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Townmore: Tackling Embodied Carbon in the Built Environment 



“…real demand is making carbon reduction targets appear unachievable using our current modes of delivering homes..”


Over the past week, the Joint Houses of the Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage published a report on Embodied Carbon in the Built Environment

This Oireachtas report was prepared in response to the “urgent need to address climate change in the property and construction sector”. It is estimated that 37 percent of all carbon emissions can be linked to the construction and built environment sector; of this, 23 percent is linked to the operational emissions of heating, lighting and cooling our buildings. The remaining 14 percent is linked to ‘embodied carbon’, that is, the carbon emissions resulting from the production and transport of construction materials, and the maintenance, repair and ultimate disposal of buildings and infrastructure.

Ireland has set high targets, both for reducing carbon and for ramping up the delivery of much-needed new homes. At a time when reducing carbon is an imperative, Ireland is also tackling an unprecedented housing shortage. 400,000 new build homes are proposed in the National Development Plan, however, the cursory data from the most recent census tells us that 400,000 new homes is not going to be enough. Also, under the NDP, 500,000 homes are targeted for retrofitting and upgrading to achieve a B-rating. According to a recent report from the Irish Green Building Council, or IGBC, this demand – which has currently been underestimated and will likely increase when the full census data is made available – could drive up emissions from the built environment to three times the national target by 2030, with embodied carbon expected to increase by a factor of 5 in the same timeframe. What this means is that real demand is making carbon reduction targets appear unachievable using our current modes of delivering homes and infrastructure. In order to meet the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021 commitments of net zero carbon by 2050 and to achieve a 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, we have to change how we are delivering the built environment, from design and planning, right through to construction and operation over the entire lifecycle of a building. 

The ‘what?’ and the ‘why?’ of carbon reduction are clear, but there is a body of work to be done in order to figure out the ‘how?’

As a starting point, the above report contains recommendations to accelerate regulations on whole of life carbon measurement ahead of proposed the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive revision dates – further information on this Directive available here: 

The Oireachtas report also recommends accelerating the use of timber in Irish construction and a streamlining of EPA licensing to reduce the amount of construction waste going to landfill. 


For a full list of recommendations and to read the Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage Embodied Carbon in the Built Environment, October 2022 report, click here: