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Could ‘Clean Construction’ Halt Climate Change?

Could ‘Clean Construction’ Halt Climate Change?

Dean Watson highlights how ‘clean construction’ could bring social and economic benefits as well as enhance the global environment.

Alongside the likes of food, clothing and aviation, construction is a consumption-based emission. Across almost 100 of the world’s big cities it accounts for 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions and if we do nothing, these emissions are set to double by 2050 (Source: The Future of Urban Consumption in a 1.5oC World).


However, a report by Arup, C40 Cities and the University of Leeds says this is not inevitable. Taking prompt action could see greenhouse gas emissions generated by building and infrastructure cut by 44% within the same timeframe.
So called ‘clean construction’ requires a fundamental rethink in how we deliver building projects. It’s a question of implementing the right initiatives now to reduce air and noise pollution and, ultimately, improve public health.
So what can be done to minimise the construction industry’s impact on climate change? The report highlights six key areas, proposing better use of existing buildings along with the deployment of low – or zero – emission machinery. The main priority, though, is building materials. We should focus on better design of materials, greater reuse of materials and make the switch to sustainable timber and lower carbon cement wherever feasible.


Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm are setting an example. Here, the powers that be are purchasing biofuels and emission-free machinery for their city’s use. In addition, they are demanding that solutions for public procurement and city-supported projects such as schools and sports halls are fossil-and emission-free. Copenhagen and Oslo are also committed to the retrofit and refurbishment of existing stock and are prioritising the use of low carbon reusable materials. Meanwhile, Stockholm is evaluating all aspects of the building process and their contribution to climate change in a bid to identify more efficient, green solutions.


The report pulls no punches – if we are to enjoy cleaner air, quieter streets and lower prices – and sustainability – everyone responsible for development will have to work together, with end users and consumers, to ensure that clean construction wins the day.

Download the Vision Newsletter – January 2020