In her article, A Sustainable Reimagining of the Global Construction Industry, Chloe Gifford states: "Construction must adapt to reduce its carbon footprint"

The built environment currently accounts for 39% of global CO2, making the construction industry one of the least environmentally friendly in the world and according to a report by Chatham House, cement alone creates about 8% of global CO2 emissions.

Some major players in the construction sector are becoming aware of just how unsustainable the industry’s practices are, with property firm Grosvenor and architects, Foster & Partners committing to making their buildings zero carbon by 2030.

However, it is the smaller players that are emerging with real innovations to tackle the construction sector’s impact on the environment.

The 'Tree Tower' in Toronto will be constructed off-site to improve efficiency and reduce waste. Once built the terraces decked with shrubs, vegetable patches and trees will provide fresher air for the local community and the carbon footprint from the wooden structure can be more easily off-set than a concrete and glass tower.

Chris Precht, the visionary behind the Tree Tower, regards the challenge of sustainability as a force for innovation in an industry that has so far been slow to change. But warns architects need to be aware

“that if buildings are so replicable and detached from a place and climate, then in a couple of years they will be designed by artificial intelligence and not by architects… I fear, the architects of the future … [will be called] Google, Alibaba or Tencent. Rather than focusing on profitability and efficiency, we need to put human factors [at] the forefront.”

Green architecture has given rise to a number of innovative designs with engineers looking at reusing resources where possible; be it rainwater for toilets and irrigation; fungi, cigarette butts for bricks or duvets for insulation.

Gifford says that whilst the technical know-how for zero-carbon building is important, the greater challenge lies in normalising it across the construction industry. Precht’s Tree Tower benefits from Canada’s position at the forefront of cross-laminated timber high-rises and the reward schemes it provides for buildings that exceed carbon footprint standards.

The World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) seeks to foster greater collaboration across the industry, bringing together businesses and non-profit organisations to increase the number of green buildings worldwide. It currently has 70 councils around the globe and James Drinkwater, Director of Europe Regional Network says that “Significant carbon-cuts on infrastructure projects are closely connected to resource efficiency, so it is possible to deliver win-wins for climate and cost control.”

Gifford concludes that "what the industry needs most of all is a fundamental shift in mindset, moving away from minimising production costs at any expense and towards considering the long-term costs of all design decisions."

In the past few weeks, we have seen new initiatives like the Built Environment Sector Deal and consultations on electric car charging to improve low-carbon building.
How are you utilising sustainable innovations and green practices in your projects? Let us know in the comments below…

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