Australia’s construction industry must adopt embodied carbon standards, says AQIS

Research by the Green Building Council of Australia has shown that embodied carbon will account for 85% of emissions from the built environment in Australia by 2050, compared to 16% in 2019.

In addition to developing practical manufacturing and solutions designed to reduce embodied emissions, it is an accepted fact that the Australian construction industry is also developing and applying Australian-based embodied carbon standards that are independent, transparent and compliant with international standards. ISO 14025 and EN 15879.

Currently, the Australian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (AIQS) is working with MECLA, NABERS and the GBCA to help develop a national framework for measuring, certifying and benchmarking emissions from construction and building materials.

“At present there are no industry-agreed frameworks in Australia and as a result there are inconsistencies in methodology, scope and data sources that yield inconsistent results,” said AIQS CEO, Grant Warner.

“Not all professionals use the same methods or data sources. This makes comparisons and benchmarking between different companies/projects problematic.”

While other offshore markets have published total embodied carbon targets and rating systems for various building portfolios, the data does not apply to the Australian market.

This means that businesses and government agencies in Australia must rely on internal measures to provide statistics for reporting levels of embodied carbon and reduction targets for new construction projects.

For example, the Government of NSW (Office for Energy and Climate Change) has been working to implement a new assessment tool to measure embodied carbon during design and construction for commercial and other non-residential buildings in NSW.

“Developing Australian standards is a necessary step towards reducing CO2 emissions in the future, especially if we are to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2035,” Warner said.

However, this current scenario of independent reporting should not be seen as negative, but should be seen as a positive transitional arrangement needed to facilitate the current construction of buildings with reduced embodied carbon.

“It’s ideal to have a transparent benchmark that can withstand external scrutiny, but if it isn’t, we need to go with the metrics that are available,” he says.

“We don’t need to stop the way companies currently quantify and benchmark embodied carbon, we just need to get to a point where the industry can get on a level playing field and communicate with customers/stakeholders in a common language.”

“To make this happen, the role of the quantity measurement professional is rightly the natural choice and one that the AIQS is only too happy to support in its development.” says Warner.

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