The process of construction – transporting materials, pumping concrete up several floors and trucking away waste – is a source of greenhouse gas emissions that’s often overlooked.
It’s possible to provide a carbon neutral construction service, but at this stage, offsets are still needed.
Monash University’s Woodside Building for Technology and Design, built by Lendlease, is claiming the title of the first carbon neutral construction service, certified by the federal government’s rebranded National Carbon Offset program, Climate Active.
To qualify for certification, the government must see evidence of reducing carbon emissions before any offsetting is allowed, Climate Active communications and engagement manager Polly Hemming told The Fifth Estate.
Hemming says offsetting was still part of the mix because technology was not advanced enough to make everything carbon neutral without offsets.
Lendlease adopted a number of energy efficiency methods to keep the emissions footprint of its construction process down for the university building, including using project site sheds with passive design features to reduce heating and cooling.
The site also had master switches to provide greater control and reduce out-of-hour energy use, as well as signs encouraging builders to turn off equipment that wasn’t in use.
With energy efficiency signed off, the developer then had to work out all emissions from fuel and energy use (diesel and electricity were the two major sources) and purchase carbon credits to offset those emissions.
The building itself will also aim high on energy efficiency, and is going for Passive House certification.
Flexibility built into certification
Hemming says one of the great things about Climate Active certification is that there’s a lot of room for innovation, with certification available for everything from whole precincts to one-off events.
“You can break it into the chunks of the things you want to certify, with the goal of making everything carbon neutral down the track. You can draw a boundary around it.”
She says that this doesn’t allow businesses to avoid the hard parts of decarbonisation.
“They have to transparent about what they are certifying, and can’t allude to the fact that the whole company is certified carbon neutral.
“They have to make it clear that it’s an opt-in situation, they can’t talk about certification in a way that’s deemed to be misleading.”
She says it’s not realistic to do it any other way, and that it would be impossible for a company as big as Lendlease to go carbon neutral in one go.