Embodied carbon is a significant part of the construction industry’s emissions, and an area that will need to be reduced if the sector is to decarbonise.
Today, it stands at about 11% of total annual carbon emissions, and cutting this will be difficult if the industry in the Middle East does not better measure direct and indirect emissions.
“The property and construction industry has a really good opportunity to tackle a very large chunk of what is the current problem globally,” said Matthew Anthony, Asset Advisory Lead, AECOM, speaking during the Construction Technology Festival (CTF).
Ways to reduce emissions includes better specification of materials, and in particular not over specifying those materials. This can have a huge impact, said Anthony, as it accounts for about one-third of the asset’s lifecycle carbon emissions.
The substructure and superstructure of a building account for 44% combined of emissions. Retrofits post handover offer limited opportunities to reduce emissions, he said. More reductions can be realised through changes made during the design stage.
“Understanding low carbon materials and making sure that we use those…and making sure that designs are efficient and not over-specified, fit for purpose and that we don’t copy paste designs….If we are to reduce carbon [emissions] we need to take a deep impact look at the structural elements and the materials that make up the structure.”
Measurement of embodied carbon
Another aspect that needs to be tackled is to improve the measurement of embodied carbon, and to adopt fit-for-region benchmarks within the industry, which today are limited. “Benchmarking isn’t really available here in the Middle East, becasue we have limited case studies, examples and data to draw from.”
Data needs to be collected and made more widely available for benchmarking to enable the industry to measure its performance. “We have to start somewhere,” Anthony said.
Below is the audience Q&A session with all speakers from the Measuring & reducing carbon in construction track during CTF. Speakers included:
- Matthew Anthony, Asset Advisory Lead, AECOM
- Iman Abi Saab, Technical Director, Middle East Technical Excellence Leader, Mott MacDonald – Easy wins to reduce embodied carbon
- Lindsey Malcolm, Associate Director, Sustainability, AESG – Real application and impact of carbon calculators
- José Francisco García, Senior Project Director, ACCIONA – Case study: Circular construction in a desalination plant
- Pierre Piniau, General Manager, Milwaukee Tool MEA – Reducing onsite emissions: A cost-benefit analysis of implementing electric machinery