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Laing O'Rourke Centre for Construction Engineering and Technology


According to the World Green Building Council, buildings currently account for ~39% of global energy-related carbon emissions, including contributions from both "operational" energy (~28%) used in heating, cooling, and lighting etc. during the use of a building, and "embedded" emissions (~11%) in the materials and processes used during construction (See World Green Building Council report on "Bringing Embodied Carbon Upfront", 2019).

In the coming decades, the global building stock is forecast to double as population growth and urbanization drive large-scale development, which will increase these contributions. 

The construction sector has an enormous opportunity and mandate to respond to this challenge; to continue to provide safe, affordable, and high-quality housing and infrastructure in a manner which is sustainable. 

The Challenges

The challenges faced in this sector are formidable, with a production environment where it is "normal" to never have the same people, the same tools, the same location, or the same product twice, and a highly fragmented ecosystem of contractors, sub-contractors, and global supply chains creating a complex data landscape.

Buildings and infrastructure are also held to the highest standards of quality and safety and are required to deliver to these exacting standards for decades or even centuries. 


The solution 

A broad landscape of research in this space often focuses on emerging novel materials, technologies, or practices.

As well as looking to emerging low-carbon materials and techniques for large-scale use of data, there are opportunities to reduce emissions through careful study of variation in existing practice. 

This transition involves incorporating learning and existing best practices from the broader manufacturing sector on using existing data to track and visualize flows of energy, material, and waste. 

We are studying how to support rapid, low-threshold, high-impact reductions in key materials like cement and steel, which account for approximately 15% of global emissions (See Cement and steel — nine steps to net zero, Davis et al, Nature, March 2022).

Our research supports changes on the scale of individual projects and companies and delivers thought leadership on emerging practices directly within the community about implementing the changes which are already possible.


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Dr Saul Jones

Research Associate