Construction sector views on low carbon building materials

As is the case in a number of countries, the UK construction industry faces the challenge of expanding production whilst making ambitious greenhouse gas emission reductions. Embodied carbon constitutes a growing proportion of whole-life carbon emissions and accounts for a significant share of total UK emissions. A key mitigation strategy is increasing the use of alternative materials with lower embodied carbon. The economic, technical, practical and cultural barriers to the uptake of these alternatives are explored through a survey of construction professionals and interviews with industry leaders. Perceptions of high cost, ineffective allocation of responsibility, industry culture, and the poor availability of product and building-level carbon data and benchmarks constitute significant barriers. Opportunities to overcome these barriers include earlier engagement of professionals along the supply chain, effective use of whole-life costing, and changes to contract and tender documents. A mounting business case exists for addressing embodied carbon, but has yet to be effectively disseminated. In the meantime, the moral convictions of individual clients and practitioners have driven early progress. However, this research underscores the need for new regulatory drivers to complement changing attitudes if embodied carbon is to be established as a mainstream construction industry concern.

Giesekam J; Barrett JR; Taylor P (2015), Building Research and Information.