New resource report shines spotlight on building materials and design

A new report from the International Resource Panel has found that reducing demand for floor space in G7 countries by up to 20% could lower greenhouse gas emissions from the production of materials by nearly 75% in 2050.

The International Resource Panel (IRP) has produced a report at the request of the Group of Seven (G7) member states that looks at how material and design efficiency can reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the construction and manufacturing sectors, which together are responsible for an estimated 80% of emissions generated by the first use of materials. The report focuses on the two most carbon-intensive products in these sectors: residential buildings and passenger cars.

According to the report, producing and using materials more efficiently for both of these products could cut CO2 equivalent emissions between 2016 and 2060 by up to 25 gigatons across the G7, a figure that is more than double the annual emissions from all of the world’s coal-fuelled power plants.

With respect to residential buildings in particular, the IRP found G7 countries could save up to 170 million tons of carbon emissions from residential homes in 2050 using strategies and technologies that already exist. India could save 270 million tons and China up to 350 million tons.

The report also shows that greenhouse gas emissions from the production of materials for residential buildings in the G7, China and India could be reduced between 50% and 80% in 2050 with greater material efficiency. The most promising strategies include more intensive use of space (e.g. reducing demand for floor space), replacing concrete and masonry with sustainably produced wood, improving recycling, and building lighter homes using less carbon-intensive steel, cement and glass.

For example, reducing demand for floor space in G7 countries by up to 20% could lower greenhouse gas emissions from the production of materials by up to 73% in 2050. Shared homes, smaller units, and downsizing when children move out are all examples of small actions that could result in big reductions.

Image credit: Ahmad Ardity via Pixabay

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