The Irish Green Building Council (IGBC) has unveiled a draft roadmap to decarbonise Ireland’s built environment across its whole life cycle. For the first time ever, the report looks at the impact of the built environment and construction across its whole life cycle and at projections till 2030. It also provides clarity on ways to mitigate these emissions.

Heat, cool, and light our buildings

The draft roadmap shows that construction and the built environment are directly responsible for 37% of Ireland’s emissions, the same as agriculture. This is made up of about 23% operational emissions associated with the energy we use to heat, cool, and light our buildings.

A further 14% of the emissions are embodied carbon emissions from the production of construction materials, transport of materials, construction process, maintenance, repair and disposal of buildings and infrastructure.

With 400,000 new homes to be built by 2030, there is a real risk to blow the construction and built environment carbon budget if embodied carbon emissions are not rapidly addressed.

Eamon Ryan, minister for the environment, climate, communications and transport, said: “The model shows that the National Retrofit Plan, alongside improvement of the carbon intensity of the grid, are critical to halve our emissions by 2030.

"Embodied carbon has long been a hidden part of a building’s climate impact and is often more challenging to address as it requires cooperation across the supply chain.”

Pat Barry, CEO at IGBC, said: “Given Ireland’s ambitious construction and renovation programme, addressing embodied carbon emissions is urgent. Even before the first occupant of a new building steps inside this building vast amounts of CO₂ is produced, but what is not measured cannot be reduced. A first step is hence to mandate measurement of embodied carbon in new buildings.”

The draft roadmap lays out the necessary steps for the industry and government to halve the built environment emissions by 2030. 

Key recommendations include:

  • Publishing a clear timeline on the introduction of regulations on embodied carbon to provide certainty to the industry;
  • Prioritising reuse of existing buildings and bringing as much vacant property as possible back into use in our villages, towns, and cities to avoid throwing away the embodied carbon and valuable resources within them;
  • Increasing support for energy renovation, including phased renovation, and improving quality assurance;
  • For new build, encouraging better design to support repair, adaptability, and reuse;
  • Encouraging the use of low impact construction materials, such as reused and recycled products, and biobased construction materials.

PJ Rudden, chairman innovation and digital adoption at Construction Sector Group (CSG), added: “The draft roadmap published today shows the extent of the task ahead. Decarbonising our built environment is feasible, but we need to change the way we build and how we work together as an industry. As a sector we must collaborate more and share best practice to support innovation”.

The draft roadmap was developed by the Irish Green Building Council in close cooperation with industry and key stakeholders as part of the #BuildingLife Campaign. The draft roadmap and the models are available on the IGBC website (www.igbc.ie/download/) and open for public consultation till July, 7, 2022.