Newsletter Signup

Site Search
Zero Emissions Buildings and Managed Energy Services

Sustainability in Engineering and Construction: Planning a Path Forward

June 14, 2023 by Accenture

When people think about cutting emissions, the focus is usually on reaching net-zero by 2050. What often gets overlooked by companies setting Paris-aligned greenhouse-gas (GHG) reduction targets is that significant reductions need to be achieved by 2030, not just net-zero by 2050.  

So, the imperative to hit those 2030 goals is obvious: the construction industry will radically change the way buildings and infrastructures are designed, built and used. Sustainability has implications throughout the building and infrastructure lifecycle—from engineering to construction to demolition. Engineering and construction companies (ECs) play a pivotal role in this lifecycle and, therefore, have a unique opportunity to drive the green revolution in the end-to-end value chain. We believe now is the right moment to accelerate. When it comes to sustainability, maintaining the status quo can prove to be a real risk, forcing ECs to bear the cost of going green without being recognized for value created during the transition.

Instead, by leading the reinvention of the construction ecosystem, ECs can directly drive innovation while helping to significantly lower carbon emissions. In fact, those ECs that have not only committed to the Paris Agreement climate goals, but also gone beyond reducing carbon emissions to embrace the circular economy, waste management, and resource preservation, are enhancing environmental, societal and financial performance, strengthening brand image, improving competitiveness, and attracting more top talent.

Strategies for ECs to drive the green revolution

On the path to greater sustainability, ECs will also find opportunities for ecosystem-wide transformation that will produce market differentiation, foster new opportunities for collaboration, and enable more agile and green business models. Leaders will not just adapt to the new demands of green buildings and infrastructures, they will be proactive in creating value from new circular supply chains. They will fundamentally reshape the construction ecosystem and engage all stakeholders.

The journey includes three primary dimensions: compliance, transformation and differentiation.

1. Comply with the sustainability imperative to reach short-term carbon reduction commitments.

Compliance with the Paris Agreement will require decarbonizing direct and indirect emissions from humans and machines. This means ECs will need to look at green initiatives such as adopting renewable energy sourcing strategies and new production process, renewing fleets with low-carbon commercial vehicles and shifting to low-carbon heavy vehicles.

Compliance will also mean developing new processes and tools to measure carbon emissions, and to monitor carbon neutrality progress for both direct and indirect emissions. To achieve this level of transparency and reap its inherent advantages, ECs must take two key actions:

  1. Define environmental key performance indicators (KPIs); and
  2. centralize and monitor environmental data.

The data may come from existing sources such as IoT, sensors, analytics measurements and suppliers. The key, however, is developing a data platform to aggregate all data and enable segmenting of carbon emission-specific data.

2. Drive the green revolution through sustainable design and a circular value chain.

Once compliance measures are firmly in place, ECs can focus on designing eco-friendly assets to reduce indirect emissions. This effort may involve a number of strategies such as changing procurement processes to select more sustainable construction materials and equipment. ECs can also drive sustainability with full lifecycle management, leveraging advanced technologies like 3D modeling and digital twins. Moreover, by automating and standardizing design and construction methods, ECs can reduce carbon emissions while enabling construction that’s faster, less costly and less labor intensive.

Driving the green revolution will also require ECs to embed circular economy models into the construction lifecycle. One approach is to introduce processes to re-manufacture or repair used products to give them a longer life for customers. Modeling technology can be used to deconstruct a building virtually and identify materials that are valuable and can have a second life. Another application of the circular economy is to allow suppliers and partners to use recycled materials repeatedly, which saves costs and brings predictability to supply chains. And third, recovering and recycling at the end of a building’s life reduces the volume of waste and saves money. Some major companies now reuse 100 percent of the waste generated at certain manufacturing plants.

3. Differentiate with new ways of collaboration and green business services.

Given the diversity and the complexity of the engineering and construction ecosystem, leading in the green revolution requires ECs to collaborate across a wider range of players. This means setting up consortia or partnerships as a way to reduce indirect emissions other than those obtained from purchased energy. For example, consortia can provide services to better manage building energy efficiency, provide deconstruction services to enable recycling, and collect building lifecycle data that can improve design and simulation systems.

Additionally, ECs should look at creating new services to help advance their customers’ green agenda, and to develop a positive environmental impact. There are many possibilities, such as developing marketplaces and collaborative platforms that connect supply and demand of materials with lower carbon impact and lower costs. Consulting and energy efficiency solutions are new services that can be offered to building owners, enabled by technologies like IoT, analytics, AI and cloud. And renovation is an innovative way to transform carbon-heavy construction into more sustainable construction. Technology can facilitate and accelerate the transition to finding alternative solutions to high-carbon materials and enable more sustainable designs.

In engineering and construction, sustainability can be much more than simply complying with environmental requirements. It also offers opportunities to drive the transformation of the entire industry ecosystem and enable ECs to differentiate with new forms of collaboration and business models.

In this way, they will capture new markets, and create differentiating environmental, societal and financial value for their stakeholders.

Guest Authors: Gregory Christophe and Jean-Christophe Coulot of Accenture. Read more Accenture blogs here. More: Read all guest blogs here.

subscribe to our newsletter


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Latest Updates

  • Most Read

  • Search Our Sustainability Databases

  • Sustainability & Green IT Predictions for 2024

    • Recent Comments
      Most Comments
  • Tab #1
    Tab #2
    Tab Content #1
    Tab Content #2
    linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram