Oct 1, 2015

The construction industry looks to renewable energy and sustainability

Adam Groff
3 min
Renewable energy is changing the environment for the better and, as a result, construction companies across the country are jumping on the renewable...

Renewable energy is changing the environment for the better and, as a result, construction companies across the country are jumping on the renewable bandwagon. That's right: The U.S. construction industry is setting its sights on renewable building practices.

RELATED: The science of new and old energy, part 3: renewables

From the production of materials to the building process itself, the construction industry is responsible for a large part of energy consumption: According to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Energy, the country's building sector is responsible for 40 percent of primary energy consumption.

That's more than 97 quads of energy that's consumed each year due to construction taking place in the United States.

To put that number into perspective, 97 quads are 19 percent of worldwide energy consumption. Furthermore, in terms of commercial construction, roughly 90 percent of all energy used during the lifespan of a building goes to its operation and utilities.

RELATED: How energy-conscious homeowners can receive incentives from utility companies

To offset these numbers and create more environmentally-friendly building practices, construction companies across the country are turning to renewable energy.

Energy-efficient designs
Renewable energy in the world of construction starts with the design process. Architects are designing energy efficient homes and commercial structures that have sustainability in mind.

From structures that take advantage of natural light to renewable energy features such as rooftop solar panels, smart windows that block out UV rays, and ultra-energy-efficient HVAC systems and water heaters, architects are going the extra mile with their renewable energy building designs.

RELATED: Origami and more: Incredible solar panel and wind turbine design

Low-impact building materials
As mentioned before, the manufacturing of construction materials makes up a large part of the energy consumption equation. The U.S. construction industry is looking to reduce the amount of energy that goes into each building project by using low-impact building materials.

In the article appropriately titled, Thought leader series: Renewable energy and its effect on the construction industry, Kim Parr discusses the fact that green construction is no longer a niche market: As a result, manufacturers are setting their sights on building materials that don't take much energy to produce or deliver.

RELATED: Top 10 sustainable buildings in the world

Recycled and repurposed building materials such blown paper insulation and locally sourced composite lumber are great examples of low-impact building materials.

In addition, modular building is also helping to reduce the waste and transportation associated with energy consumption in the construction industry.

RELATED: 3 Things to learn from award-winning company American Waste Control

Updated building standards
The construction industry has changed immensely over the past few decades and with change comes new building standards.

Such is the case with LEED certified structures. LEED certification, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, ensures all building practices use efficient resources and are environmentally responsible.

COMPANY SPOTLIGHT: Empresa Eléctrica de Guatemala S.A. is using sustainable industrial energy as an innovative model

LEED certification was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council and is growing in popularity across communities nationwide.

In addtion, the Associated General Contractors of America Environmental Services holds a Contractors Environmental Conference each year to educate construction companies about renewable and earth-friendly building practices.

RELATED: How Hexocover is bringing renewable energy to mining and solving the water shortage

When it comes to energy-conscious construction, it's plain to see that construction companies nationwide are concentrating on renewable energy and sustainability.

About the Author: Adam Groff is a freelance writer and creator of content. He writes on a variety of topics including construction and the environment.


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Jul 29, 2021

Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030

Dominic Ellis
4 min
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades says the UK's National Infrastructure Commission

Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission

Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.

The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.

The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture. 

It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.  

The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020. 

Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.

The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.

While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.

Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.

Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse. 

"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.

“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.” 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets. 

Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.  

Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."

McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:

  • Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
  • Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
  • Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
  • Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
  • The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere

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