Carbon reporting metrics

This Issue This is a part of the Building for climate change feature

By - , Build 188

The development of an easy method for cost consultants to accurately report the amount of embodied carbon a project produces can assist construction to be both sustainable and turn a profit.

WE’RE IN A unique period with the recovery from the pandemic having considerable knock-on effects on our supply chains, labour and profit margins. It’s a difficult time for many businesses in New Zealand.

Growing sector challenged on several fronts

Confirmation the construction sector faces each of these challenges can be found in the latest RICS Global Construction Monitor, which highlights the shortage of labour that New Zealand is experiencing. This is not just with quantity surveyors and construction project managers but also skilled construction and tradespeople in general – a situation that has only worsened with the impact of the pandemic and countries closing their borders.

Also, in a trend that has been picking up globally since the start of the pandemic, the cost of materials is on the rise. This is a growing concern and is especially prominent in New Zealand where all the respondents to the Construction Monitor reported this as a potential risk factor for the success of current and future projects.

However, this is a rapidly growing sector, and there is a clear commitment from government to deliver economic stimulus through boosting construction activity across New Zealand. The increased spending on projects like Auckland’s housing and infrastructure, the earthquake rebuilds in Canterbury and Kāikoura, the earthquake resilience project in Wellington and the social housing programme is a signal of confidence in the sector to deliver multiple community dividends through construction.

Role to play in decarbonising

While this construction activity delivers long-lasting community benefits, the sector also faces the challenge of changing how things are done to reduce our carbon footprint.

It’s estimated that the built environment is responsible for around 40% of the world’s carbon. Many New Zealand organisations are laying out their roadmaps to decarbonise their current and future assets and operations.

This is a response to the clear signal from the government that our actions to decarbonise need to accelerate to meet reduction targets as set out in the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act 2019. However, the sector also faces pressures from other non-governmental stakeholders including ratepayers, employees, private sector financial disclosure requirements and insurance disclosures and is currently far from being fully sustainable.

The impacts of reduction targets will be wide-reaching for our industry and will touch a multitude of areas including transport, industrial product manufacturing, electricity, built environment, agriculture and forestry, recovery of waste, three waters and social infrastructure.

Many keen to find their carbon metrics

There is already a focus on protecting the environment in New Zealand as evidenced by the annual RICS World Built Environment Forum Sustainability Report where respondents were forthcoming about embracing methods to measure their carbon output. Some 30% were keen to use mechanisms that would help improve and clearly report the operational and embodied carbon of their projects, which is well beyond the global average of 18%.

To help support businesses and as part of an international effort, a coalition of construction experts, including RICS, has published the world’s first universal method for reporting carbon metrics not only in the building process but also in the life cycle of structures.

Benchmarking standard developed

The International Cost Management Standard (ICMS 3) sets out an easy-to-use methodology for construction professionals and their clients to report and benchmark the amount of embodied carbon their projects will create. The standard is a universal tool that supports measurement of projects, whether they are roads, schools, offices or housing, and will help drive down the carbon impact.

The ambition of the construction sector to drive down carbon levels is evident, and New Zealand can pioneer how sustainable construction can be delivered. While the Zero Carbon Act will be the primary driver for change, chartered surveyors involved in projects will be well placed to assist in how the built environment reduces its carbon impact.

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