Reducing emissions through efficient materials and construction

The construction industry could slash emissions generated from buildings and infrastructure by implementing efficient material design and improving building use, finds a new report.

C40 Cities, Arup and the University of Leeds have identified different ways in which the construction industry could cut emissions generated from buildings and infrastructure by 44% by 2050.

According to their report Building and Infrastructure Consumption Emissions, one of the most effective means to reduce emissions is through material efficiency. By eliminating material waste at the design stage, particularly the overuse of steel and cement, the construction industry could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 18%.

Nearly as effective would be to implement strategic use of existing space and infrastructure, which could lead to an 11% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. “Buildings are underutilised and often discarded far before they have reached the end of their useful life,” explain the authors.

Switching from high-emission materials to sustainable timber and using lower-carbon cement could each cut greenhouse gas emissions by 6%. Finally, recycling and reusing building materials and components could have long-term climate benefits and lead to a 3% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

On top of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, these five interventions could have wide-ranging social, economic and environmental benefits, too. As the report’s authors explain, the measures would reduce air and noise pollution locally and provide health benefits for citizens and the environment. What’s more, by sparking change in the growing construction economy, these measures would provide opportunities for new jobs and skills.

Image credit: Tom Parnell via Flickr

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