CONSTRUCTION AND THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT – INITIAL ASSESSMENT OF ALL EMISSIONS
Carbon emissions associated with the construction, buildings, and infrastructure sectors account for approximately a third of Ireland’s emission
The Irish Green Building Council (IGBC) has launched today an initial assessment of all emissions associated with construction and the built environment in Ireland.
The report commissioned by the IGBC to UCD’s Building in a Climate Emergency Research Group addresses the lack of data on carbon emissions associated with construction and operation of the Irish built environment. For the first time, it looks at the impact of construction works, including projections for the National Development Plan, on Ireland’s emissions. To date, these embodied emissions have been included in other sectors, such as transport, industry, waste, and electricity generation, meaning the full impact of construction was not visible.
Pat Barry, CEO of the Irish Green Building Council (IGBC) said: “Most of the focus to date has been on the emissions associated with heating, cooling and lighting our buildings. The report shows these account for approximately 24% of our emissions, but this only tells part of the story. Producing and transporting construction materials and constructing buildings and infrastructure account for 11% of our national emissions. This is the first time these so-called “embodied emissions” are measured in an Irish context”.
More specifically, the initial assessment highlights the high impact of the road building programme contained in the National Development Plan. The embodied carbon emissions for new roads construction would far exceed emissions for construction of any other types of infrastructure, including, public transport infrastructure, schools, hospitals, and even infrastructure designed to decarbonise our electricity.
The report also shows that while greenhouse gas emissions associated with the operation of the residential sector currently account for the largest share of buildings related emissions, these emissions are expected to fall significantly by 2030. Ireland’s ambitious home renovation targets if successful will reduce the carbon emissions from homes. However the programme will also result in high embodied carbon emissions in the year of renovation.
Reacting to the publication of the report, Francis-Noel Duffy T.D. said: “The initial assessment shows that the works outlined in the National Development Plan will increase total embodied carbon by around 10% each year. For years, embodied emissions have been the elephant in the room. If you don’t measure something, you cannot improve it. The publication of this report is a first step in addressing the environmental impact of our built environment across its whole life cycle”.
Ali Grehan, City Architect, Dublin City Council added: “The report published today shows the urgent need to take a more holistic approach to climate action in the built environment if we are to reach our targets. The carbon impact of any large construction and renovation programmes must be assessed across their whole life cycle”.
The research is being developed to set a baseline for the decarbonisation of the built environment in Ireland. It is published as part of the #BuildingLife campaign. #BuildingLife aims to achieve the mix of private sector action and public policy necessary to tackle the whole-life environmental impact of buildings. Francis-Noel Duffy T.D. and Ali Grehan are ambassadors for the #BuildingLife campaign in Ireland.
The “Whole Life Carbon in Construction and the Built Environment Ireland” report was produced by Richard O’Hegarty, Stephen Wall and Oliver Kinnane of UCD’s Building in a Climate Emergency Research Group for the Irish Green Building Council. A final report will set out the emissions associated with all aspects of construction, including renovation, with reference to the National Development Plan and the Climate Action Plan. This will be published in December 2021.
On “Cities, Regions and Built Environment” day at COP26 (11th November), the IGBC will publish an initial set of recommendations, developed in partnership with industry, to address the emissions associated with the built environment across its life cycle.
The draft report is available at www.igbc.ie.
Denise Maguire Editor of Irish Construction Industry Magazine & Plan Magazine