World Green Building Council

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World Green Building Council

As consultants, we must challenge an industry default of new-build development and provide innovative alternatives. By Scott Brookes, Director, Ramboll – Building Retrofit & Refurbishment.

You may remember that back in 2020, scientists arrived at the astounding conclusion that the weight of human-made mass – all the world’s concrete, bricks and metals – now exceeds that of all living biomass.

If we were to gather every single plant, all fungi, animals and bacteria, they would sit lighter on the global scales than all the offices, apartment blocks, roads, and homes we humans have built. Given that just 20% of the world’s surface has been urbanised, it’s evident our impact as a species is wildly out of kilter with the natural world.

Trapped within all those structures is the embodied carbon it took to source, transport, build, maintain and demolish them, over their lifetimes. If we continue business as usual, more and more carbon will be spent creating more and more buildings for more and more people – the very definition of unsustainable and putting us well beyond the 1.5°C limit for rise in global carbon emissions.

So how do we weigh up the practical need for more buildings – homes, offices, public buildings for an increasing populace – against this carbon penalty and associated issues like habitat destruction from urban sprawl?

How do we convince clients to embrace retention over new build? Can we make building nothing, or at least building significantly less, a realistic target?

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