Construction industry is failing to slow climate change

According to a report by the United Nations Environment Program, to achieve sustainable infrastructure, construction must adopt new technology and materials.

It reveals that the construction sector accounts for 38% of all energy-related CO2 emissions, increasing in 2019 to their highest level yet at around 10 GtCO2, and is failing to slow Climate Change or contribute to the 2016 Paris Agreement sustainability goals.

This contrasts with the manufacturing, healthcare, and technology sectors, which have embraced technological advances and refined their processes; these industries would be unrecognizable to a worker 50 years ago, but construction has not evolved anywhere near this pace the UN report.

Half of all existing US buildings were built between 1960 and 1999, with 21% made before 1960. These buildings are poorly insulated and energy inefficient. As a result, buildings contribute 40-70% of overall emissions in cities.

Research from the Saïd Business School at Oxford University also shows that 90% of the world’s infrastructure projects are either late or over-budget. Berlin Brandenburg Airport was nine years late on completion and six times over budget, with 66,500 errors cited during construction. Such mistakes leading to higher construction times are due to lack of data and also cause higher emissions per project.

Paul Dunn, director of global architecture company CallisonRTKL, believes integrated technology and Digital Twins are the solutions: “To achieve transformational change in our industry, design, technology, and construction must be fully integrated. The industry must go further in embracing digital, advanced materials and new technologies.”

“Technology and manufacturing will help evolve our buildings as products. We are living at a time when flawless quality is truly viable when digital models and simulations with real-world building data create endless possibilities for monitoring, machine learning, and human-centered design. We must secure integrated whole-building design from inception to afterlife.”