Campaign launched to tackle whole-life environmental impact of buildings
On the five-year anniversary of the adoption of the Paris Agreement, the Irish Green Building Council (IGBC) launched a campaign to decarbonise Ireland’s built environment across its whole life cycle. The campaign is backed by Passive House Plus.
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As part of #BuildingLife, the IGBC will bring together representatives from across the sector to produce a science-based and industrybacked national decarbonisation roadmap for the built environment.
IGBC CEO Pat Barry explained: “Most of industry and policy focus to date has been on tackling operational carbon – the emissions associated with the energy we use to heat and light our homes. But with half a million homes to be built by 2040, we cannot afford to focus exclusively on this. The conversation needs to move on to the total environmental impacts of the built environment across its entire lifecycle”.
The #BuildingLife campaign aims to achieve the mix of private sector action and public policy necessary to tackle the whole-life impact of buildings. In Ireland, the project launched with the support of several high profile ambassadors including Dublin City Council’s city architect Ali Grehan, David Browne of RKD Architects, Lioncor CEO John Maxwell, Hines Europe’s managing director of technical operations Steve Murphy, Ecocem Ireland managing director Susan McGarry, and Passive House Plus editor Jeff Colley. Dublin city architect Ali Grehan said: “We cannot meet the goal of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 C by 2050, unless we tackle the environmental impacts of buildings across their entire lifecycle. I firmly believe that the public sector must lead by example, and I am thrilled to support #BuildingLife”.
John Maxwell of residential property developer Lioncor also welcomed the campaign, stating: “I was delighted and honoured to be asked to be an ambassador for the #BuildingLife programme. Never before has the impact of our collective actions been so important in tackling climate change and together with the Irish Green Building Council, I hope to play my part in creating a roadmap for carbon life cycle regulation”.
The IGBC will work on the #BuildingLife campaign alongside nine other European green building councils (GBCs). Each GBC will develop a national roadmap and together, they will work to develop an EU policy roadmap for building sector decarbonisation. At European level, the project launched with the support of three prominent members of the European Parliament: Ciarán Cuffe (Greens), Maria Spyraki (EPP) and Sirpa Pietikäinen (EPP).
Irish MEP Ciarán Cuffe said: "I am delighted to support the #BuildingLife campaign. A sustainable future in line with the EU Green Deal demands more action at EU level to tackle total carbon and resource impacts." The #BuildingLife campaign is supported by a coalition of funders focused on driving a more sustainable built environment. Today the Irish Green Building Council and its partners announced that two new grants — from the IKEA Foundation and Laudes Foundation, totalling over €3 million — have been secured.
Currently EU and member state buildings policy only addresses energy use while buildings are operational. The #BuildingLife campaign focuses not only on the operational emissions of buildings, but also on the environmental impact of the manufacturing, transportation, construction, and end-of-life phases of built assets – often called embodied emissions – which account for around 11 per cent of all global greenhouse gases. Tackling these emissions is essential to addressing the total impact of the building sector and progressing towards the European Green Deal’s aim of a climate neutral Europe by 2050.
Laudes Foundation head of built environment James Drinkwater added: “Accelerating industry, regulators and investors towards a net-zero carbon built environment is critical — and we must tackle emissions across the whole building life cycle if we’re serious about it.” The #BuildingLife campaign will aim to accelerate the ambitions of the European Green Deal in the building sector, and create the first region-wide response to the vision of a net-zero embodied carbon built environment as set out in the World Green Building Council’s 2019 report. The project will aim to create a pathway for other world regions to follow.
The #BuildingLife campaign will do this by:
- Creating a roadmap demonstrating how EU buildings policy can adopt whole life carbon targets
- Launching a new whole life carbon commitment within World Green Building Council’s global Advancing Net Zero project
- Establishing leadership groups on a European and national scale to contribute to the creation of national whole life carbon roadmaps towards net zero
- Supporting the development of a building product database on the full environmental impact of different building materials
- Kickstarting a communications campaign recruiting MEPs, policymakers and industry leaders to publicly advocate for a whole life cycle approach.