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First Steps Toward Decarbonizing Construction

First Steps Toward Decarbonizing Construction

The Earth Overshoot Day, the date when humanity has used all the biological resources that Earth regenerates during the year, provides a good marker to track our progress on the climate crisis. The bad news is that this date is being reached far earlier than it was in previous decades. 50 years ago, the Earth Overshoot Day was December 14, 1972, while in 2022, the date landed on July 28, highlighting how human consumption far outpaces what the Earth can regenerate each year.

Reducing carbon emissions, or decarbonization, will play an essential role in slowing down climate change. As we work to reduce carbon emissions across the globe, the AEC industry must do its part. In 2019, the CO2 emissions of the building and construction industry increased to 38% of total global energy-related CO2 emissions.

Until recently, the construction industry’s response to reducing building-related emissions has focused on energy efficiency, which overlooks embodied carbon emissions found in the material and construction processes across a building’s lifecycle. Moreover, a recent report by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development revealed that less than 1% of building projects currently assess or measure their lifecycle carbon impacts. Since buildings are a significant contributor to emissions, it is critical that efforts increase to plan, monitor, and evaluate the materials’ entire lifecycle to be used in construction.

How can decarbonization be accelerated in construction?

When it comes to decarbonization in construction, we can tackle the challenge in two major domains: existing buildings and new construction.

Existing buildings

The average lifetime of a building varies depending on material and a number of other factors but can range from 50 years for commercial buildings to hundreds of years for historic buildings. However, buildings are often underutilized and discarded before they have reached the end of their useful life, which can result in an avoidable level of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

Thus, one strategy could be to enhance the utilization of existing buildings, for instance, transforming old warehouses or plants into creative workspaces. Implementing strategic use of existing spaces and infrastructure can lead to an 11% GHG emission reduction by 2050, and a 10%-20% reduction in demand for new buildings.

New construction

Achieving zero emissions from new construction will demand that we plan, design, procure, construct, and operate energy-efficient buildings in an energy-efficient manner. Technologies to drastically reduce energy consumption in buildings already exist, though many building owners, operators, developers, and contractors are still not fully aware of them, or the value created by utilizing them.

An effective way to reduce the impact of embodied carbon in new construction is to measure it so we can compare, verify, track, and declare it. That’s exactly why key players in the industry, including our MTWO Construction Cloud partner RIB Software, have teamed up to sponsor Building Transparency’s Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3), a revolutionary tool that is turning, what has up until recently been an inexact science, into an increasingly precise calculation method that helps to quantify and measure embodied carbon and its impact on building projects.

First steps toward sustainability

AEC businesses are under increasing pressure to incorporate sustainability into their long-term strategy. As you move to make sustainability a business priority, here are some first steps to consider:

  • Create a long-term strategy that considers sustainability in every process from start to finish.
  • Source materials ethically and ensure labor standards and fair humanitarian practices are in place with all subcontractors and suppliers.
  • Implement sustainable design, engineering, and construction practices powered by relevant data to track, measure, and reduce emissions and waste throughout the project lifecycle.
  • Use logistics processes that optimize deliveries to reduce mileage, emissions, and carbon footprint.
  • Operate assets and equipment in an energy-efficient manner that is safe for the environment and for the workforce.
  • Introduce technology, such as the EC3 calculator, that help connect teams in their shared goal of reducing emissions. 

As more AEC businesses adopt sustainable practices, we will see an increase in technologies such as integrated cloud platforms. Integrated cloud platforms connect all stakeholders throughout a project lifecycle to help teams plan, build, and operate more efficiently to the betterment of our buildings and our planet.

Digitally Transform with MTWO Construction Cloud

MTWO is a construction enterprise cloud solution that connects all project stakeholders, processes, and data in one integrated platform. The robust solution is highly configurable with 100+modules that address every phase of the building lifecycle and an open API that seamlessly integrates with other business critical solutions. MTWO delivers full project control, cost transparency, real-time intelligent data, and unparalleled collaboration and efficiency. MTWO empowers AEC firms to digitally transform their business while winning work, increasing efficiencies, mitigating risk, and reducing their environmental impact.

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  • Construction Cloud, MTWO Construction Cloud
  • MTWO, construction, Sustentabilidade

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