From creating spaces to live, work and play to connecting communities together, the construction industry is called the backbone of an economy for good reason. At the same time, it is responsible for 39% of all carbon emissions, 36% of energy usage, and large-scale deforestation – making it one of the largest contributors to climate change.
But do the pressures of an ever-increasing population and growing infrastructural needs mean there is nothing we can do to put a stop to this global crisis? We don’t think so.
There’s a lot that we can do to minimize our sector’s impact on the planet, from using recyclable and renewable materials in the construction phase to designing energy efficient infrastructure.
In this article, written by ENG’s CSI department, you will dive into the impact of the construction industry on climate change, understand the tenets of sustainable construction, and discover the initiatives you can start taking today to incorporate sustainability in the everyday decisions you take at work.
Impact of construction on the environment
According to the latest IPCC report, even if all the countries were to make good on their climate pledges, it will only reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 7% from the 2019 levels by 2030. That is simply not enough to stop the temperatures from rising by an alarming 1.5 degrees before 2040. Over the years, construction and related activities have accelerated global warming through environmental pollution and deforestation. According to BIMhowresearch, the industry accounts for 23% of air pollution, 40% of drinking water pollution, and 50% of landfill waste – not to mention the loss of biodiversity and natural habitats caused by clearing land for building structures.
Does this mean we should halt all current and future projects? Of course not. The solution to meeting the needs of the people and growing the economy without hurting our environment is two words: Sustainable construction.
What is Sustainable construction?
It is projected that by 2050 almost 68% of the world’s population will be living in cities and urban areas. In the United States, 82.66% of people already live in urban areas. It is estimated that between 2017 and 2050, the U.S. construction sector “will build the equivalent of New York City 20 times over.” Why is this alarming? Because while urban areas make up a mere 2% of the planet’s surface, they contribute to 60% of GHG emissions and use over 78% of energy. As a key enabler of urbanization, the onus is on the construction sector to foster economic growth and development while preserving the environment. Sustainable construction goes well beyond creating a low-impact structure to taking steps to reduce its ecological footprint throughout its lifetime.
It calls for an overhaul of our entire approach, starting with the design phase and selection of raw materials down to construction techniques and building operations. In our next article, we will explore how sustainability can be applied in our sector and throughout the lifecycle of our construction projects.