The plethora of climate, carbon and biodiversity targets, visions and reports within, and beyond, the built environment, may seem to cause confusion, but there is a core, science based purpose. However, the explosion of focus on climate emergency, over the last six months or so, driven by IPCC, CCC, Greta Thunberg, Extinction Rebellion and others has changed the narrative … from why to how.
Reading the latest, Transforming Construction report published recently by the NFB, I realised we have many, perhaps too many, reports re-emphasising or regurgitating the why, we now need more how. The urgent how challenge of adapting existing and construction new in the climate emergency is to quickly reduce the upfront and operational carbon emissions from our buildings and infrastructure. Indeed the biggest contribution, and responsible contribution we can make is to deliver buildings that store carbon.
Our last 30 or 40 years of sustainability reports and events on why we need to understand and monitor carbon hasn’t shifted the sustainability needle. In fact on our watch, despite great sustainability initiatives, the situation has gotten worse and is escalating … in the wrong direction.
In 2012 the Construction Vision 2025 called for a 50% reduction in built environment carbon by 2025. It’s probably fair to say the bulk of the construction sector has done little towards this. Indeed when presented now the reaction from many contractors is ‘thats impossible’
That was then: this is now.
The climate crisis is a rapidly changing picture and as we have more understanding there is the recognition there is no time to lose. The recent paper published in the journal BioScience endorsed by over 11000 scientists emphasises “The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected. It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity.”
How we address carbon management over the next 10 years is vital – if we haven’t moved significantly on the 1.5 deg warming Paris pathway we are stuffed. 2030 is far more important than 2050.
Having recognised an emergency exists, are we dialling 999 and requesting firefighting services in 20 years?Caroline Lucas
The UK Green Party 2019 manifesto If Not Now, Then When, is based on the premise New green homes, new green transport and new green jobs will get us on track to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2030 and provide new opportunities for everyone to live happier and more secure lives.
One ‘how’ solution, for clients, designers, planners, contractors, manufacturers and facilities, that can move us forward rapidly as ‘a visionary pathway to a regenerative future’ is the suite of standards and tools associated with the Living Building Challenge from the International’s Living Future Institute, (includes Living Building, Living Communities and Living Product Challenges, Declare and Just labels, Net Zero Energy and Net Zero Carbon tools)
Round up of Carbon Visions and Targets
IPCC 2018 if we want to hold the line to 1.5 degrees, we have to slash emissions by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030. Then we have to reach net-zero around 2050. Note Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report re-emphasizing the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for all sectors by 2020
Extinction Rebellion Net zero 2025
Cities, eg Glasgow – carbon neutral city by 2030
RIBA 2030 Challenge – Reduce embodied carbon by at least 50-70%, before offsetting. Target net zero whole life carbon for new and retrofitted buildings by 2030. And on embodied, up front carbon based on 1100 kgCO2e/m2 (M4i benchmark)
– 2020 < 800 kgCO2e/m2 30%
– 2025 < 650 kgCO2e/m2 40%
– 2030 < 500 kgCO2e/m2 60%
The NZGBC Zero Carbon Road Map proposes that
– building owners start certifying their existing buildings to zero carbon in 2020 and have all their buildings zero carbon by 2030
– building developers construct their new buildings to zero carbon, and 20 per cent less embodied carbon, by 2025.
World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) global Advancing Net Zero Campaign which has set targets for all buildings to be net zero carbon in operation by 2050 and all new buildings to meet this standard by 2030. Bringing embodied carbon upfront
UKGBC “We need to take urgent action to almost halve global emissions by 2030 and eliminate them completely by the middle of the century”
“By 2030, all buildings and infrastructure will, throughout their lifetime, be climate resilient and maximise environmental net gains, through the prioritisation of nature-based solutions.”
Committee on Climate Change
Using known technologies, the UK can end our contribution to global warming by reducing emissions to Net Zero by 2050. (Scotland a net-zero date of 2045, Wales, a 95% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050.)
Green Construction Board Buildings Mission 2030 report shows that net zero operational carbon is already possible.
Architects Declare Adopt more regenerative design principles in our studios, with the aim of designing architecture and urbanism that goes beyond the standard of net zero carbon in use.
Building Services Declare: Adopt more regenerative design principles in practice, with the aim of providing building services engineering design that achieves the standard of net zero carbon
Structural Eng Declare Adopt more regenerative design principles in practice, with the aim of providing structural engineering design that achieves the standard of net zero carbon.
UK – Parliament Declaration – all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.
NFB Transforming Construction: zero carbon by 2050
Next: Part 2 An ABC Guide to Construction Carbon