What is embodied carbon? Measuring and Reducing Emissions from the Real Estate Sector – IIGCC


In the second in its series of real estate events, the IIGCC brought together spokespersons from the Ramboll Group, the Science Based Targets initiative and the investment community to discuss the challenge of embodied carbon, how to measure it and, finally, how to reduce it.

Real estate looms large in the climate discussion, and not just in the physical sense. Buildings account for 30% of UK national emissions and 40% of energy consumption in Europe.

These are stunning statistics, especially given the energy security crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, rising fuel prices, record high temperatures and inflation that is eroding public spending.

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Institutional investors want to be part of the solution to this problem, both to achieve net-zero goals in their portfolios and to avoid holding “stranded assets,” the risk of which will increase as regulations and policies tighten. will adapt.

It is in this context that the IIGCC organized the second of its real estate roundtables, focusing on embodied carbon.

Start with manufacturing

If the first round table set the scene for the industry political obstacles and opportunitiesthe second discussion got straight to the point:

“Two-thirds of embodied carbon is emitted before the project [building] is in use,” says Xavier Le Den, Director of Strategic Sustainability Consulting at Ramboll Group: “10 square meters equals the annual carbon footprint of an EU citizen.”

Embodied carbon is the term for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with the manufacture and use of a product or service. In the case of building materials, this includes all extraction, fabrication, transport, installation, maintenance and disposal.

A look at a construction site in any city will confirm the magnitude of this challenge.

The Ramboll group analyzed data from Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France and the Netherlands, but Xavier noted that these datasets were the best of a poor selection. In some European Member States there was little or no information.

There was reason to be optimistic however, with analysis confirming that the structure and physical form of a building make a big difference to its total emissions. Wood-frame buildings produce approximately 50% less GHGs than solid concrete buildings, for example.

But to achieve net zero in the industry, Ramboll’s study said governments and industry must urgently refine benchmarks and set initial embodied carbon targets, with strong incentives, and investors must align their portfolios accordingly.

Combine expertise

Although real estate has been included as an asset class in the Net Zero Investment Framework in 2021, investors’ general understanding of sector emissions remains relatively weak. There is, however, a desire to learn more, as evidenced by the strong community participation in the webinars.

Building on this momentum, the next IIGCC real estate working group aims to define the lifecycle carbon approach for investors, starting in September 2022.

Leading the task force and roundtable series, Hugh Garnett, the IIGCC’s newest industry expert, will also work closely with corporate team members to leverage relationships. between investors and manufacturers of high-emitting cement and concrete.

The hope is that this unified and proactive approach can encourage the sector to work on reducing those two-thirds of emissions generated before a building is completed.

Join us for the next Real Estate Roundtable in mid-September and contact the IIGCC Working Group at [email protected] if you want to know more.

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