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COP26 and Construction

The construction industry worldwide is one of the largest polluters on the planet due to;

  • High volumes of waste,

  • Manufacture of materials and

  • Operational emissions from buildings.

The construction industry produces a huge amount of waste - indeed, construction, demolition and excavation accounted for an astonishing 62% of the UK's total waste in 2018, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Source BBC). This figure is even more remarkable in the current market with escalating material prices. A further study suggests that 13% of all materials go straight into the skip without being used. (Udeaja, CE, Ekundayo, D, Zhou, L and Perera, S.)

Unfortunately, at present a large portion of construction waste is not recyclable.

Together, building and construction are responsible for 39% of all carbon emissions in the world, with operational emissions (from energy used to heat, cool and light buildings) accounting for 28%. The remaining 11% comes from embodied carbon emissions, or ‘upfront’ carbon that is associated with materials and construction processes throughout the whole building life cycle. (Source: World Green Building Council). Heating alone results in 10% of the nation’s carbon footprint compared with 2.40% from air travel. To fully decarbonise the construction sector requires eliminating both operational and embodied carbon emissions.

And yet despite these figures construction, in the main, pays lip service to whole life costs remaining wedded to bottom line capital expenditure.

Newly constructed buildings are more energy efficient, but 80% of buildings in 2050 are already built!

Duncan Cartlidge FRICS

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