The building and construction industry is a major contributor to global carbon emissions, use of materials and the production of waste. To reach global sustainable development goals, the building industry is facing a need of change on a large-scale, including all parts of a construction life cycle. While a significant amount of the greenhouse gas emissions are associated with the use of energy in the building during its operation, embodied emissions, i.e. the emissions in the materials themselves, are currently projected to be half of the emissions in new constructed buildings (United Nations Environment Programme 2021) and are projected to significantly increase with construction and renovation meeting higher energy efficiency standards (IEA 2020; Architecture 2030). These embodied emissions are a result of the significant use of materials in this sector – 38 billion tonnes of materials were estimated to be used in the housing sector alone in 2019 (Circle Economy 2020). A large fraction of the material used in the building and construction sector eventually becomes waste. Even when recycled, waste fractions are often significantly downcycled (Durmisevic et al. 2016) and only a very small fraction is reused (Debacker and Manshoven 2016). Extending the lifetimes of buildings and construction products is a key strategy for addressing these issues.

This session would seek contributions working on longer product lifetimes for building and construction materials. Examples of topics could include:

  •   Reuse of construction and building material
  •     Studies of building lifetimes and age of building stock
  •     (Design for) Deconstruction of buildings for reuse
  •     The assumptions and implications of building lifetimes in modelling
  •     Sharing practices and business models for flexible and multiple uses of buildings
  •     Policies and initiatives for longer lifetimes of buildings and/or reuse of construction products

Session owners: Dr Jessika Richter, International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics, Lund University and Dr Julia Nussholz, Senior Consultant at Rambøll Sustainability Management Consulting in Copenhagen, Denmark.

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