The construction industry is responsible for a large percentage of our annual CO2 emissions, but things are starting to change for the better.
(Picture) From anncapictures on Pixabay.com (https://pixabay.com/illustrations/nature-earth-sustainability-leaf-3294632/)
Written by Morgan Kaenzig de Denus, AMAST Content
In October and November, Scotland hosted the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP26. For nearly two weeks, 120 world leaders and thousands of participants gathered to discuss climate change, including how we can accomplish the goals established by the 196 parties in attendance at COP21. While we hope to cut emissions and limit global warming to below 2°C or 1.5°C, it is not possible at our current rate of global warming.
Building materials and construction are responsible for 11% of annual global CO2 emissions, which means there’s a lot of room for improvement. Not only do building operations generate 28% of annual global CO2 emissions, but roughly two-thirds of today’s building area will still exist and emit CO2 in 2040. So, we need to start outfitting existing buildings with energy upgrades to increase their efficiency and shift towards renewable energy.
The good news is that the construction industry is already taking steps toward becoming more sustainable. In a 2021 survey, over half of a group of 100 senior construction executives believed that sustainability would become increasingly important. In fact, 10% had already increased their investments towards sustainability since March of 2020.
In 2022, you may notice:
Technology is advancing at a rapid rate, and greener technology is more popular than ever. For example, Bobcat has introduced mini electronic excavators, and Caterpillar has designed electronic forklifts.
However, adopting electronic machinery isn’t the only thing that can help improve companies’ sustainability efforts. In 2022, more construction firms may also begin relying on solar panels, cool roofs, smart glass, and other technologies to reduce new or existing buildings’ energy consumption.
You may also notice a rise in the use of integrated platforms, 3D printers, virtual reality (VR), robots, Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology, digital twins, and water efficiency technologies in the construction industry.
Unfortunately, between 40% and 50% of the total flow of raw materials worldwide is used to manufacture building products and components. Luckily, material options are becoming increasingly sustainable, and many companies are actually using them.
Materials such as self-healing concrete and laminated wood are taking off. Invisible solar cells, wool brick, hydroceramics, aluminum foam, light-emitting concrete, pollution-absorbing brick, and artificial spider silk are also gaining popularity.
Today, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system is the most popular green building rating system—and with good reason. LEED-certified buildings can lower carbon emissions, improve efficiency, and slow climate change. Since LEED-certified buildings are built with sustainability in mind, construction firms use fewer resources, opt for greener, more local materials, and generate less waste.
The U.S. Green Building Council awards building projects points for adhering to prerequisites. Buildings that receive 40-49 points are certified. Those with 50-59 points are silver, and those with 60-79 are gold. If the U.S. Green Building Council awards a building 80 points or more, the building receives a platinum LEED certification.
This system has already become widespread in the commercial construction sector and is making its way into the private housing construction sector.
The smart city movement has a lot to offer. Smart cities encourage collaboration between construction and data science companies and can make urban construction easier in the future while creating increasingly connected and efficient cities.
Some of these cities cost over $100 billion to create and require considerable planning before construction can even begin. However, companies like Microsoft, IBM, and Cisco see their potential to improve everything from waste management to urban mobility to IT connectivity. As a result, construction firms can expect more business, as every smart city will need new, smarter infrastructure and new buildings outfitted with the latest sustainable technologies.
Smart cities can also improve the environment. Installing building automation systems in buildings that are major sources of CO2 can lower emissions by around 3%, and installing air quality sensors will enable people to identify pollution sources and make more informed decisions. Smart cities can also help conserve water, as sensors and analytics can cut water waste by 25%.
Current smart city megaprojects include Masdar City in the United Arab Emirates, the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor in India, and Hudson Yards in New York City—and the global smart city market is only going to continue growing. Experts believe the market will have a compound annual growth rate of 20.5% between 2021 and 2025, reaching $2.5 trillion by just 2025.
With the high costs and the lengthy adoption time associated with more sustainable technologies and processes, becoming more sustainable isn’t easy. However, investing in greener tech, using sustainable materials, pursuing LEED certification, and building smart cities today will pay off in the long run.
If you aren’t already working to make your company—and the world—more sustainable, 2022 is the perfect time to start.
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