Climate Change Demands a New Design and Construction System 2: A Commitment to Action

Today marks the start of United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties 26 (COP26) in Glasgow Scotland. The global media have made it a key topic for all their forums this week. But why is it important? Because this global conference to promote action on the climate is more urgent than at any other point in history. Our actions to date will still result in an increase in global average temperatures of almost 3°C. The conference has big goals all focused on getting to carbon net zero by 2050 so we can limit that impact of global climate change to 1.5°C.

To achieve this, the COP26 goals set out to:

· Develop a more comprehensive approach to replace fossil fuels

· Mobilize global financial institutions and leaders to make good on their commitment of $100bn annually for climate investment and

· Secure commitments to protect communities and natural habitats from the impacts of a warmer climate.

Accomplishing these three goals requires a fourth and more ambitious goal – embrace a collaborative approach to climate leadership by ALL governments, businesses, and civil societies around the world. (Source – COP26)

The built environment has a key responsibility in this effort through the materials we use to build, the transportation and equipment required to use and construct, and the energy necessary to support the operations over time. Depending on how you interpret the data, as much as 40% of the annual global carbon load comes from buildings; and 23% comes from just three materials – Concrete, Steel, and Aluminum. Globally, concrete is the most widely used building material, with more than 95% of the buildings in developing countries comprised primarily of concrete based products. Yet the process of creating cement, the key ingredient in any concrete product, generates an estimated 3-6% of the annual global carbon load. (Source – Architecture 2030)

Our challenge is to reduce this embodied carbon impact while maintaining an affordable mechanism for building in the modern world. As we previously discussed, our ability to facilitate this change will hinge on accurately and efficiently sharing data across the design and construction ecosystem. Why? Because the overall impact of building design, construction, and operations can only be estimated. Approximately 6% of total global carbon emissions coming from building operations. Our current efforts to reduce this operational impact are limited to estimates about possible actions and their value in achieving our climate goals. On the design and construction side, we are also limited by estimates, since the number of inputs and the data from those sources are wide ranging and disconnected. (Source – State of Climate Action 2021, World Resource Institute)

So, lets commit to action! Let’s commit to share our data more openly. Let’s commit to using that data to create new systems, better performance, and better operations. Let’s commit to use that data to understand the decisions made throughout the life of a building – cradle to cradle. And let’s commit to archive that data in a secure and permanent system that serves as the trusted source of truth. Let’s use that data to assess, modify, test, and change the way we use the resources, transportation, and habitats

that support our modern lives. Let’s use the data to commit to reducing fossil fuel consumption to net zero by 2050. We can achieve this, and we have already made progress.

In the last 10 years, US Greenhouse Gas emissions (GHG’s) have been falling. According to most analysis, had we not curbed emissions 10 years ago, the world would see a 4°C increase in average temperatures by the end of the century. Today, we have cut our GHG levels from 3% annually to around 1%. This is good progress, however, to achieve the current goals established in the 2015 Paris accord, we must rapidly reduce our dependence on fossil fuels to levels well below the proposals by the current administration, currently being debated in congress. (Source – New York Times)

Now is the time and the tools are out there for us to use, tools like the Concert Data Exchange platform. Let’s commit to use these tools to share information and create better data about the impact the built environment is having on our global ecosystem. Let’s commit to work collaboratively across the whole ecosystem to protect our communities and natural habitats for generations of humanity to come.