The forgotten emissions in buildings

23. September 2019
Buildings and the construction sector are responsible for nearly 40% of annual global carbon emissions – that’s a well-known fact. But that almost one third of those emissions are embodied in the materials used in the construction of buildings is less known. Ramboll has co-authored a new report by the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) on reducing embodied carbon in buildings.
Dalston Works, the world’s largest cross-laminated timber (CLT) building

Dalston Works, the world’s largest cross-laminated timber (CLT) building


Rikke Bjerregaard Orry

Sustainability Director, Buildings
Telefon: +45 51613200

For years the focus has been on reducing operational emissions from buildings but as shown by research from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), achieving drastic cuts in all carbon emissions over the next decade is critical to limiting global temperature rise to 1.5oC.

“Almost one third of CO2 emissions from buildings stem from the embodied carbon in materials and the construction process. If we are to deliver on the ambitious goals from the Paris agreement, we need to address all sources of carbon” says Søren Holm Johansen, Group Executive Director responsible for Sustainability at Ramboll.

What is embodied Carbon

The report is being launched as part of the 10th annual World Green Building Week, and represents a bold new vision for how buildings and infrastructure around the world can reach 40% less carbon emissions by 2030, and achieve 100% net zero emissions buildings by 2050.
Embodied carbon is the carbon footprint of a material. It considers how many greenhouse gases (GHGs) are released throughout the supply chain and is often measured from cradle to (factory) gate, or cradle to site (of use) and includes energy consumption in the manufacturing process and for the logistics.

Methodologies for Life Cycle Assessments 

Søren Holm Johansen continues: “Designers must create awareness and help building owners minimize the carbon footprint across the lifetime of their buildings. Methodologies like Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) and tools like Building Information Models (BIM), make it possible to quantify emissions throughout the life cycle of a building and provide a solid basis for making sustainable decisions in the early design phases.”
Innovation and improved processes to calculate, track and report embodied carbon and creating greater awareness are some of the levers that are highlighted in the report as means to address embodied carbon emissions. The report presents a route of actions that designers, investors, manufacturers, government, NGOs and researchers across the whole value chain can take to accelerate decarbonisation, address current market barriers and develop low carbon alternative solutions for the market.

Read the report here

About the World Green Building Council

The World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) is a global network leading the transformation of the built environment, to make it healthier and more sustainable. Collectively, with our Green Building Councils (GBCs) in around 70 countries, WorldGBC accelerates action to deliver on the ambition of the Paris Agreement, by eliminating the building and construction sector´s emissions by 2050. WorldGBC is committed to green buildings for everyone, everywhere to build a better future.

Get details on Dalston Works here