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Building a Zero Carbon Ireland
Ossian Smyth TD, Minister of State with responsibility for Public Procurement, eGovernment and Circular Economy, and Pat Barry, CEO, Irish Green Building Council, as the IGBC launched the Building a Zero Carbon Ireland Roadmap (Pic: Marc O’Sullivan).

The Irish Green Building Council (IGBC) has launched the Roadmap to decarbonise Ireland’s construction and built environment sector.

Building a Zero-Carbon Ireland

According to the “Building a Zero Carbon Ireland” report, construction and the built environment account for 37% of Ireland’s carbon emissions, the same as agriculture. This is made up of about 23% operational emissions associated with the energy we use to heat, cool, and light our buildings, with the remaining 14% being accounted for by embodied carbon. Embodied emissions result from quarrying, transporting, and manufacturing building materials, in addition to constructing buildings and infrastructure.

Projections to 2030 show the national retrofit programme will lead to a significant decrease in emissions from operating buildings. However, new construction outlined in the National Development Plan and the Housing for All policy will likely negate these savings unless embodied emissions are fully addressed.

Pat Barry, CEO, IGBC, said: “The roadmap details a set of actions to halve our sector emissions by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2050. The first thing should be to prioritise what is being built to meet our housing, health, transport, and educational needs, without blowing our carbon budget. That means better using our existing stock, including vacant and derelict properties, and supporting high-quality, affordable retrofit at scale. It’s important to realise that the carbon emissions of a deep retrofit are, on average, a quarter of those of a new build.”

Embodied carbon

Barry added that when new buildings are designed and constructed, the focus should no longer be exclusively on energy efficiency. The decarbonisation of the grid will support the transition to net zero homes in operation, but embodied carbon is locked in as soon as a home is completed and cannot be retrofitted.

“All new homes must be highly energy efficient and deliver as per design, but the construction process itself must be low carbon. We must reduce embodied carbon emissions through better design and innovation so that low-carbon construction and materials become the norm. With 400,000 homes to be built in the next decade, we must do it rapidly.”

Speaking at the launch of the Roadmap to decarbonise Ireland’s construction and built environment sector, Ossian Smyth TD, Minister of State with Responsibility for Public Procurement, eGovernment and Circular Economy, said: “I welcome the publication of this roadmap which emphasises the importance of transitioning to circularity in construction if we are to reach our climate targets. A decarbonised, circular and resource-efficient built environment will not only help achieve our climate objectives but will generate business opportunities and support sustainable economic growth. I look forward to working with industry and key stakeholders on the roadmap delivery to ensure Ireland becomes a leader in circularity”.

The roadmap was developed in close cooperation with 200 key stakeholders. It proposes, among other things:

  • To regulate embodied carbon emissions in the built environment, as already done in several European countries
  • To further support affordable, high-quality energy renovations, including phased retrofits
  • To encourage the development of low-carbon construction processes and materials, including a greater use of biobased materials such as timber.
#BuildingLife aims to achieve the mix of private sector action and public policy necessary to tackle the whole-life impact of buildings. In Ireland, the project launched with the support of several high profile ambassadors.

About the Roadmap

The “Building a Zero Carbon Ireland” roadmap was developed by the Irish Green Building Council in close cooperation with over 200 key stakeholders. It sets out a detailed strategy towards a net zero carbon-built environment by 2050 and details a series of near-term actions to put the construction industry on a clear path towards this, as well as a range of further, longer-term actions to accelerate the transformation of our built environment. Similar roadmaps were developed in Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and the UK, as well as at European level. These will support the work of officials at local, national and EU levels. The roadmap was developed as part of the #BuildingLife Campaign and is available on the IGBC website.


The Building a Zero Carbon Ireland Roadmap is available at

Oonagh Reid

Oonagh Reid – Irish construction has the potential to be a sustainability pioneer

Arup director and IGBC #BuildingLife ambassador OONAGH REID speaks with Robbie Cousins about the challenges and opportunities she believes the Irish construction sector is facing in helping Ireland meet carbon emission reduction goals up to 2030 and beyond. Click here to read interview

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