Climate change

Climate change issues have come under renewed focus this week following the release of a study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the impact of global warming. In order to stay within the 1.5°C temperature rise that scientists consider to be a tipping point; the report estimates a need to invest 2.5% of global GDP every year for the next 20 years. Driving consensus around the actions required to prevent climate change has been notoriously difficult, mainly due to the short-term economic trade-offs associated with the response. However, with consumers increasingly putting pressure on both governments and big business, the trend is likely to be towards both greater regulation and more market-imposed action, each of which carries a cost. The built environment accounts for ~40% of total carbon emissions in the UK, and so might realistically be expected to be a focus of attention. This is likely to have a couple of impacts; firstly, a continued escalation in the cost of traditional construction, and secondly greater incentives to adopt new innovative techniques (e.g. circular construction) and materials (e.g. timber), which are less environmentally damaging. However, the largest source of CO2 in the built environment (35% of all emissions) comes in the downstream use and particularly heating of buildings, which requires an industry-wide commitment to behavioural change, aided by a raft of new smart building systems.