Ian Learmonth

The Australian buildings and infrastructure report has found that, 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.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) developed the industry resource in collaboration with the Green Building Council of Australia and the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia.

Embodied carbon emissions occur during the resource extraction, manufacturing and transportation to construction sites of materials used in a building or an infrastructure asset.

They are 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 chief executive officer Ian Learmonth said the report shows new and effective ways to further decarbonise the built environment.

“This important analysis shows that cost-effective solutions can be implemented now to significantly reduce embodied carbon. Australian developers and builders don’t have to choose between sustainability and saving on costs.

“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,” Mr Learmonth said.

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 have the potential to substantially lower emissions from embodied carbon.

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.

CEFC director and joint head of property Michael Di Russo said the building sector is reducing its carbon footprint.

“Materials and design expertise are improving at a rapid rate, which means low carbon building is a reality now. Understanding and implementing embodied carbon empowers designers, engineers and builders to better manage embodied carbon, delivering a more sustainable approach to these critical assets,” Mr Di Russo said.

The economic value of the Australian construction materials sector is about $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.

The CEFC will hold a Green Room webinar on the report, at 11am on Thursday 2 December.

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