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Photo showing aerial view of roof gardens. By Chuttersnap via Unsplash

Policy challenge

The Hub provides resources to support policymakers across the world to transform the construction industry in line with the Paris Agreement, the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, the New Urban Agenda, and the Buildings Breakthrough target.

The built environment sector has the potential to achieve rapid decarbonization by supporting various stakeholders across the entire life cycle of materials, including international supply chains. To optimize building material decarbonization, specific policies should be tailored to the context. Six key strategies are essential for decarbonization: setting higher building code standards, legislating circularity throughout the life cycle, promoting the use of low-carbon, bio-based materials, improving access to data and life-cycle analysis, addressing gender imbalances in the built environment, and demonstrating public sector leadership in finance and procurement.

More specifically, as laid out in the UNFCCC-MPGCA Human Settlements Climate Action Pathway, which aims to guide and drive implementation of the Paris Agreement, two goals for decarbonisation of buildings are in place that the Hub aims to support:


By 2030, the built environment should halve its emissions, whereby 100 per cent of new buildings must be net-zero carbon in operation, with widespread energy efficiency retrofit of existing assets well underway, and embodied carbon must be reduced by at least 40 per cent, with leading projects achieving at least 50 per cent reductions in embodied carbon.


By 2050 at the latest, all new and existing assets must be net zero across the whole lifecycle, including operational and embodied emissions.

Various policies have been proposed and implemented in some countries to speed this transition towards the above targets. Policies may target a specific phase of the building life cycle, but strategies should consider a range of interventions that address the full life cycle. Early adopters of policies can provide valuable experiences for wider roll-out in other countries. Resources in the Hub provide examples, learnings and ideas of policies in the following areas:

  • Implementing building codes and embodied carbon limits for materials
  • Incentivising more sustainable approaches to construction, such as material re-use, circular design and off-site manufacture
  • Mandating different construction activity where this is possible - e.g. renovation over new construction, deconstruction over demolition
  • Improving and incentivising green certifications for buildings and materials

Resources are included  to address a range of key policy challenges related to building materials. Alongside embodied and operational carbon and circularity, resources are included that can also tackle issues related to chemicals and health, climate adaptation, poverty alleviation through housing, land-use and biodiversity, and responsible material sourcing. 

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This whitepaper focuses on the tradeoff between operational savings and embodied carbon, which are resulting from retrofit activities. The research presented in this report marks the starting point to shed a light on the relevance of embodied-carbon emissions resulting from energetic retrofits.


This tool allows architects and designers to analyze and estimate the carbon equivalent of emissions associated with all aspects of the project. The Zero Carbon Tool gives an overall picture of how key decisions made at early stages of design can impact the project's total carbon use.


Whole life carbon assessment 2nd edition will enable professionals to make prudent decisions to limit the whole life carbon impact of buildings and infrastructure. It facilitates carbon measurement from the production of construction materials to the design, construction and eventual end of life of built assets.


Plastic pollution and climate change are serious and interconnected threats to public and planetary health, as well as major drivers of global social injustice. Prolific use of plastics in the construction industry is likely a key contributor, resulting in burgeoning efforts to promote the recycling or downcycling of used plastics.


This work highlights the reactivity of soda-lime glass powder on cement CEM IV-B-L 32.5R. Three colors of soda lime glass were used with varying amount of powder from 0 to 35 wt%. The water demand for standard consistency have increased from 28.40 to 45.93 wt%. The compressive strength increased from 26.46 to 31.66 MPa and the flexural strength also increased from 5.89 to 7.14 MPa after 28 days. The optimal value of 10 wt% of glass powder gave the maximum value of mechanical strength at 28 days.


This report highlights the urgent need to develop new models for cooperation on the decarbonisation of building materials, if the world is to reach its goals for net zero emissions from the built environment sector by the mid-century.


Procedure to record building materials as a base to evaluate the potential for a high-quality reutilization prior to demolition and renovation work (pre-demolition audit).

Text in German and English.


Construction and Demolition Waste (CDW) is by volume the largest waste stream in the European Union. Although a vast majority of CDW is recyclable and reusable, one of the common barriers to recycling and reuse of CDW is the lack of confidence in the quality of recovered materials and components.


Developed by Brussels Environment, the Reversible Design Checklist is a voluntary design tool which aims to help building owners and designers in Brussels to create reversible and circular buildings.

The Checklist is available in:


Until recently, little attention has been paid to the carbon impacts of the construction and refurbishing of buildings, with the majority of focus on their operational performance. Yet our buildings are constructed using materials, components, and products. These materials have to be extracted from the ground or grown, transported to a facility for processing, transported again to be transformed into a product, and finally transported to a construction site.