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The Environmental Cost of Growth in Construction 


The Environmental Cost of Growth in Construction 

As the global population continues to grow, so does the need for increased housing, and, unfortunately, depletion of resources and damage to the environment. Morten Stilling shares a white paper on the problem of CO2 emissions from the construction industry and what could be done about it.

I am concerned. Temperatures are rising, and we are running short on resources. Something’s gotta give. But we find it hard to make the required changes. We find it difficult to comprehend what “the required changes” means. We find it complex to understand where our troubles begin.

Where do the carbon dioxide emissions causing us so much hardship come from? Let’s find out. And let’s focus on a sector we can all relate to, a sector that is responsible for a substantial share of global CO2 emissions, a sector that needs to step up and improve. Let’s focus on Construction.

The construction sector at a glance

The construction sector delivers houses, apartments, stores, offices, schools, hospitals, factories, roads, bridges, etc. to our societies. It is one of the largest sectors in the world,

employing 7% of the world’s working population and contributing 13% of global GDP [MCK2017]. Construction projects are categorized as residential, commercial/institutional,

industrial, or infrastructure [NIST2009], but that’s just a detail. Let’s stay focused on the bigger picture. Perhaps due to its fragmented nature, where incentives among owners and contractors are often misaligned, and complexity (and opacity) across the value chain makes joint

improvement initiatives difficult, the construction sector is underperforming. Its labor productivity, for example, has increased by a mere 1% annually over several decades, lagging

significantly behind the overall economy (2.8%) in general and the manufacturing sector (3.6%) in particular [MCK2017]. In Northern Europe (Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, UK), the annual productivity increase has been in the 0-1% region with Belgium standing out at around 2% productivity increase and the highest productivity of all. In Southern Europe (Italy, France, Portugal, Spain), productivity has decreased by 0-1% annually. The same is true for the USA, where labor productivity is today around the same level as in the 1960’s. In Eastern Europe, higher productivity improvements (from a lower baseline) are generally observed [MCK2017]. Construction is a big and important sector, but one that does not perform as well as could and should be expected. A lot of people are doing a lot of good work, but it somehow does not add up to what is needed. (performance benchmarking is the solution, but we will get to that later)


Key points include:

  • Emissions from the construction sector
  • How can we reduce Construction CO2?
  • The cost of emissions reduction


Read the full paper, Construction CO2: How much, where from, and how to get rid of it?, on