The IPCC Report: A Wake-Up Call for the Construction Industry

This week at DGA we have been reading into the latest report from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). The report states that the earth’s surface temperature will continue to increase until at least the mid-century, surpassing 1.5°C and 2°C of warming above pre-industrial levels.  

As temperatures increase, climate change will intensify, and extreme weather events will become more frequent and intense. As we have seen, this year from July to August alone, the world has witnessed severe heatwaves in Greece, wildfires in Turkey, flooding in Germany and droughts in Chile. If human activity is not modified to reduce the amount of carbon gases emitted into the atmosphere, the effects of climate change will continue to worsen.  

In line with scientific findings, the IPCC issued a ‘Code Red for Humanity’. However, the IPCC also makes clear that if we reach net-zero by 2050 the earth’s surface temperature will stabilise by the end of the century. The only way to achieve net-zero by 2050 is by rapidly and immediately cutting carbon emissions.  

The building industry is responsible for almost 40% of global carbon emissions. As a business we have the responsibility to identify carbon contributors, quantify the emitted carbon and reduce or completely cut CO2 emissions within our field. A building’s embodied carbon, or carbon footprint, is the total amount of CO2 emitted through the life-cycle of the building. This includes carbon emitted to the atmosphere from manufacture of materials and construction (capital carbon), and emissions from energy use (operational carbon).  

In order to reduce capital and operational carbon emissions across the entire building and construction supply chain we first need to identify and quantify them. This process is known as life-cycle analysis. Assessing life-cycle carbon impacts, including embodied carbon, is an incredibly complex and technical process. DGA Life, in partnership with Cercula, now possess the software and expertise needed to produce accurate life-cycle analysis data for every build. With this data we can optimise designs to be as low carbon as possible and provide clients with solid advice on how to make more sustainable choices. 

Transitioning the construction sector to a low-carbon model will slow climate change and deliver strong economic recovery benefits. Life cycle analysis data is extremely important as it makes people of aware of their design’s carbon footprint. To most people, the statistic that ‘The United Kingdom’s construction industry produced 13.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2019’ sounds dramatic but may not mean much. Figure 2 shows the how much space a singular metric ton of CO2 occupies. Further to this, the emissions from the UK construction industry in 2019 is equivalent to driving 2.9 million passenger vehicles for one year. 

Figure 2: Actual volume of one metric ton of carbon dioxide gas, Carbon Visuals Ltd 2015. 

The IPCC report and corresponding news has painted a grim picture of the Earth’s future, but the situation is not beyond saving. As a company, we feel the urgency to act fast. At DGA we take on the responsibility of calculating the carbon footprint for each design and we can confidently explain the environmental impact of each build to our clients. This information has immense value. DGA Life has the climate-based solutions so desperately needed within the construction industry to support the fight against climate change and build a better future.