Relationship Between Construction Industry And Global Warming Environmental Sciences Essay

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Global warming refers to an average increase in the Earth’s temperature, which cause change in climate. This phenomenon is mainly caused by human activities which emit greenhouse gases (GHGs) such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). It is believed that the use of non-renewable energy has increased the carbon concentration in the atmosphere and has also increased the Earth’s temperature. Among all the human activities that emit GHGs, construction industry should held responsibilities too. In a recent publication by Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change, it was indicated that the largest growth in the carbon emissions has come from electricity generation, transport, industry and above all, from building operation (Radhi, 2009). Therefore, is the operation and construction of building emits CO2, not the building itself. Energy required for a building to operate is mainly on heating and cooling purposes. In United States (US), a full 30% of CO2 emission is caused by built environment. While in United Kingdom (UK), energy use related to construction industry amounts to around 55% of national energy consumption, which means the industry is also the source of 55% of CO2 emission (Parsa and Farshchi, 1996).

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In order to reduce carbon emission, constructing a building with energy efficiency or low carbon emission is a trend in nowadays construction industry. To achieve a building with low or even zero carbon emission, the design and equipment used by the building is crucial and must be energy efficient. For example, instead of using artificial lighting, natural lighting is being use for the same purpose while mechanical ventilation is replaced by natural ventilation. Besides, the issue of global warming has had governments’ concern. Lots of regulations and restrictions have been amends to reduce carbon or GHGs emission. Among all those regulations, Kyoto Protocal is the one most well known. The purpose of Kyoto Protocal is to reduce the emission of GHGs from industrialised countries by 5.2% of the 1990 levels by a commitment period between 2008 – 2012 (Hill, 2001). On the other hand, the UK Climate Change Bill will commit the UK law to a target of at least a 60% reduction in CO2 emission by 2050.

1.3 Aim

To analyse how construction industry could contribute to global warming and what efforts have been made in order to reduce global warming.

1.4 Objectives

To study the factors in which construction industry had caused global warming.

To determine the role of governments in setting rules and regulations to reduce global warming.

To identify efforts that has been done by local construction industry to follow the ‘green’ footsteps.

1.5 Background

Global warming has been a growing global concern in recent years. Global warming could leads to greenhouse effects, climate change, rise in mean sea level, acid rain and depletion in ozone layer (Parsa and Farshchi, 1996). Global warming is caused by emission of anthropogenic greenhouse gases. Among ‘basket’ of GHGs, CO2 plays the most vital role. Due to the developing of each country, it can be seen that the carbon emission has become more serious. During the 150 years of the industrial age, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 has increased by 31 percent (West, 2009) Carbon emission comes from domestic industry, burning of fossil fuels, transport and many other factors. Among all those sources, burning of fossil fuels or non-renewable energy for electricity generation emits the most carbon dioxide.

Besides, CO2 could lead to greenhouse effects as heat from sun and lighting is being trapped in earth’s atmosphere and causing the rise of temperature in earth’s surface (Mahwah, 2000). On the other hand, climate change means a change in long term weather pattern. While rise in mean sea level is because of melting of south and north pole ice due to rising temperature. Other than carbon dioxide, release of methane is another factors causes global warming. Over 150 years of industrial age, there has been 151% rise in atmospheric methane level mainly from agricultural activities (West, 2009). Emission of nitrious oxide which is another kind of greenhouse gases also emitted mainly due to various agriculture and industrial process. Besides, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) are also categorised in the ‘basket’ of greenhouse gases.

1.6 Scope of Study

This study will include the definition and cause of global warming, efforts made and role of government in reducing global warming. This study would reveal the awareness of construction industry in global warming’s issue and what have been done to reduce it. It is done through observing whether there are increasing numbers of sustainable or green buildings. Besides, since this issue has raised global concern, this study also would show what haven been done by government regard this matter. In order to find out causes of global warming, information would be search online or in library. A case study will be conduct in order to have a further understanding of efforts made to reduce global warming. Zero energy office which is located at Bandar Baru Bangi would be visited and interviewed the relevant personnel. This building is the first completely self-sustainable building in Southeast Asia. The design, equipment and other sustainable items in that building would be studied. Interview with the related person should be carrying out if possible to have a deeper understanding on the building’s principal.

