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The building and construction sector is responsible for nearly 40% of global carbon emissions. The latest reports are clear – the time to act is now and our time is running out. But the sector is already showing that solutions to this issue are available and can be implemented now. This Trends and Innovations section will highlight the great work being done to move the sector forward.

The Problem with Net Zero: Electrification

The electrification of buildings can reduce the environmental impacts of running a building significantly. It will also reduce the reliance on traditional energy sources, such as oil and gas, as electrified buildings move towards being sourced from renewable energy.

The Problem with Net Zero: Existing Buildings

The greenest building is the one that is already built. Half the buildings built by 2050 already exist and retrofitting them is key to achieve decarbonisation targets. Whilst technically challenging, renovating existing buildings to net zero standards brings many co-benefits, including better internal comfort levels and extending the building’s useful life.

The Problem with Net Zero: Embodied Carbon

Buildings are currently responsible for 39% of global energy related carbon emissions: 28% from operational emissions, from energy needed to heat, cool and power them, and the remaining 11% from materials and construction. Towards the middle of the century, as the world’s population approaches 10 billion, the global building stock is expected to double in size. Carbon emissions released before the built asset is used, referred to as ‘upfront carbon’, will be responsible for half of the entire carbon footprint of new construction between now and 2050, threatening to consume a large part of our remaining carbon budget.

We need radical cross-sector coordination to revolutionise the buildings and construction sector towards a net zero future and tackle embodied carbon emissions.