By Brent Trenga
A report from The Brookings Institute found that transitioning to a clean energy economy would be a boon to the U.S. economy, expanding job opportunities for more than 300 occupations, many in engineering, construction, and building trades.
Green building goals are also being implemented in other cities across the nation. Last year 19 mayors pledged that every new building constructed in their cities will meet net-zero standards by 2030—and by 2050, all buildings will be retrofitted to meet those same standards.
CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY ROLE
The commercial and residential building sectors in the U.S. account for 39 percent of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions, and building emissions are expected to grow nearly 2 percent annually through 2030, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.
The building and construction (B&C) industry can play an essential role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in line with government initiatives, one of which includes a call for all buildings in the U.S. to be retrofitted to achieve maximum energy efficiency. The industry can achieve this by adopting energy- and climate-conscious practices to substantially reduce aggregate emissions through measures such as reducing emissions embedded in the supply chain, reducing Scope 3 emissions, and building with a priority on resiliency.
The B&C industry can shrink its carbon footprint by reducing emissions embedded in the supply chain, such as those associated with the manufacture of commonly used construction materials including aluminum, cement and steel, the use of heavy machinery and the transportation to get materials from suppliers to construction sites.
Industry efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions should also focus on Scope 3 emissions which often make up the bulk of this sector’s carbon footprint. Scope 3 emissions are classified as indirect emissions that result from a company’s supply chain and include both upstream and downstream emissions including purchased goods and services, business travel, and employee commuting.
As part of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the industry should also be building with resiliency in mind. This means incorporating building materials that provide better protection of assets, adopting stronger building codes, retrofitting existing buildings, and avoiding rebuilding in areas that are high risk flood zones.
Government initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could have a major economic impact on the building and construction industry.
A recently released Brookings Institution study analyzing the growth in clean energy jobs found that jobs such as retrofitting buildings or installing renewable energy systems would be a boon for the construction industry and other trades. The report states that “as this energy-related transition advances, there are clear areas where improving workforce development practices can expand the number of workers who have the chance to benefit from the inclusive pathways the clean energy economy will offer.”
Government initiatives highlight the pivotal role the building and construction industry can play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And, while there may still be some debate about some of the initiatives, there should be no debate that the B&C industry needs to be focusing on constructing green buildings that use less energy and water, rely more on recycled and renewable materials, cost less to operate, produce less construction waste, and provide a healthier indoor environment.
About the Author
Brent Trenga, LEED AP BD+C, WELL AP is building technology director for Kingspan Insulated Panels North America (www.kingspan.com). His background as an architect, construction manager, developer and project owner give him a unique perspective on all facets of the construction industry. Trenga leads Kingspan North America’s material health and transparency program and Kingspan’s North American NZE 2020 program, while collaborating with the company’s global healthy building team. Trenga can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Modern Contractor Solutions, May 2019
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