1.7 Methodology

Stage 1: Literature review

This is a stage where a lot of comprehensive review is required to have a broader knowledge about global warming. I will be looking for secondary data source at this stage which is through reading articles or journals from online resources or library. The resources that I am looking forward are mainly on causes of global warming which related to construction industry and rules and regulations set out by government to deal with global warming.

Stage 2: Case study

In order to have a more in-depth analysis of global warming awareness in construction industry, I will be conducting a case study in Malaysia by searching for energy efficient or low carbon emission building. The building that I found which fit to the requirement is Pusat Tenaga Malaysia located at Bandar Baru Bangi, Kuala Lumpur. I will visit to the building and conduct an interview with the person in charge of the building in order to have a deeper understanding of how it works and its principle. This case study would be used to establish the efforts that have been made to reduce global warming.

Stage 3: Evaluation of case study

After conducting a case study, I will review and analyse the information and photos collected in the building that I have studied. It is to identify whether the building is really environmentally friendly and is it capable of reducing the impact to environment to minimum.

Stage 4: Writing up

After doing all the research, understanding and getting enough information, it enables me to writing up the content following the dissertation that I proposed in this stage.

Chapter 2: Literature Review

2.1 Introduction

In this chapter, issues related to causes of global warming and environmental regulations which are related to construction industry are going to be talked about. When someone mention about global warming, many are pointing fingers to construction industry and recent studies have showed that construction industry do held responsibilities. In construction industry, the energy usage to operate building, embodied energy and construction activities are those which held responsibilities in carbon emissions. However, due to global awareness, many countries have come out with solutions to solve this issue and governments play an important role in this matter. In order to reduce carbon emissions, many rules and regulations have been set to ensure that they are complied by designers and contractors. Such rules and regulations are Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change Act 2008, Carbon Reduction Commitment, Display Energy Certificates and others relevant regulations. Regulations set are mandatory for construction parties to follow and hope that it will reduce carbon emissions and save our earth.

2.2 Definition

2.2.1 Global Warming

The meaning of global warming as according to Dr. Spencer (2007) shows that global warming:

“is the expected slow, gradual warming of the lower layers of the Earth’s lower atmosphere by the slowly increasing concentrations of man-made greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide, and to lesser extent methane. These gases trap infrared radiation, which is “heat radiation” that cools the Earth.”

2.2.2 Construction Industry

Construction industry can be divided in to three groups which is heavy and civil engineering construction, general construction and specially trades (Economy Watch, 2010). Besides, based on Economy Watch (2010), construction industry brings the meaning of:

“This industry is mainly an urban based one which is concerned with preparation as well as construction of real estate properties. The repairing of any existing building or making certain alterations in the same also comes under construction industry.”

2.3 Causes of Global Warming by Construction Industry

2.3.1 Facts that Construction Industry Caused Global Warming

It is undeniable that construction industry should bear responsibilities for causing of global warming. Activities related to building are responsible for 35% to 45% of CO2 releases into the atmosphere. In Australia, 40% of its’ country energy is used for heating, cooling, building and demolishing of building (Dixon, 2008). Energy that generated to fulfill all the needs emits CO2. Besides, similar conditions occur in UK whereby about 50% of UK’s total CO2 emissions have caused by construction, occupation and maintenance of buildings (Gibbs, 2007). On the other hand, buildings in US responsible for about 38% of the carbon emissions which is 39% of US’s energy and 68% of its energy (WBDG, 2009). Although it is proven that construction industry is the main contributor to global warming, among the six gases in GHGs, CO2 is the gases that construction industry should held most responsibility. Another GHGs release by construction industry is CFCs and HFCs which were used in refrigeration in which every house have a refrigerator. However, one thing that need to be make clear is that not the building itself release GHGs, but the operation of buildings.

