About the project
The built environment is estimated to account for around 50% of all carbon emissions. About 10% of global GDP is generated by the construction industry, which creates and maintains our built environment. Recent success in reducing operational energy consumption and the introduction of strict targets for near-zero energy buildings mean that the embodied energy will soon approach 100% of total energy consumption.
The importance of this fundamental shift in focus is highlighted by the analysis of recently constructed steel and concrete buildings, in which it was demonstrated that embodied energy wastage in the order of 50% is common. Inefficient over-design of buildings and infrastructure must be tackled to minimise embodied energy demand and to meet future energy efficiency targets.
The UK Government has set out its ambition to achieve 50% lower emissions, 33% lower costs, and 50% faster delivery in construction by 2025. These ambitious targets must be met at the same time as the global construction market is expected to grow in value by over 70%. Achieving growth and minimising embodied energy will require a step change in procurement, design and construction that puts embodied energy at the centre of a holistic whole-life cycle design process.
The global population is expected to grow to 9.7billion by 2050, with 67% of us living in cities. China alone will add 350 million people to its urban population by 2030. Yet Europe's and Japan's population will both be smaller in 2060 than they are today, and the total population of China is expected to fall by 400million between 2030 and 2100. Depopulation of cities will occur alongside reductions in total populations for some countries. This presents a complex problem for the design of the built environment in which buildings and infrastructure constructed today are expected to be in use for 60-120 years: providing structures that are resilient, healthy, and productive in the medium term, but demountable and potentially reusable in the long term. The targeted feasibility studies of this proposal will be vital in ensuring that this can be achieved.
We have identified a series of areas where feasibility studies are essential to define research needs to enable significant energy savings in the construction industry before 2025. We will identify a series of 'low-hanging fruit' research areas, in priority order, for embodied energy savings, and work with our industrial partners to develop feasible pathways to implementation in the construction industry