Sustainable building construction: materials innovation and carbon capture

Despite the pandemic, there was a net increase in carbon emissions related to the construction sector in the period from 2020 to 2021

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Building Construction: sector is responsible for 36% of energy consumption (Germano Lüders/Exame)

Building Construction: sector is responsible for 36% of energy consumption (Germano Lüders/Exame)


Publicado em 3 de setembro de 2021, 15h53.

Última atualização em 20 de setembro de 2021, 15h09.

Embedded carbon, emitted before completing the construction of a building, is responsible for 10% of emissions on a global basis.

However, despite all carbon reduction targets, the trend is on the increase: it is believed that more than half of the total carbon emissions from new buildings in the next 30 years will be due to embodied carbon.

The estimate was published on the Advancing Net Zero 2021 report that highlights initiatives by the civil construction sector to achieve total decarbonization of the sector by 2050. The material is made by the World Green Building Council, a global non-profit organization that directs civil construction market towards sustainability.

According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the sector is responsible for 36% of energy consumption, 38% of energy-related carbon emissions, 50% of consumption of natural resources and is expected to double total carbon footprint by 2060.

To counter these projections, the report brings together trends and innovations to meet the expectations of a net zero construction sector. Industry Solutions One of the resources is the Carbon Leadership Forum's Material Baseline Report 2021 that offers estimates of embodied carbon emissions by construction product category, and the Embodied Carbon Primer, prepared by the London Energy Transformation Initiative (LETI).

Another way is the innovation of materials and technology such as steel, whose production accounts for 8% of global carbon dioxide emissions, according to the McKinsey’s Steel Decarbonization Challenge study.

The report also refers to emerging technologies such as CarbFix that turns CO2 into stone, and Aether that produces diamonds from CO2.

At the regulatory level, the report highlights the SCALE Act and the CLEAN Future Act, bills recently presented to the US Congress that set standards for carbon capture infrastructure and clean energy in buildings, respectively.

Denmark, in the effort to meet the 70% emission reduction target by 2030, has set embedded carbon targets in building regulations with an interparliamentary support policy, which restricts CO2 requirements for large and small buildings.

The report also shows case studies from Scotland, the next COP26 headquarters, Hong Kong, Norway, and New Zealand.