We as professional all have an obligation to decarbonize our building industry and achieve net-zero by 2050. And ultimately, the only way to reduce the risks of climate change is to decarbonize. Therefore, reaching net zero by 2050 will require the construction industry to decarbonize three times faster over the next 30 years versus the previous 30.
Decarbonized economy is an economy based on energy sources that produce low levels of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Architects, engineers, builders, real-estate developers, and building owners, all collectively have a wide array of options for how to proceed, including low-carbon development and construction; building retrofits to improve energy efficiency; upgrades to heating, cooling, and lighting technology; and technology to manage demand and consumption. However, decarbonization is not solely a technical challenge, it is shift from volume to value - Decarbonization is a license to grow but grow responsibly.
To develop the most appropriate path, we need to understand the range of decarbonization options and their financial and strategic costs and benefits.
Materials processing and building operations together account for some 97 percent of building and infrastructure emissions. New buildings incorporating alternative materials, decarbonized cement, and steel, and reduced embodied carbon are needed to meet net-zero targets. Existing buildings will require renewable-energy sources, efficient building operations, and measuring performance, supported by more convenient end-to-end retrofit solutions.
This is the time to get serious about green investment, new technologies and creating a culture of innovation. The construction industry is notoriously slow to change. Practical steps include setting targets for new net growth, promoting “test and learn” with minimum viable products, deploying venture capital–style metered funding, increasing R&D budgets, using certifications to drive a sustainability premium, and fostering precompetitive collaboration are essential.
A mixture of carbon pricing, higher building performance standards, and building code changes can help move consumers and industry toward a more just and orderly net-zero transition.
The key concepts and strategies to decarbonize the construction sector featured in this article highlight one potential pathway based on a certain set of inputs. Other viable pathways exist, and new pathways will likely emerge for both the construction sector and the broader economy over the next decade and beyond as we learn more and as technology continues to develop. Moreover, sustainability has rapidly become one of the most frequent topics that clients ask us about. Meanwhile, the need for global cooperation on this issue will likely become more apparent and more universally embraced.