Rapid decarbonisation is a critical focus for governments globally, as key planetary indicators highlight imminent ecological collapse. Australia has established clear net zero targets to mitigate predicted impacts, and the government is taking several actions to make their carbon transition a success.

Contributing 18 per cent of Australia’s gross emissions, our construction sector is a high-volume high-density carbon emitter. It is crucial for Australia’s buildings, roads, bridges, schools and rail corridors to be designed, built and operated in a smarter way.

Beca believes digital tools and processes can help accelerate the decline of embedded and operational carbon.

Beca has adopted a unique, digital-forward approach that links and embeds operational carbon to the infrastructure it’s planning, building and operating. This enables powerful decision-making about the long-term sustainability impacts of assets across its built environment.

Why now?

With mandatory climate reporting proposed to commence from July this year, organisations are facing new sustainability obligations which will have significant legal and financial implications.

These are in addition to the targets outlined in each state and territory climate change action plans, all developed in response to Australia’s commitment to the Paris Agreement and achieving net zero by 2050. For example, Victoria’s strategy outlines stepped emission reduction targets to reach 80 per cent by 2035 and was one of the first jurisdictions in the world to legislate a net zero emissions target.

A fast, automated, repeatable, reliable and accurate tool-agnostic solution

The first step in the journey towards sustainable design involves quantifying the emissions produced by the design. This presents a challenge, due to the intersection of everyday tools involved in the design and build processes.

The workflow involves creating a data enriched 3D design model that details the materials and quantities. Based on these inputs, emissions are automatically calculated from the enormous life cycle database using the tools created by Beca and map the results back to the design environment. This creates a design-sustainability loop that enables stakeholders to make informed sustainable decisions. The emissions visualisation enhances any stakeholder and community engagement to drive more sustainable decision making.

By unpacking the smart and sustainable decision making, Beca is supporting clients to reach more sustainable outcomes through development of sustainable design options and material selection. For example, Beca recently designed a low-carbon bridge in Australia using high strength concrete option rather than the standard design.

Interestingly, while this concrete option is actually a higher carbon emitter, the redesign meant not only reducing the quantity of concrete used, but its structural strength reduced the other materials used – including the reinforcement – resulting in a bridge design with an overall lower carbon impact.

Perhaps most impressively, the sophisticated solution that Beca has developed moves beyond industry norms of simply gauging carbon emissions through the use of multiple tools and methods. Beca measured the effects on all nine Planetary Boundaries and calculated the societal cost for every boundary and asset. Through innovative technology it corroborated multiple data sources to quantify the impact of each project across all nine environmental indicators – from climate change to ocean acidification – and demonstrate what difference design changes would make in terms of both environmental impacts and societal cost.

Client support and sector influence through best practice

Beca’s extensive portfolio across the sector means it’s able to create guide slopes and carbon budgets to make sure projects are achieving the best outcomes at each point in the journey. This also means it can help inform the standard slope to help regulators realistically plot the journey to a carbon-neutral future.

By making carbon charting tangible for its clients, Beca is supporting them to achieve mandated targets, and in many cases, strive for best practice. Bringing clients on the journey early in the design discussions, even on projects where it’s not yet a legal requirement to report carbon emissions, will help to avoid ‘greenwashing’ down the track once legislation prescribes reporting, as they can demonstrate a sustainable commitment over multiple projects.

This unique approach to carbon charting and design augmentation is just one of the initiatives Beca has developed to support its clients through their decarbonisation journey.

This sponsored editorial is brought to you by Beca. Learn more about Beca’s Decarbonisation Planning services at https://www.beca.com/what-we-do/services/industrial/decarbonisation-planning

Image: Jane Rix/shutterstock.com

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