When we think about the net zero goals being set around sustainability, it’s important to realize that the targeted year of 2030 is actually today for the built environment. The buildings being built today will affect society and customers’ ability to achieve the targets for net zero carbon in the year 2030 and beyond. It’s not off in the distant future; it’s happening now.
Sustainability goals are changing the way we approach design, data and reporting. The purpose of these goals is to figure out how to achieve better designs for better carbon outcomes. We can see the changes taking place as the world’s attention has been attuned to three things in the construction industry that will eventually complement each other: embodied carbon (the amount of carbon released from extracting raw materials through processing, production and transporting the finished product), the connection of seemingly disconnected data sources and databases, and the use of computational design.
The innovation race is underway, and companies can join in by mapping out a strategy. Sustainability requires bold, ambitious action, plus establishing a practical roadmap for the company to participate. Data is key to making wise informed decisions. Therefore, a data strategy is key to connecting dissimilar datasets effectively. The challenge in tracking sustainability achievement is collecting the right data in the face of disparate data sources and databases.
Data is essential for making informed decisions about completing a project with sustainable outcomes. Companies need a deep understanding of the ramifications of certain choices. The different pieces of data they need are hosted in many different places, not a central location.
As we determine the ways to measure embodied carbon, we can give designers and specifiers better tools to make good choices grounded in the embodied carbon impact of a project. It is gradually getting easier to find that data and bring it into the design and project management environment.
For construction companies, sustainability involves changing their product specification paradigm. Designers and constructors need to be equipped to take control of their specifications through the lens of embodied carbon analysis. External databases on embodied carbon can clarify the embodied carbon impact of a construction material, component or product. Although it’s becoming more accurate, embodied carbon data is still a rough guess. That will improve as companies in the supply chain get better at tracking embodied carbon of their individual products. Designers can then use the information to understand the embodied carbon impact of materials being specified and used on a job. The more data they have, the better they’re able to assess and compare materials and choose among options.
It is in a company’s best interest to develop their sustainability strategy because there are now regulations and pressure from customers to achieve sustainable building outcomes. The voluntary approach included tax credits and financial incentives is rapidly passing. Newer regulations have grown sharper teeth. Fortunately, with the advent of some useful tools, it is getting easier to connect data from different sources and get useful sustainability metrics.
Tune in to episode 182 of Bridging the Gap Podcast and hear Anthony Zuefeldt’s thoughts on embodied carbon, disparate data and computational design.