The environment impact of construction can be reduced as early as today

The construction industry accounts for a big part of climate change. The good news is that it is possible to significantly reduce this already today. And with new technology, the picture can be even brighter.

In a recent study by Docent Tove Malmqvist and other researchers including from KTH and IVL (Swedish Environmental Research Institute) in consultation with the Swedish Construction Federation, the environment impact of five construction systems for a residential apartment block were compared. Three of them were constructed in concrete and the other two were timber-based. The systems are used today. The research was based on an existing building in Hökarängen, south Stockholm. They looked at the climate impact of the building, if it were to have been built today with the five different systems.

The results indicate that by simply choosing a different system, the climate impact of the construction phase can be reduced by around one third. Added to which, each system has room for potential improvement of over 20 percent compared to the technologies used today. In other words, it is possible to halve climate impact using solutions that are already available and that can be used.

The report presents a number of recommendations for contractors and developers. These include:
• Order low carbon cement concrete
• Order the best products climate wise
• Switch to renewable fuels for transport
• Avoid long distance transport of materials and components
• Optimise energy usage on the construction site
• Factor in climate impact and learn more about this

As such, it is not a case of advanced super solutions, but of pretty basic steps that can made a big difference. Now, it’s up to clients, developers and planners to actually take action. Sometimes, we talk about what responsibilities an individual has versus society. (See for example, this interesting article in Svenska Dagbladet by Anders Rosén, Associate Professor at KTH, and others. However, we also have an individual responsibility in our professional roles. So, let’s get started and do what can be done.

Tip of the week: Jonathan Metzger, Associate Professor at KTH writes about this year’s Nobel Prize in Economics winner in Aftonbladet.