• The report seeks to reduce the negative impacts of construction on natural ecosystems from the production and deployment of building materials.
• It says slashing emissions throughout the building process protects human health and biodiverse ecosystems.
A new report has shown that innovative approaches in the building sector can help cool down the boiling planet.
Globally, countries are racing against time to limit the global warming to 1.5°C.
The new report, ‘Building materials and the climate: Constructing a new future’, offers policy makers, manufacturers, architects, developers, engineers, builders and recyclers a three-pronged solution to reduce carbon emissions.
The report is also seeking to reduce the negative impacts of construction on natural ecosystems from the production and deployment of building materials such as cement, steel, aluminium, timber, and biomass.
It says slashing emissions throughout the building process protects human health and biodiverse ecosystems.
The report was published on Tuesday by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Yale Centre for Ecosystems + Architecture (Yale CEA), under the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction.
Director of UNEP’s Industry and Economy Division Sheila Aggarwal-Khan said most buildings were until recently constructed using locally sourced earth, stone, timber and bamboo.
She said modern materials such as concrete and steel often give only the illusion of durability, usually ending up in landfills and contributing to the growing climate crisis.
“Net zero in the building and construction sector is achievable by 2050, as long as governments put in place the right policy, incentives and regulation to bring a shift the industry action,” Aggarwal-Khan added.
The report says rapid urbanisation worldwide means every five days, the world adds buildings equivalent to the size of Paris, with the built environment sector already responsible for 37 per cent of global emissions.
It offers solutions to decarbonise the building and construction sector and reduce the waste it generates.
It says waste must be avoided at all cost through a circular approach.
It calls for the shifting to ethically and sustainably sourced renewable bio-based building materials.
“The shift towards properly managed bio-based materials could lead to compounded emissions savings in many regions of up to 40 per cent in the sector by 2050," the report says.
"However, more policy and financial support is needed to ensure the widespread adoption of renewable bio-based building materials.”
The report says there is a need to improve decarbonisation of conventional materials that cannot be replaced.
This mainly concerns the processing of concrete, steel, and aluminium – three sectors responsible for 23 per cent of overall global emissions today – as well as glass and bricks.
The report says priorities should be placed on electrifying production with renewable energy sources, increasing the use of reused and recycled materials, and scaling innovative technologies.
UNEP says most climate action in the building sector has been dedicated to effectively reducing “operational carbon” emissions, which encompass heating, cooling, and lighting.
It said due to the growing worldwide decarbonisation of the electrical grid and the use of renewable energy; these are set to decrease from 75 per cent to 50 per cent of the sector in coming decades.