Embodied carbon emissions in materials used in Australia’s building and construction sector are the next frontier to significantly reduce carbon emissions, according to a new report released by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).
The report, Australian buildings and infrastructure: Opportunities for cutting embodied carbon, identifies great potential in the building sector to cut emissions.
On average sustainability rated infrastructure projects achieve a reduction of up to 33 per cent in embodied carbon compared to similar designs with no such measures.
This important new industry resource was developed in collaboration with the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) and the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA) and provides practical guidance on how the building sector can reduce its carbon footprint through innovative approaches to new manufacturing materials and cutting-edge design.
It also helps quantify the decarbonisation challenges in the sector and identifies the solutions and opportunities for the sector to reduce its carbon footprint.
Importantly, it outlines material and design initiatives that can reduce embodied carbon in the built environment. Embodied carbon emissions occur during the resource extraction, manufacturing and transportation to construction site of materials used in a building or an infrastructure asset.
It is expected to account for almost half of total emissions from new constructions between 2019 and 2050. Up to 10 per cent of national greenhouse gas emissions come from embodied carbon and 28 per cent of emissions come from the building and construction sector globally.
CEFC CEO Ian Learmonth said the report shows that cost effective solutions can be implemented now to significantly reduce embodied carbon.
Learmonth said Australian developers and builders don’t have to choose between sustainability and saving on costs.
He said the research shows that it is possible to achieve as much as 18 per cent reduction in embodied carbon and save as much as a three per cent reduction in material costs for typical building and infrastructure projects.
“The CEFC has an impressive track record in working with investors, asset owners and developers to cut emissions right across our built environment,” he said.
“This report is a valuable resource that shows new and effective ways to further decarbonise the built environment, to deliver sustainable and cost-effective growth and development.”
The report outlines several material and design initiatives for reducing embodied carbon, as well as the associated cost implications.
Alternative solutions such as geopolymer concrete, concrete ad-mixtures, recycled materials and high strength steels all have the potential to substantially lower emissions from embodied carbon.
The economic value of the Australian construction materials sector is approximately $65 billion. As the market continues to mature in its awareness of embodied carbon materials, demand for low embodied carbon solutions could result in a potential billion dollar low carbon solutions market in coming years.
CEFC director, Michael Di Russo, said materials and design expertise are improving at a rapid rate, which means low carbon building is a reality now.
He said the CEFC has provided $54 million debt finance to build sustainable townhouses using a low carbon concrete in Melbourne and $95 million commitment to the Roe Highway Logistics Park in Kwinnana, Western Australia.