Feature Article

AEC Was Left Out of a Key Decarbonization Pilot. What’s Next?

Science-based targets for the building sector no longer apply to design firms and most construction companies, but AEC must continue leading the industry toward net zero, experts say.

Line graph, with different line colors for different countries’ building sectors, shows downward curves in kilograms of CO2 per square meter between 2020 and 2050, converging at zero by 2050.

SBTi partnered with the Carbon Risk Real Estate Monitor (CRREM) to establish a set of pathways for in-use actual (not modeled) operational emissions that reflect differences in building typologies and geographies, some of which are shown here.

Carbon Risk Real Estate Monitor (CRREM)/Science Based Targets initiative
It’s 2024. Global emissions—and temperatures—are rising instead of falling, and some scientists believe this will be the year we cross a dangerous climate threshold, the 1.5°C Paris Agreement goal, long before we (hopefully) achieve net-zero emissions in 2050.

Meanwhile, new guidance being piloted through the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has removed architecture, engineering, and most construction companies (AEC) as formal participants in building-sector decarbonization, in contrast with the first draft of the guidance. Although the reasons for removing these companies were sound—and SBTi may still develop detailed guidance for the industry in the future, according to the group’s public feedback summary—AEC’s sudden absence brings up questions about the leverage and influence of building practitioners as champions of a just transition away from fossil fuels.

Still, AEC firms need to pay attention, for two reasons:

  • First, architecture and engineering firms have new obligations when using the general-purpose “cross-sector” guidance.
  • And second, AEC clients may be eyeing the SBTi guidance to help them decarbonize in sync with their peers.

The guidance is meant to choreograph a coordinated phaseout of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the building and real estate value chains by 2050.

What will it take for that to work?

Published January 17, 2024

Waters, E., & Melton, P. (2024, January 17). AEC Was Left Out of a Key Decarbonization Pilot. What’s Next?. Retrieved from https://www.buildinggreen.com/feature/aec-was-left-out-key-decarbonization-pilot-what-s-next