Innovation in products and services driving decarbonization
There are significant opportunities to invest in research and development to innovate products and services that help building owners and operators reduce their carbon emissions and energy consumption to reach net zero carbon construction, while simultaneously generating profitable growth. These include:
- Energy-efficient retrofits and investments in the right products and innovations that focus on heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), lighting, plumbing, and building envelope (walls, windows, roofs and insulation). Companies striving for net-zero carbon construction have enormous opportunities to work with building operators to help them pull these levers to maximize a building’s energy efficiency. Opportunities can include offering products and services for everything from insulation to entire building management systems.
- Smart software and business model innovations that automate when, where and to what degree HVAC and lighting are provided, combined with holistic services and solutions. Building automation systems and smart energy management can improve a building’s operational performance and enhance the comfort of occupants. Building automation systems can also monitor operational performance of the equipment so that building operators can optimally maintain building assets, all of which can reduce carbon emissions and improve energy efficiency. Meanwhile, holistic solutions should focus on maintaining a building at a certain temperature or lighting a room to a certain wattage or number of lumens, rather than solely focusing on an HVAC installation or lighting retrofit.
- Certification, energy conservation awareness and training that help building owners demonstrate the sustainability of their buildings and help their investors meet their ESG goals. For example, LEED certification is available for both new building construction as well as existing buildings and spaces. At the same time, construction companies can create training programs that enlist building occupants in helping to maximize a building’s energy efficiency.
Emission reductions lie along every point in the construction value chain to aim for net-zero carbon
In addition to helping others achieve their net-zero goals, construction companies need to consider where they can reduce CO2 emissions along every facet of the value chain. Here are some ideas.
1. Focus on product innovation
There are numerous opportunities to improve traditional products and introduce new ones. For example, wood composites in a growing number of applications constitute a strong substitute for conventional materials such as steel and concrete. They have a higher load-carrying capacity and low weight. They are electrical and heat resistant. And their higher insulation rating makes them more energy efficient. Moreover, wood has the potential for regrowth. Most importantly, from a sustainability standpoint, substituting concrete and steel with wood — where possible — provides the potential to reduce CO2 emissions by 15% to 30%.
2. Improve process efficiency
All players along the value chain can contribute to decreasing emissions. For example, during the design and planning phase, architects and planners can design for low energy operational consumption and disassembly, as well as adaptability and flexibility. Building material manufacturers can choose to use fewer hazardous CO2 intensive materials, prolong the lifespan of the materials, source local materials and standardize materials wherever possible. Suppliers can adopt new technologies that reduce energy use and switch from fossil fuels to renewables. Distributors can optimize transportation flows. Building contractors can adopt technologies that optimize usage and decrease fuel consumption. Throughout the building construction process, contractors can leverage data management systems to streamline operations.
3. Close material loops
According to the World Economic Forum and EY-Parthenon analysis, 70% to 80% of unused construction materials demolition waste are discarded. Much of this waste can be reused or recycled. For example, 40% of discarded lumber can be repurposed for wood flooring material. Leading companies are already realizing substantial CO2 savings through circular material models. A recycling center in Retznei, Austria, for example, processes 130,000 tons of construction and demolition waste annually — 70% of the waste materials are recycled or reused, while 30% are used as back-filling material for a quarry.
Make the most of platforms and ecosystems
Ecosystems and platforms provide companies in the construction industry opportunities to profit from mutually beneficial partnerships; access to new technologies, business models and talent; and shared investments that can accelerate emission reductions — within the organization and across the ecosystem.