Potentials and Barriers of Establishing a Carbon Labelling System for the Construction Industry

S. Thomas Ng, James M. W. Wong and Kate Y. Chen

Department of Civil Engineering, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong.


Reducing the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is an important mission of every individual and enterprise, and the construction industry has an indispensible role to play in cutting down on the emission level. A possible strategy to minimise the output of GHG in the construction field is through more prudent selection of construction materials. Currently, construction stakeholders would focus primarily on selecting those materials which minimise the energy consumption and hence reduce the GHG emissions during the operation stage. However, GHG is released throughout the manufacturing, transportation and installation processes. Therefore, it is necessary to examine the life-cycle GHG emissions of construction materials if we were to maximise the opportunity for emission control and reductions. A practical mechanism to provide construction stakeholders with an easy to understand indication about the life-cycle GHG emission level of a construction material is through carbon labelling. Carbon labelling has been widely applied to the car and food industries. Yet, the concept has received little attention by the construction sector. Given the practical values of having a carbon labelling system, it is desirable to uncover what deters the development and use of such a system. The aim of this study is to identify the potentials and barriers of establishing a carbon labelling framework for the construction industry. The paper first investigates the carbon labelling concepts in other industries. It is followed by a discussion on the likely form(s) in which a carbon labelling system for construction materials will take. The factors hindering the development of a carbon labelling scheme in the construction industry is then highlighted. The way forward for establishing a carbon labelling system concludes the paper.

Keywords: Greenhouse gases, Carbon footprint, Construction industry, Carbon labelling.

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