Climate change has become a pressing issue that affects people and organizations worldwide. Due to the effects, many countries have seen the increased intensity of natural disasters and their corresponding impacts — wildfires, hurricanes, floods, rise in sea levels, tornadoes, extreme temperatures, and cyclones. These extreme weather events can cause massive damage, disrupt many lives, and result in fatalities.
To limit these effects of climate change, preemptive action with a holistic approach is required. While many people might not realize it, buildings play a massive role in greenhouse gas emissions. Learn what part the construction sector plays in climate change, the risks they face, and how they can decrease their overall carbon emissions.
Buildings significantly contribute to the greenhouse gas emissions released into the environment through embodied and operational carbon. Operational carbon is all the emissions emitted in operating a facility, meaning powering, cooling, heating and ventilating buildings.
Embodied carbon is the emissions released throughout the entire life cycle of building materials — from when they are extracted, manufactured, transported, constructed, and disposed of. In other words, embodied carbon is all the carbon emissions emitted from building materials before the building becomes operational.
Architecture2030 released a report that states that 40% of yearly global emissions are generated by the construction sector. From that annual percentage, 13% of emissions are due to embodied carbon, and 27% are from operational carbon. Reducing these components is crucial for limiting the effects of climate change.
Climate change is wreaking havoc on the lives of many people and businesses. The increasing intensity of weather events causes massive problems for the construction industry. When these occur, commercial geotechnical engineering is required to determine if the soil is safe for construction. In addition, these climate-change-related weather disasters can lead to increased costs in building materials, supply chain disruption and delayed construction projects.
Weather disasters can also cause severe damage to the environment, buildings, unfinished projects, and any other physical assets. The World Bank published a press release where they stated investing in more resilient infrastructure can save $4.2 trillion. This more resilient infrastructure can help reduce the destruction climate change weather events cause.
One prospect organizations can face is transitioning risks — the threats associated with companies trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to more sustainable solutions. Transitioning risks also affect the economy and can create potential business challenges that impact financial capabilities.
This is not a situation that is going unnoticed. Many rules and regulations are attempting to reduce embodied and operational carbon. To reduce embodied carbon, companies should calculate the amount associated with each material and the carbon footprint a building would have.
Doing so can help designers find materials with lower embodied carbon or even carbon-storing capabilities, such as wood, straw, and bamboo. Another route is for organizations to utilize recycled materials in construction, which would decrease emissions due to not needing to manufacture new materials.
The building sector is also facing more pushback from investors. They want to know the industry is taking climate change seriously and are looking for ways to decrease their carbon footprint.
The Securities and Exchange Commission also announced a rule relating to this. The proposed regulations state that publicly listed companies should provide investors with the climate change risks they face and climate-related financial metrics. In other words, they need to be transparent and tell investors what risks they are up against.
They also need to state their impact regarding operational and embodied carbon. This regulation allows investors to make informed decisions based on comparable and reliable data. The rule is set to become active at the end of this year.
Climate change is a devastating issue that affects people globally. Only with preemptive measures and a combined approach can these effects be mitigated. Although implementing changes to company operations can create challenges, creating a more sustainable future is well worth the effort.
About the Author
Jane Marsh is an environmental and green technology writer who covers topics in sustainable construction and green building materials. She also works as the editor-in-chief of Environment.co.