2.3.2 Energy Usage by Building

During the lifetime of a building, it required a lot of energy in order to operate it and majority of buildings in the whole world are using electricity that is sourced mainly from coal power plants. For example, buildings produce high heat that radiates outside into the air and most buildings did not structured for such high temperature. In order to solve this problem, air-conditioning has been used. The usage of air-conditioning will increase the energy consumption and in the same time the emissions of CO2. During winter, buildings required some heating in order to keep the occupant warm.

Besides, in order to make life easier, many appliances have been invented. One of the useful appliances is lighting. Lighting is essential to a modern society. About 5% of energy and 25% of average home electricity is used for lighting. In addition, approximately 60% of electricity is consumed in commercial sector (Energy Conservation, 2010). Therefore, when someone turns on and off a light, they are releasing GHGs (Environment Support, 2008). Other appliances that most of the people use nowadays is water heater, in order to heat water, energy is required to do so. Furthermore, refrigerators that involved heat exchange that consumes a significant amount of electricity each year is another daily used appliances. Another appliance that able to make our lives easier is washer and dryer to do our laundry everyday. Electricity is required for a washing machine to start doing our laundry. It is believed that around 40% of all the carbon emissions come from power plants (Christodoulou, 2010). All of our daily activities in a building required usage of energy which generate from power plants especially from coal. Coal releases the most carbon as compared to natural gas and oil power plants.

2.3.3 Embodied Energy

By constructing a sustainable building, zero- carbon building and the like, emissions of carbon by building operations have been reduced. However, the embodied energy in the building materials has been neglect. Embodied energy is the energy used to produce building materials such as cement, steel, aluminium and other materials. However, it is not just as simple as that (Lane, 2010). Embodied energy can be meant by the non-renewable energy used in the acquisition of raw materials, processing, manufacturing, transportation to site and construction. Besides, energy used to transport building products to the site also consider as embodied energy (Giampietro, 2009). For example, a concrete block that located nearby the site will contain lower embodied energy that a concrete block from other states. This is because the energy used for transportation of the concrete block is different (Lane, 2010).

Moreover, if a building has high energy efficiency or used less energy, its embodied carbon will be increased. The less carbon been released through constructing a building, the bigger percentage that embodied carbon contributes to the total carbon footprint. For example, a distribution warehouse that used less energy for heating and lighting have an embodied carbon of 60% of its total lifetime carbon footprint. Meanwhile, embodied carbon for supermarket which used a lot of energy contains only 20% of embodied carbon and a house has embodied carbon of 30%. Therefore, different type of building will have different embodied carbon. It is believed that by year 2019, embodied carbon will make up 100% of a building’s carbon footprint (Lane, 2010). Table below shows the embodied energy for different types of materials. According to the table 2.1, aluminium has the highest embodied energy in terms of MJ/kg which is 227 and the lowest is aggregate which is 0.10. For embodied energy measure in terms of MJ/m3, the highest amount would be copper which is 631164 and lowest is straw bale with a figure of 31.

Table 2.1: Embodied energy in different types of materials

Source: (Architecture 2030, 2010)

2.3.4 Construction Activities

Other than energy used by building to operate and embodied energy, building or construction industry also emits CO2 in another manner which is by its construction activities. It is believed that the size of construction projects will affects the carbon emissions. Table below shows the relationship between civil values and construction carbons. It shows that the higher the civil value, the higher carbon emissions (United Utilities, 2009). Projects with higher civil value means that it is a big projects and big projects often required a lot of plant machinery such as excavators, tower cranes, forklift and other machineries in order to complete the whole construction projects. Besides, larger size of construction projects means that more waste is generated. In year 2004 in UK, the waste going to landfill from construction industry was about 100 million tonnes which was increased for 30 million tonnes since year 2000. This amount is equivalent to one house being buried when three houses was built. Moreover, wastage account for an extra 25% energy for waste (Natural Building Technologies, 2010). Thus, due to the increase of usage of machineries and wastage, carbon emissions for larger construction projects are higher than smaller size project

Table 2.2: Relationship between civil value & construction carbon

Source: (United Utilities, 2009)

In addition, below is a bar chart showing that carbon emissions during each breakdown of projects. Table below was made based on comparisons of ten projects. According to the graph, plant emissions have highest carbon emissions as compare to other activities. This is due to usage of diesel by plant machineries and it release high volume of CO2 (Natural Building Technologies, 2010). On the other hand, concrete industry plays an important role in construction activity since most of the part of a building is built using concrete. However, concrete industry also plays an important role in carbon emissions since the concrete industry is responsible for 5% to 7% of all global carbon emissions. Carbon emissions of concrete occur during the production process of concrete (Dixon, 2008).

