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  • Writer's pictureJean-Philippe Drolet

Building the Future: Net Zero and the Current Trends in the Construction Industry

Updated: May 23


Green High-Rise Buildings

In recent years, the global community has increasingly recognized the urgent need to address climate change and transition towards a sustainable future. Achieving net-zero emissions is a critical milestone in this journey, and the construction industry plays a vital role in making this vision a reality. As buildings are responsible for a significant portion of global greenhouse gas emissions, adopting sustainable practices and embracing net-zero construction has become a top priority.


In this blog post, we will explore the importance of net-zero and highlight the current trends in the construction industry that are driving change and paving the way towards a greener future.


The Significance of Net Zero:


Net zero refers to the state in which the greenhouse gas emissions produced are balanced by the removal of an equivalent amount from the atmosphere. Achieving net-zero emissions is crucial to limit global warming and mitigate the adverse effects of climate change. The construction industry, known for its high energy consumption and carbon footprint, has a profound opportunity to contribute to the net-zero movement.


By implementing sustainable design, efficient energy systems, and renewable technologies, buildings can minimize their environmental impact and even become carbon neutral.

 

Here are some current Trends in the Construction Industry


1) Sustainable Building Materials:


The construction industry is witnessing a shift towards sustainable building materials. Traditional materials like concrete and steel are being replaced or modified with eco-friendly alternatives such as recycled materials, engineered wood, and low-carbon concrete. These innovative materials not only reduce the carbon footprint but also provide improved energy efficiency, durability, and indoor air quality.


The newly designed buildings are more focused on reducing the amount of embodied carbon in their quest for sustainable building practices. Embodied carbon refers to the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the extraction, manufacturing, transportation, and installation of building materials and components. Here are some notable initiatives and strategies the construction industry is adopting to minimize embodied carbon:


- Life Cycle Assessment (LCA): Life Cycle Assessment is a method used to quantify the environmental impact of a building throughout its entire life cycle, including the extraction of raw materials, manufacturing, construction, occupancy, and end-of-life. By conducting LCAs, architects and engineers gain a holistic understanding of a building's environmental impact and can make informed decisions to reduce embodied carbon.


- Material Selection: The construction industry is increasingly embracing sustainable material choices. By opting for low-carbon and recycled materials, such as reclaimed wood, recycled steel, and recycled concrete, builders can significantly reduce embodied carbon. Sustainable alternatives to traditional materials, like cross-laminated timber (CLT) and bamboo, are gaining popularity due to their lower carbon footprint. Local products are also being favored against products requiring long transportation time hence reducing the project CO2 impact.


- Off-site and Prefabrication: Off-site construction and prefabrication methods offer several benefits, including reduced material waste and improved efficiency. Precast concrete panels, modular construction, and prefabricated building components can minimize on-site construction time and decrease transportation-related emissions. By optimizing the manufacturing process and reducing material waste, these methods help to lower the embodied carbon of buildings.


- Whole Building Design Approach: Taking a whole-building design approach allows architects and engineers to optimize the design, construction, and operation of a building to minimize embodied carbon. Integrated design teams collaborate to identify opportunities for reducing carbon emissions, such as designing for disassembly, using locally sourced materials, and considering end-of-life scenarios.


- Carbon Offsets and Carbon Capture: In cases where it is not feasible to eliminate or reduce all embodied carbon, the construction industry is exploring the use of carbon offsets and carbon capture technologies. Carbon offsets involve investing in projects that reduce or remove greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere to compensate for the emissions produced during construction. Carbon capture technologies aim to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions generated during the manufacturing process.


- Energy-Efficient Designs: Designing energy-efficient buildings is paramount in achieving net-zero goals. Architects and engineers are incorporating passive design strategies that optimize natural lighting, ventilation, and insulation. Energy modeling software helps simulate and optimize building performance, leading to reduced energy demand. Additionally, advanced building automation systems are being deployed to monitor and manage energy consumption in real-time.


2) Renewable Energy Integration:



Wind and Solar Farm

Integrating renewable energy sources into building design is becoming increasingly prevalent. Solar panels, wind turbines, and geothermal systems are being incorporated into the construction of both residential and commercial buildings. These systems generate clean energy on-site, reducing dependence on fossil fuels and minimizing greenhouse gas emissions.


Progress towards the utilization of renewable energy has gained traction with building owners as some gas-fired equipment is being replaced by electrified equipment which are fed from a renewable or cleaner source of energy. Central energy sources or plants such as the District Energy Project in Calgary, Alberta will supply thermal energy produced via renewable sources to older buildings in the downtown core as a replacement for their gas-fired mechanical equipment.


3) Smart Technologies:


The advent of smart technologies is revolutionizing the construction industry. Internet of Things (IoT) devices and sensors enable real-time monitoring of energy consumption, occupancy patterns, and maintenance needs. This data-driven approach optimizes building performance, enhances energy efficiency, and reduces operational costs.


4) Circular Economy and Waste Reduction:


The construction industry is embracing the principles of the circular economy, which promotes the reuse and recycling of materials. Construction waste is minimized through better waste management practices and implementing modular construction methods. By adopting circular economy principles, the industry is reducing the depletion of resources and diverting materials from landfills.

 

The construction industry is undergoing a transformative shift towards sustainable practices and embracing the goal of achieving net-zero emissions. By prioritizing sustainable building materials, energy-efficient designs, renewable energy integration, smart technologies, and waste reduction, the industry is poised to play a crucial role in the fight against climate change. Building the future with net-zero construction is not only environmentally responsible but also economically viable, creating healthier, more efficient, and resilient structures for generations to come. As individuals, businesses, and governments collaborate and invest in sustainable construction practices, we pave the way for a greener and more sustainable future.


Reducing embodied carbon in the construction industry is a complex challenge, but the sector is actively adopting various strategies to minimize its environmental impact. Through life cycle assessment, sustainable material choices, off-site construction, carbon accounting tools, integrated design approaches, BIM technology, and the exploration of carbon offsets and capture, the industry is making significant strides in addressing embodied carbon. By prioritizing these initiatives and fostering collaboration among stakeholders, the construction industry can play a pivotal role in achieving a sustainable and low-carbon future.


Curious to see how you can implement some of these trends within your construction project? Reach out to us and we will help!




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