Australia’s construction industry must help build a sustainable future

For decades, the construction industry has been largely driven by financial feasibility – focusing on cost optimisation and return on investment.

But a paradigm shift is under way, as the world’s environmental crisis intensifies and regulations become stringent. Financial viability alone is no longer enough. Projects are facing increasing scrutiny, based on their carbon footprint.

So, is the construction industry ready to build beyond financial budgets and embrace a new era of carbon-conscious construction?

While Victoria’s regulations, incentives and certifications are nudging the construction industry towards sustainable construction practices, there remains a significant gap between ambition and action.

Despite the ambition to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, buildings are yet to be designed and delivered according to a project-level carbon budget. While there are ambitious targets, the building sector still has a long way to go to bridge the gap between this ambition and action.

What exactly is a carbon budget?

Unlike a project’s financial budget, a carbon budget sets a limit on the emissions a project can generate throughout its entire lifecycle – from cradle to grave.

This is not an annual expense but a cumulative sum. Once the allocated global carbon budget is exhausted, net emissions must be maintained at zero.

Engineers and designers use this threshold to guide their material and design choices, and the success of this approach is then evaluated by comparing the actual project’s emission levels to the projected carbon budget at different project lifecycle phases.

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