Why sustainable building design is crucial for tackling climate change

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The New Statesman

Improving the energy efficiency and construction processes of our built environment will play a major part in cutting carbon emissions.

When we consider our contribution to climate change, we might think about our transport choices, how much meat we consume and our propensity to buy new clothes. But the buildings we occupy every day, from our homes and offices to hospitals and schools, play an equally significant role.

The building and construction industry is responsible for more than a third – 39 per cent – of all global carbon emissions, and daily energy use is only part of that picture. Operational carbon – emitted through heating, cooling or powering a building – accounts for 28 per cent while the remaining 11 per cent comes from embodied or “upfront” carbon, which is produced during the construction process and includes materials, labour, transportation and demolition in the case of rebuilds. Together, these make up the “whole-life” carbon – what a building emits in total over its lifetime.

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