Table 2.3: Breakdown of project CO2 emissions by source

Source: (United Utilities, 2009)

2.4 Environmental Regulations

2.4.1 Kyoto Protocol What is Kyoto Protocol?

In regard to reduce carbon emissions, Kyoto Protocol was carried out. Kyoto Protocol was a legally binding agreement agreed by many countries in December 1997 and it came into force with Russia’s ratification on February 16, 2005. Terms in Kyoto required at least fifty five parties to ratify the agreement and total emissions by the parties need to be at least 55% of global production of greenhouse gases (Bloch, 2010). A group of countries known as United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the founder of Kyoto Protocol and they have set a major goal of decreasing global emissions of six critical greenhouse gases levels that are 5.2 percent below what they were in 1990.

The Protocol contains of twenty five articles and two Annexes which is Annex A and Annex B. Annex A contain of identification and sources of greenhouse gases while Annex B refer to lists of industrialized countries which agree to the Protocol (Lerner, 2006). Greenhouse gases which contain under Annex A are CO2, CH4, N2O, HFCs, PFCs and SF6. Meanwhile, countries that fall under Annex B such as European Union (EU), Canada, Japan, Norway, Australia and other countries. Target to be achieved by each country either reduction, increase or maintain is shown in Table 2.4. Countries such as EU, US, Canada, Hungary, Japan, Poland and Croatia need to achieve carbon reductions due to they are developed countries and economically stable to reduce CO2 in their industrial sector. Besides, EU was taking advantage on a scheme known as ‘bubble’. Under this scheme, EU countries can redistribute their emissions targets among themselves whereby some may increase their emissions while others reduce their emissions (UNFCCC, 2010). Meanwhile, for countries that are allow to increase their emissions is due to economic reasons. Those are developing countries and reduce in carbon emissions may affect their economic.


Target (1990** – 2008/2012)





Canada, Hungary, Japan, Poland




New Zealand, Russian Federation, Ukraine








Table 2.4: Countries included in Annex B to the Kyoto Protocol and their emissions targets

Source: (UNFCCC, 2010) Emissions Trading

In order for the countries to meet their target emissions, three market-based mechanisms were introduced. The first mechanism was emissions trading which also known as “the carbon market”. In this mechanism, “Assigned Amount Units” (AAUs) represents the allowable emissions by countries. Emissions trading that have been set out in Article 17 mention that for countries which have excess emissions units, they can sell the excess units to countries that are over their targets. The reason for this to be called as “carbon market” is because carbon is like any other commodity which can be tracked and traded (UNFCCC, 2010). The prices and quantities to be sold will be agreed upon the parties. However, penalties for exceeding the assigned amounts, expected costs required for cleaner technologies investments and amount of carbon emissions available for trading will be the factors that affect the price (Hill, 2001). Joint Implementation (JI)

JI that have mentioned in Article 6 explains that a party of Annex B may invest in an emission-reduction project of another Annex B party. This offers a party to earn emission reduction units (ERUs) (UNFCCC, 2010). Therefore, Grubb (Hill, 2001) states that JI enables a party to fulfill their Kyoto commitments by locating investments which can obtain most effective savings while another party able to contribute resources such as technological expertise or manpower. Moreover, the project at which a party is going to have a JI with must obtain approval from both the parties involved. Besides, the JI project must be able to reduce emissions or enhancement of removals by sinks. Projects that start from year 2000 may be eligible as JI projects as long as all the requirements have been fulfilled (UNFCCC, 2010). Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)

