Changes to built environment ‘critical’ to halving Ireland’s emissions

6 May 2022

Minister Eamon Ryan at the launch of the Irish Green Building Council’s roadmap to decarbonise Ireland’s built environment. Image: Marc O'Sullivan

‘Addressing embodied carbon emissions is urgent,’ said the CEO of the Irish Green Building Council at the launch of its decarbonisation roadmap.

The Irish Green Building Council (IGBC) is today (6 May) launching a draft roadmap for the decarbonisation of Ireland’s built environment.

According to the report by the IGBC, the built environment and construction are directly responsible for 37pc of Ireland’s emissions, which is the same as agriculture.

Future Human

The figure is made up of about 23pc operational emissions associated with the energy used to heat, cool and light buildings. A further 14pc of the emissions are embodied carbon emissions from the production of construction materials, transport of materials, construction process, maintenance, repair and disposal of buildings and infrastructure.

The draft roadmap provides recommendations on ways to reduce these emissions across the whole life cycle of construction by 2030.

Speaking at the launch of the roadmap, Minister for Environment, Climate, Communications and Transport Eamon Ryan, TD, said he was delighted to see the industry working together to develop “a common vision and a comprehensive set of actions” to mitigate emissions.

“Embodied carbon has long been a hidden part of a building’s climate impact and is often more challenging to address as it requires cooperation across the supply chain,” he added. “The model shows that the National Retrofit Plan, alongside improvement of the carbon intensity of the grid, are critical to halve our emissions by 2030.”

Recommendations

The IGBC report recommends prioritising the reuse of existing buildings to avoid throwing away the embodied carbon within them, as well as increasing support for energy renovation and improving quality assurance.

For new builds, the roadmap recommends encouraging better design to support repair, adaptability and reuse, as well as the use of low-impact construction materials such as reused and recycled products and bio-based construction materials.

It also advises the publication of a clear timeline on the introduction of regulations on embodied carbon to provide certainty to the industry.

“Given Ireland’s ambitious construction and renovation programme, addressing embodied carbon emissions is urgent,” said Pat Barry, CEO of the IGBC.

“Even before the first occupant of a new building steps inside this building vast amounts of CO2 is produced, but what is not measured cannot be reduced. A first step is hence to mandate measurement of embodied carbon in new buildings.”

The IGBC is made up of more than 300 green building organisations spanning the entire built environment industry. It is affiliated with the World Green Building Council, a network of more than 80 national green building councils worldwide with a total membership of over 27,000.

PJ Rudden, chair of innovation and digital adoption at Ireland’s Construction Sector Group, said that the draft roadmap shows the extent of the task ahead for Ireland’s construction industry.

“Decarbonising our built environment is feasible, but we need to change the way we build and how we work together as an industry. As a sector we must collaborate more and share best practice to support innovation,” he concluded.

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Blathnaid O’Dea is Careers reporter at Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com