-time analytics to calculate greenhouse gases/emissions) are helping us reach our goal of Net Zero by 2050. In September 2023, a report, Constructing a New Future, offered a three-pronged solution to reduce “…negative impacts on natural ecosystems from the production and deployment of building materials.”
- Avoid waste using a circular approach – Repurpose existing buildings can generate 50%-75% fewer emissions.
- Shift to renewable, bio-based building materials. This could lead to up to 40% emissions savings by the construction industry in various global regions.
- Improve decarbonization by processing aluminum, concrete, and steel as well as bricks and glass using innovative technologies.
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) director Sheila Aggarwal-Khan says Net Zero is achievable if governments put plans into action by adding incentives and regulations. “Modern materials such as concrete and steel often give only the illusion of durability,” she said, but those materials usually end up in landfills, “contributing to the growing climate crisis.”
In 2015, UNEP and its members founded the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (GlobalABC) as a leading platform supporting and incentivizing governments and construction-industry stakeholders toward zero-emission, efficient, and resilient buildings and construction.
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