PERTH, WA - APR 23 2021:Builder holding a stop sign outside building site.Construction industry accounts for more than 10% of global GDP and employs around 7% of the global workforce over 273m people.

BREAKING: By this time next year, NSW could have the capacity to generate carbon certificates for every piece of material used in the state’s building construction sector, according to NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler.

The NSW government is next week expected to announce the deployment of new, smart technology to check compliance with building regulations and track supply chains, including material used in NSW that comes from outside the state.

Speaking to The Fifth Estate about the progress he has made implementing the Government’s building reform agenda, Chandler said the new technology could position NSW as a world leader in regulation of the construction sector, and said it could eventually include the capacity to “receive embodied carbon certificates”.

“I believe we are looking at the opportunity of, within a year, having the technology to accept, for every single building, an actual carbon certificate for every piece [of material] that goes towards a building,” he said.

Chandler, who was appointed the state’s building commissioner in 2019 to investigate misconduct within the NSW building industry, said the construction industry was the largest consumer of the world’s natural resources.

“If we continue to disregard the use of those resources, there has to be a price to pay,” he said, adding that a tell-tale sign of how the local industry disregards the use of materials is the amount of rubbish carried off job sites.

“It is nice to recycle it but [that material] already has embodied carbon, you generated carbon to make it in the first place.”

Opportunities to avoid waste at the very beginning of a building are often squandered, he said.

“Designers have to think about it more than they are. There is a reckless approach to design; designers get offended but I won’t resile from that.”

When it comes to tracking what material is used, existing [regulatory] technology can’t track materials outside of a jurisdiction it is working in, Chandler said.

“Most of the technology is what I would call jurisdictionally specific but we work in a global ecosystem where material comes from all over the world … buildings are made up of probably more than 50 per cent of material that comes from outside the jurisdiction in which the building is being made.

“We need to leave behind a regulator with a line of sight to the compliance of all of that stuff, from where it starts its journey to when it gets to a building.

“I believe NSW will be a world leader in doing this. I am not on some folly here. I have been working on this almost from the day I walked in the door because I believe there is a real correlation between compliance and resilience [in the construction sector].

“Trustworthiness [in the sector] is a factor of compliance, resilience and embodied carbon. At this stage, we will be amongst the world’s leaders in this space … unless you set up technology to understand and manage the entire ecosystem or supply chain of construction you will not be a modern regulator.

“A modern regulator will be able to go all the way back and say ‘Did that tree come from a Finland forest?’  By 2030, we will no longer be in a world where there is a licence to chew up the world’s resources the way we currently do.”

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  1. All good stuff, but there remains a major problem that has for the last decade (and more) been swept under the carpet. There is no universally consistent methodology for the measurement of the carbon – every company/sector/ practitioner does it their own way and of course they measure their carbon in the way that is most flattering to their products. The embodied carbon data within all EPD’s is tainted by methodological bias.
    In a joint industry government funded project – The Building Product Life Cycle Inventory Project worked the 10 major product sectors worked (with my company – Edge Environment’s facilitation) to develop just such a consensus methodology, completed in 2010.
    Within very few years, the commercial vested interests lobbied against the methodology to have the key criteria that enforced consistency compromised. This methodology no longer does what it was intended to do. Worse still, although the Australian Life Cycle Assessment Society was party to the development of the methodology, they subsequently compromised their learned society role to become commercially vested in International EPD. International EPD also allows all sectors to use whatever methodology best flatters their products, so appallingly, even ALCAS then lobbied against the BPLCI methodology.
    The bottom line is that any embodied carbon estimates or certificates produced will be of dubious value, arguably greenewash. If the original version of BPLCI were reinstated and enforced this problem could be quickly solved.