UK-China Built Environment Road to Carbon Zero Webinar Series
- Session 1

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22 Sept 2021

UK-China construction industry and building material industry carbon neutralisation overview

In September, the Ecological Environment Building Materials Branch of the China Building Materials Association and Arcas & Callisto Consulting jointly organized the first live broadcast of a series of experts' face-to-face forums on the carbon neutrality of building materials industry and carbon reduction technology of building materials.

The first live broadcast was carried out on Sina’s Leju platform, with the theme of "Carbon Neutral Route Map Exchange between China and the UK in the Construction and Building Materials Industry". The live broadcast was viewed more than 400,000 times, reflecting high interest in carbon neutrality in China.

Prof. Jingjiang Liu's presentation, “Carbon neutral technology and development thinking of China's building materials industry”, introduces the carbon emissions of China generally, as well as that of its construction and building materials industries, giving us a clear understanding of the current situation.

As China is currently in a state of rapid economic development, China accounts for an increasing proportion of the world’s carbon emissions – approximately 30%. Therefore, China's carbon reduction potential is huge, and the construction sector is particularly important to its dual carbon goals, which also highlights China’s determination to tackle climate change.

Professor Liu describes how, according to the Chinese government, at the end of 2020, the area of China taken up by construction was more than 60 billion square meters; at the end of 2030, it will reach more than 70-85 billion (depending on policy). With this increase, waste discharge will rise, and China's carbon situation in construction will be challenging.

Faced with such a task, the building materials industry has many potential focuses. It is necessary to accelerate the deployment and advance the research disruptive and iterative cutting-edge low-carbon technologies, and continuously tap the potential of pollution and carbon reduction in the building materials industry.

Dr. Junpeng Huang's presentation, “Research progress of carbon neutrality in China's real estate industry”, introduces real estate enterprises’ carbon emissions, as well as the problems they currently face, and uses examples from both Chinese and international businesses, showing the direction that real estate enterprises should take to reduce carbon emissions.

The carbon emissions of domestic real estate enterprises is on a downward trend, influenced by the scale of their development. This is also due to the impact of last year’s green architecture and building energy conservation policies, as well as of new construction technologies such as prefabrication. However, in general, understanding of the impact of carbon neutralization still needs to be strengthened, as only a few real estate enterprises have proposed caps on emissions, carbon neutralization plans, and implementation roadmaps.

As a leading eco-friendly real estate development service provider in China, Landsea Green Properties, is deeply engaged in carbon neutral and green construction. Landsea chose to implement a “green differentiation competition” strategy in 2004, making eco-friendly building products the cornerstone of their development. In recent years, their carbon emissions have decreased.

Vanke emphasizes "whole life cycle carbon control". Throughout the production process, Vanke has numerous proprietary and innovative standards.

As European and US real estate companies are generally ahead of China’s with regards to carbon neutral planning, their targets are mostly set between 2025 and 2040. Some have achieved carbon neutrality through offsetting. A few real estate enterprises focusing on assets focus on carbon emissions in Scope 1 and 2, while most of them focus on the hidden and operational carbon emissions and pro-actively participate in various international carbon disclosure projects, such as the SBTi. Their carbon emission reduction and carbon neutrality measures progress is made public on a regular basis.

Hudson Pacific Properties had previously committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2025, but achieved carbon neutrality in 2020 through a combination of energy efficiency, on-site renewable energy, renewable energy certificates and proven emission reduction credits. These efforts eliminate Scope 1 and 2 emissions from energy use in the company's buildings.

Boston Properties (BXP) has committed to carbon neutral operations by 2025. Their path consists of four main strategies:

  • Energy efficient operations: Around one-third of its total carbon savings by 2025 will come as a result of energy efficiency and more efficient operations.

  • Renewable energy: Development of on-site renewable energy systems, offsite renewable energy procurement, and voluntary transition to 100% renewable green tariffs and community option aggregation schemes.

  • Exploration and advancement of electrification: Research and efforts to replace on-site gas systems at the end of service life.

  • Carbon offsets: The remaining emissions will be offset during the transition to carbon-free energy.

Claude Lorea presentation, “Carbon neutral roadmap for global cement and concrete industry in 2050”, introduces concrete’s role and benefits to carbon neutrality.

Concrete has many inherent properties, including not only durability, but also passive cooling and heating, and is an excellent material for recycling, fire resistance and disaster resilience. Reactive concrete also acts as a carbon sink.

However, producing concrete, especially its key ingredient cement, accounts for 7% of human CO2 emissions. Therefore, a decarbonization approach to concrete production is absolutely necessary to meet the needs of future society.

The key to achieving this, says Lorea, must be partnerships with policymakers. In the roadmap, the first point is to do more building with less materials, and the efficiency of concrete production and use. The second point is recycling, replacing fossil fuels with renewable fuels while recycling materials in the process. Recycling also means that when using clinker, trying to use substitutes or additives, as well as recycling concrete. The third is continuous innovation. Carbon capture and storage technology will play an important role in our decarbonization roadmap and transformation, but the current technology is far from enough. We need to constantly innovate and invent new materials and products. Decarbonization is core to the roadmap, because of concrete’s ability to absorb or reabsorb CO2 during its use.

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