Whole-Life Carbon: Challenges and Solutions for Highly Efficient and Climate-Neutral Buildings

The European Union aims to be climate-neutral by 2050, requiring a fundamental transformation of the Construction and building sectors. 

“For new buildings built to the highest energy efficiency standards, the low operational energy demand means that embodied carbon becomes the most significant source of carbon emissions over the building’s lifetime,” says Oliver Rapf, Executive Director of BPIE.

Embodied carbon emissions are associated with energy consumption and chemical processes during raw material extraction, manufacture, transportation, assembly, replacement, construction, demolition and disposal of buildings, accounting for approximately 10-20% of EU buildings’ CO2 footprint. To address this ‘hidden’ carbon footprint, BPIE suggests a common European approach to whole-life carbon (WLC) emissions of the building stock, which should yield additional benefits in terms of greater transparency, comparability, and monitoring of progress across borders and industries.

Achieving a common EU approach requires intensified coordination across policy measures addressing and affecting the different stages of the construction value chain. However, BPIE finds that the introduction of a ‘2050 whole life-cycle performance roadmap’ scheduled for 2023 is out of sync with the current legislative review process. The ongoing review of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) and the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) provides a significant opportunity for the EU to begin consistently integrating WLC thinking and principles in the regulatory framework.

“Whole-life carbon in buildings and construction should be carefully considered now in 2021. Policy action taken by a number of Member States demonstrate that whole-life carbon policies are possible and desirable. The European Commission should reflect this in its forthcoming proposals to make sure that we don’t lose time in the fight against climate change.” Rapf concludes.

Link to the report summary HERE

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Green Building Africa promotes the need for net carbon zero buildings and cities in Africa. We are fiercely independent and encourage outlying thinkers to contribute to the #netcarbonzero movement. Climate change is upon us and now is the time to react in a more diverse and broader approach to sustainability in the built environment. We challenge architects, property developers, urban planners, renewable energy professionals and green building specialists. We also challenge the funding houses and regulators and the role they play in facilitating investment into green projects. Lastly, we explore and investigate new technology and real-time data to speed up the journey in realising a net carbon zero environment for our children.

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