Article 12 of Kyoto Protocol is stated about CDM. It is a mechanism which allows a country to establish an emission-reduction project in non-Annex countries which are developing countries (UNFCCC, 2010). The savings in emissions which been obtained can be allocate to the Annex B countries and saleable certified emission reduction (CER) credits which equal to one tone of CO2 can be earned. According to UNFCCC, CDM is “seen by many as a trailblazer. It is the first global, environmental investment and credit scheme of its kind, providing a standardized emission offset instrument, CERs.” Furthermore, an example of a project that has been registered as a CDM project is the Biomass Energy Plant Lumut in Malaysia (Selamat and Abidin,2010)

2.4.2 Part L of Building Regulations Building Regulations

Building Regulations are statutory instruments that applied to building works in England and Wales (Planning Portal, 2010). According to Planning Portal, the purpose of Building Regulations is to “set standards for design and construction of buildings to ensure safety and health for people in or about those buildings”. Besides, there are fourteen parts which include in the Building Regulations. All the parts are in relation to the building design and construction. All the parts in Building Regulations are shown as below:

Part A – Structure

Part B – Fire safety

Part C – Site preparation and resistance to moisture

Part D – Toxic substances

Part E – Resistance to the passage of sound

Part F – Ventilation

Part G – Sanitation, hot water safety and water efficiency

Part H – Drainage and waste disposal

Part J – Combustion appliances and fuel storage systems

Part K – Protection from falling, collision and impact

Part L – Conservation of fuel and power

Part M – Access to and use of buildings

Part N – Glazing – safety in relation to impact, opening and cleaning

Part P – Electrical safety Part L – Conservation of Fuel and Power

Part L of Building Regulations is mainly focus on conservation of fuel and power in relation to the issue of carbon emissions. In year 2010, Part L has been revised and the revised version has been published on 30 April 2010. Starting from October 2010, four new approved documents and two compliance guides will be replacing the current versions. After the amendment in this year, the amendments to new dwellings in 2013 will lead to zero carbon in dwellings by 2016 (Cullen, 2010). Under Part L, it has been split into four sections which are sections for new dwellings, existing dwellings, new buildings other than dwellings and existing buildings other than dwellings (Planning Portal, 2010). In this revised Part L, carbon reduction for 25% is applied to dwellings while reductions depend on type of buildings will varies from 16% – 40%. Examples for carbon emissions for types of buildings other than dwellings are 16% for hotel, 21% for retail, 22% for shallow-plan building (heated), 26% for supermarkets and deep-plan office (air-conditioned), 27% for school, 36% for warehouse and 40% for shallow-plan office (air-conditioned). Moreover, a design stage carbon dioxide emission rate and building specification is required to be carried out by the regulations to designers. The purpose of doing these is to help building control to understand the compliance strategy (Lane, 2010).

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On the other hand, Accredited Construction Details (ACD) is encouraged to be used for reduction of thermal bridging in dwellings (Cullen, 2010). If the ACD is not been used, 25% shall be added to the calculated values. Besides, the maximum allowable value for air permeability is 10.0 at completion of the dwelling. In order to meet with the requirement, the design for air permeability must be at most 8.0. However, for small developments, a value of 15.0 is still applicable. Since lightings are a significant component of carbon emissions, therefore for lighting requirements, minimum 75% of light fittings must be of low energy. If the remaining 25% are also low energy light fittings, it will contribute towards meeting the Target Emission Rate (TER) target (Hughes, 2010). U-Value shows how well heat transfer through a building element. The lower U-Value is, the rate of heat flowing through building elements slower (Broxwood, 2008). Therefore in Part L 2010, the limitations for U-value in building elements have decreased as shown in the table 2.5. The U-Value of elements for Part L 2010 have changed because this revised Part L is emphasis on reducing heat loss through party walls, improve thermal bridging and to have a better system efficiency improvements (Hughes, 2010).

