Events and conferences News

A coordinated approach to embodied carbon

The race is on to reduce embodied carbon in buildings and construction. But as more players join the crusade, greater coordination is required to avoid duplicating work – and to maximise impact.

On March 22, the Decarbonising Building Industry (DBI) initiative sought to build this coordination through a workshop at the University of Melbourne. The DBI network unites researchers, industry experts and policymakers to share knowledge and explore best practices that will pave the way to energy-efficient buildings. The latest event focused on embodied carbon.

A crowded space

The event brought together many groups who are taking on the embodied carbon challenge.

Head of Product Development at NABERS James Elks spoke about the development of the NABERS Embodied Carbon tool, due to be launched in June.

MECLA Chair Hudson Worsley spoke about how his program is driving change in material supply chains by demonstrating demand for low-embodied-carbon products, defining best practice for measuring embodied carbon, knowledge sharing, developing consistent language, and helping to manage climate transition risks.

GBCA Senior Manager Policy and Government Relations Shay Singh spoke about working with ASBEC and the Property Council of Australia on the Every Building Counts policy platform, and how the new Green Star Buildings rating tool incorporates embodied carbon.

To complete the picture, ASBEC Executive Director Alison Scotland and Mansfield Advisory Director Jeremy Mansfield OAM spoke about ASBEC’s embodied carbon reduction project. The team plans to release an issues paper mid-year and a comprehensive policy framework in October. Acknowledging the variety of groups working on the issue, Scotland emphasised that although embodied carbon exists in a competitive world, cooperation and consistency are vital.

Following a networking lunch, the participants split into groups to discuss four topics: consistent and significant demand for low carbon products; skills to enable the transition to low embodied carbon; managing trade-offs to avoid embodied carbon “tunnel vision”; and standards and specifications to support a faster transition.

Building confidence

DBI Deputy Network Convenor Dr Behzad Rismanchi, M.AIRAH, says the event aimed to foster collaboration to overcome barriers to decarbonisation.

“We know that the technology is out there,” he says, “we just need to adopt it. But we also know that the industry we have is very risk averse. We need to be confident that the system is working. And although there are a lot of examples in other countries, we have very few examples here.”

Dr Rismanchi says that even when new technology is included in an RFQ, it often falls out of the project.

“We want to have builders, contractors, consultants and researchers sitting around the table and talking, and being able to convince each other that there’s not much risk of using what is being used already in other parts of the world.”

Part of this, says Dr Rismanchi, is identifying the bottlenecks – and removing them.

“If a project needs to be done, we can formulate a project around that,” he says. “If research needs to be done, we can formulate research around that.

“We have so many members in the DBI – universities, SmartCrete CRC, building 4.0 CRC, and government. We have all points of the triangle: those who have a problem; those who have minds to solve the problem; and those who have money. What we want to do is create the connection.”

When asked what the DBI initiative hopes to add to the very active embodied carbon conversation, Dr Rismanchi says he hopes they can act as a facilitator.

“At the moment we believe there is a gap between people – they’re not talking with each other as much as they should do,” he says. “We don’t want to have any new research as part of this. We may have a demonstration project, we may need a small gap identification or gap analysis, but we’re not going to invent any new terminologies.”

Decarbonisation roadmap

Another major goal of the DBI initiative is to create a roadmap indicating where Australia is now on its decarbonisation journey, and the different scenarios stretching out to 2050.

“In many countries they already have these,” says Dr Rismanchi. “And they are collecting as much data as possible, with credible references and validated results. We can overlay these and run scenarios and say: ‘If we do this, by 2050 we can get to zero’.

“It’s very high-level reporting, and our audience is not just the government, so it has to be very compelling and very visual and easy to understand. All the conversations out of these workshops, there all going to feed into creating these roadmaps.”

During the workshopping section of the event, many participants spoke of the need to place a value or price on carbon. One speaker suggested that if a company chose to knock down a building before the end of its useful life, they should pay for the carbon that had been wasted.

“Carbon cost, or a carbon tax – we had it before, we just got rid of it,” says Dr Rismanchi. “There is a tango between what is needed and what the policy and government is pushing forward. We cannot change the way the government thinks, but we can shine a light on it.”

DBI is planning an international conference in Melbourne on November 18–19. The team is now accepting abstracts – for more information, visit the conference website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.