Construction stakeholders need to take a collaborative approach with a focus on sustainable design, low-carbon materials, efficient resource management, renewable energy integration, and continuous education and improvement across the sector.
Renuka Consultants - Dr. Yogini Deshpande, Technical Director
Adopting sustainable design principles and practices can significantly reduce the environmental impact of construction projects. This includes designing energy-efficient buildings, incorporating renewable energy systems, optimizing material use, and integrating green infrastructure. Emphasizing energy-efficient construction techniques and utilizing sustainable building materials can help minimize emissions throughout the lifecycle of the structure.
Contributions by stakeholders in the industry
All the stakeholders in the construction sector can make some contributions to reduce their own carbon footprint. Promoting the use of low-carbon materials and technologies is crucial; it involves reducing the reliance on energy-intensive materials like cement and steel, which have significant carbon footprints; exploring alternatives like recycled materials, timber, bamboo, using waste materials such as flyash, slag, plastics, and low-carbon concrete; reusing waste materials like plastics, rubber tyres, etc in the manufacture of cement and steel.
Adopting innovative technologies
3D printing and prefabrication can optimize material usage and reduce wastage. Certain types of construction waste such as biomass and non-recyclable wood can be used as feedstock for waste-to-energy technologies. Anaerobic digestion, gasification, and incineration with energy recovery are examples of technologies that can convert waste into renewable energy sources like biogas, heat, or electricity. These technologies can help reduce reliance on fossil fuels and contribute to a more sustainable energy mix.
Prefabrication and modular construction techniques can minimize on-site waste generation. By constructing components off-site in a controlled environment, waste can be significantly reduced, as materials can be optimized and reused more efficiently. Prefabricated elements can also be disassembled and reused in different projects, extending their lifespan and reducing overall waste.
Embracing circular economy
Construction companies can collaborate with the recycling industry to establish partnerships and supply chains for the efficient recycling and reuse of construction waste. Building relationships with local recycling facilities, waste management companies, and material suppliers can facilitate proper handling and diversion of waste from landfills, while also creating new markets for recycled materials.
Embracing the principles of a circular economy can help transform construction waste into valuable resources. This involves designing buildings and infrastructure with a focus on every material’s lifecycle, and potential for reuse, recycling, and upcycling. Applying concepts like cradle-to-cradle design and incorporating circular economy principles in procurement and construction practices can drive efficient use of resources and reduce waste generation.
Carbon credit and measurement of emissions an effective mechanism
Implementing a carbon credit policy specifically tailored for the construction industry can be an effective mechanism to promote emission reductions and incentivize sustainable practices. Such a policy can encourage construction companies to actively reduce their carbon footprint and invest in low-carbon technologies and practices.
The scope and boundaries of the carbon credit policy for the construction industry must be clearly defined. It should determine which emissions sources will be included, such as direct emissions from construction activities, indirect emissions from energy consumption, and embodied emissions from materials and construction processes.
It is necessary to develop Carbon Emission Calculators for the construction industry. This will require collaboration with industry experts and relevant stakeholders to develop accurate carbon emission calculators specifically tailored for the construction industry. These calculators should consider emissions associated with various construction activities, materials used, transportation, and on-site energy consumption.
Taking into account the complete lifecycle of the project will provide a comprehensive measurement of emissions. By developing a tailored carbon credit policy for the construction industry and collaborating with relevant stakeholders, it is possible to accurately measure emissions and provide incentives for reduction efforts. This can drive sustainable practices, encourage the adoption of low-carbon technologies, and contribute to overall emission reduction goals.
A centralized body can drive change
In my opinion, having a centralized body responsible for overseeing and promoting innovations in the construction industry can be beneficial in addressing the challenges of fragmentation and lack of collective incentive. This body could play a crucial role in driving change, fostering collaboration, and raising awareness about the importance of decarbonization and sustainability.
The centralized body can actively engage in policy development and advocacy efforts to support decarbonization and sustainability in the construction industry. It can work with policymakers to shape regulations, standards, and incentives that encourage sustainable practices.
Additionally, the body can advocate for the adoption of sustainable construction principles in public and private sector projects. It can develop and deliver capacity building programs and training initiatives to enhance the knowledge and skills of professionals in the construction industry. This can include training on sustainable design, construction techniques, energy efficiency, waste management, and other relevant topics. By improving industry professionals’ understanding of decarbonization and sustainability, such a body can drive widespread adoption of best practices.
Challenges in transitioning to low-carbon construction
Transitioning to low-carbon construction methods presents several challenges for construction companies. Shifting to low-carbon construction methods often requires new skills and knowledge. Construction professionals may need training and upskilling to understand sustainable design principles, energy-efficient construction techniques, and the integration of renewable energy systems. Bridging the skill and knowledge gap through training programs and capacity-building initiatives is essential.
The regulatory environment and building codes do not always incentivize or require low-carbon construction methods. Construction companies may face challenges in navigating complex regulations, permits, and approvals for sustainable building practices. Advocacy for supportive policies and engaging with regulatory bodies can help address this challenge.
By implementing these strategies, the construction industry stakeholders in India can make significant contributions to reducing emissions and advancing the country’s climate action strategy.