Monash University’s Woodside Building for Technology and Design.

The process of construction – transporting materials, pumping concrete up several floors and trucking away waste – is a source of greenhouse gas emissions that’s often overlooked.

It’s possible to provide a carbon neutral construction service, but at this stage, offsets are still needed.

Monash University’s Woodside Building for Technology and Design, built by Lendlease, is claiming the title of the first carbon neutral construction service, certified by the federal government’s rebranded National Carbon Offset program, Climate Active.

To qualify for certification,  the government must see evidence of reducing carbon emissions before any offsetting is allowed, Climate Active communications and engagement manager Polly Hemming told The Fifth Estate.

Hemming says offsetting was still part of the mix because technology was not advanced enough to make everything carbon neutral without offsets.

Lendlease adopted a number of energy efficiency methods to keep the emissions footprint of its construction process down for the university building, including using project site sheds with passive design features to reduce heating and cooling.

The site also had master switches to provide greater control and reduce out-of-hour energy use, as well as signs encouraging builders to turn off equipment that wasn’t in use.

With energy efficiency signed off, the developer then had to work out all emissions from fuel and energy use (diesel and electricity were the two major sources) and purchase carbon credits to offset those emissions.

The building itself will also aim high on energy efficiency, and is going for Passive House certification.

Flexibility built into certification

Hemming says one of the great things about Climate Active certification is that there’s a lot of room for innovation, with certification available for everything from whole precincts to one-off events.

“You can break it into the chunks of the things you want to certify, with the goal of making everything carbon neutral down the track. You can draw a boundary around it.”

She says that this doesn’t allow businesses to avoid the hard parts of decarbonisation.

“They have to transparent about what they are certifying, and can’t allude to the fact that the whole company is certified carbon neutral.

“They have to make it clear that it’s an opt-in situation, they can’t talk about certification in a way that’s deemed to be misleading.”

She says it’s not realistic to do it any other way, and that it would be impossible for a company as big as Lendlease to go carbon neutral in one go.

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  1. In response to Mike – this Climate Active certification covers the carbon neutrality of the construction operations emissions within the site boundary, as well as offsite waste management, under Climate Active’s “Service’ category. The important area of embodied carbon would most likely fit within the Climate Active’s “Product” category. Lendlease is across the challenge of reducing scope 3 and upfront emissions and are making progress with in-house LCA expertise, TCFD analysts and industry group and supply chain partnerships. Timber structures have made a strong contribution along with other initiatives but there is a massive shift needed in supply chain from client briefing to decarbonising manufacturing / recycling including the wide spread availability of transparent, reliable LCA input data.

  2. What is not mentioned here is that under NCO… err, Climate Active program, precincts and buildings don’t need to include construction emissions… too hard… they’re conveniently defined as not “part of a [building’s/precinct’s] operational carbon account”. Would probably make it much more expensive to get that green stamp.

  3. Monash University has, since 2014, financed its infrastructure program through issuing climate bonds in recognition of the high level of environmental performance (certified by Climate Bond Initiative). Monash is the first and only global university to issue climate bonds.

  4. If we had the pre Howard level of immigration, 70,000 per year we wouldn’t have the high level of emissions that result from building 200,000 homes/year. Nor we have the congested cites, and there would be less land clearing, cheaper homes and less developer related corruption.

    1. We are a wealthy nation. if we can’t reduce our emissions for our construction sector and must rely simply on lower immigration then heaven help the planet, which we are so much part of and whose mistreatment we will not be able to insulate ourselves against, as you suggest, by simply closing our doors to more people. BTW we have no excuse for not reducing operational energy efficiency which is so easy, quick and cheap. And again, not sure what we intend to do about climate refugees when they come tapping on our doors… Say no? Do we think we have a choice?