Benchmarking, quantification, precision. Now more than ever, it is imperative for the Australian construction industry to develop and adopt Australian-based embodied carbon standards.

Within the building industry, reducing embodied carbon and driving down emissions has long been touted as the next frontier. In fact, research released by the Green Building Council of Australia in August last year found embodied carbon will make up 85 per cent of Australia’s built environment emissions by 2050, compared with 16 per cent in 2019.

However, alongside the development of practical manufacturing and solutions designed to drive down embodied emissions, it is imperative that the Australian construction industry also develop and adopt Australian-based embodied carbon standards which are independent, transparent and meet international standards ISO 14025 and EN 15879.

All environmental product declarations registered with EPD Australasia are independently verified to ISO 14025, a relevant Product Category Rule (PCR), with all building and construction products the PCR is based on (EN 15804 Sustainability of Construction Works) designed to ensure the data can be included in whole-of-building life cycle assessment to the EN 15879 standard.

Currently, the Australian Institute of Quantity Surveyors is working with MECLA, NABERS and the GBCA to assist in the development of a national framework for measuring, certifying, and benchmarking emissions from construction and building materials.

As noted by Slattery, at present, there are no industry agreed frameworks in Australia and, as a result, there are inconsistencies in methodology, scope and data sources that deliver inconsistent results. Not all professionals use the same methods or data sources.

This makes comparisons and benchmarking across different businesses and projects problematic.

While other offshore markets have published total embodied carbon targets and rating systems across various building portfolios, the data does not apply to the Australian market.

This means that companies and government agencies within Australia are having to rely on internal measures to provide metrics for reporting levels of embodied carbon and reduction targets for new construction projects.

As an example, the NSW government, through its Office of Energy and Climate Change, has been working to implement a new ratings tool to measure embodied carbon during design and construction for commercial and other non-residential buildings in NSW.

Developing Australian standards is an imperative step towards reducing embodied carbon emissions in future, especially if we are to achieve net zero carbon by 2035.

However, far from being viewed as a negative, this current scenario of independent reporting should be viewed as a positive transitional arrangement necessary to facilitate the present day construction of buildings with reduced embodied carbon.

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Having a transparent benchmark which can stand up to external scrutiny is ideal, but in the absence we should proceed with the metrics at hand. We don’t need to stop the way companies are currently quantifying and benchmarking embodied carbon, we just need to get to a point where the industry can be on a level playing field and communicate to clients and other stakeholders in a common language.

Of course, once this comprehensive framework for measuring and benchmarking emissions has been developed, the next step will be in ensuring emissions are correctly quantified on each and every future project.

To deliver this, the role of the quantity surveying professional is justifiably the natural choice and one the AIQS is only too happy to support in developing.

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