Are the Greenhouse Gas Implications of New Residential Developments Understood Wrongly?
Built environment carbon reduction strategies materialize predominantly in city-level greenhouse gas (GHG) management, where new residential development appears as one of the key instruments. However, city-level assessments are often incapable of producing data at a community or neighborhood level and thus they may heavily underestimate the emissions from new construction. This paper explores the implications of low-energy residential construction as an instrument of climate change mitigation in the built environment and demonstrates why city-level approaches easily fail to identify the significance of the emissions from construction. We employ a hybrid life cycle assessment (LCA) approach to demonstrate that, when the temporal allocation of emissions from the construction and use phases is taken into account, construction phase emissions come to have a central role in finding effective GHG mitigation strategies—even when the emissions from all consumption activities during the use phase are included in the assessment. In fact, their role would seem to be so central that new residential construction cannot be utilized as an instrument of city carbon management, even over a relatively long period. While we analyze a case study from Finland, the analysis intends to highlight the situation throughout the globe.
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