Table 2.5: New limiting U-Values – including for party walls

Source: (Hughes, 2010)

2.4.3 Climate Change Act 2008

Climate Change Act 2008 was an Act enforced by UK in regard of climate change. UK was the first country in the world to have a legally binding long-term framework to tackle with issue of global warming or climate change by reducing carbon emissions. Climate Change Act 2008 was that legally binding framework (Defra, 2010). The objectives of setting out such Act are to improve carbon management and create a low-carbon economy in UK and to show UK’s leadership internationally (Department of Energy & Climate Change, 2010). In order to implement and act as part of this Act, Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has been set up as an independent body. The CCC has recommended that the reduction targets for year 2050 targets should be raised from 60%. Therefore, according to the Act, at least 80% of reduction is required by year 2050 as compared to year 1990 levels (Committee on Climate Change, 2010). However, a reduction in emissions of at least 34% by year 2020 also needs to be achieved. On the other hand, several approach of managing and responding of climate change in UK have been created. Such approaches are:

“setting ambitious, legally binding targets, taking powers to help meet those targets, strengthening the institutional framework, enhancing the UK’s ability to adapt impact of climate change and establishing clear and regular accountability to the UK Parliament and to the developed legislatures.” (Department of Energy & Climate Change, 2010) Requirements under the Act

Besides, carbon budget needs to be prepared in every five years starting from year 2008 -2012. Part 1 for Climate Change Act 2008 states that the carbon budget for budgetary period until year 2020 must at least 26% lower than level in year 1990 and for budgetary period until year 2050, carbon budget must at least 80% lower than year 1990’s level. The purpose of having the carbon budget is to make sure that they are on the right track towards 2050 targets. Furthermore, risk assessment and plans to tackle with those risks needs to be carry out by public bodies and statutory as required by governments which obtain powers from the Act. On 30 September 2009, guidance been published by Defra for UK businesses and organizations in regard of ways to measure and report of their GHG emissions. After that on 1 October 2009, guidance has been issued by the government in regard of how companies should report on their GHG emissions. Then by 1 December 2010, contribution reporting that could lead to emissions reductions shall be review. Moreover, Companies Act 2008 could be applied by the governments for the purpose of making mandatory report or explanation on reasons of unfulfilling by 6 April 2012 (Department of Energy & Climate Change, 2010). Although emissions of CO2 is using year 1990 as a baseline, not all other GHG use the same baseline. Table 2.6 shows the base year for other GHG emissions.


Base year



nitrous oxide






sulphur hexafluoride


Table 2.6: Base years for targeted greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide

Source: (Climate Change Act, 2008)

2.4.4 Agenda 21 What is Agenda 21?

Due to global awareness, Agenda 21 was established at year 1992 by United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil which contain of four sections. It is a plan for having sustainable development in 21st century. Governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), industry and general public are encouraged to get involved. Besides, Agenda 21 also plays as a commitment that was agreed by many governments in the world. International Commission on sustainable Development will be monitored on countries that have pledged to take part in Agenda 21. Furthermore, those countries are also being encouraged to promote Agenda 21 at local and regional levels within their own countries. Agenda 21 is focusing on the conservation and preservation of environments and natural resources (Encyclopedia of the Atmospheric Environment, 2000). It has become an outline to tackle with nowadays environmental issues such as poverty and excessive consumptions, pollutions, deforestation and others. Local Agenda 21 in Hammersmith and Fulham

Local Agenda 21 (LA21) is a plan established by local authority following the objective of Agenda 21 which is sustainable development (Srinivas, 2010). For LA21 in Hammersmith and Fulham, the main concerns are on recycling or waste management, air quality of transport, sustainable economy, health or disability, biodiversity and the river thames or waterways. The main objective for Hammersmith and Fulham to adopt LA21 is to create a more sustainable lifestyle and to ensure the benefits of future generations would not be endanger by our decisions today. Besides, LA21 offers alternatives to solve against wrong ways of doing things nowadays such as throwing away piles of rubbish, wastage of resources, polluting air and others (Hammersmith and Fulham, 2005).

On the other hand, LA21 in Hammersmith and Fulham have six key elements which are:

To supervise and enhance the local authority’s own environmental performance. It can be done through assurance by corporate, training of staff and raised awareness, a system to manage environment and the like.

To integrate sustainable development aims into local authority’s policies and activities such as planning of land use, development


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