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Adopting existing tech will slash built environment emissions

19th June 2023

Existing technologies could more than halve emissions from the built environment by 2030, claims McKinsey.

The consultant’s Building value by decarbonising the built environment report identifies several business opportunities across the value chain that which it says could lead to cost-effective decarbonisation. The report examined more than 1,000 “levers” for decarbonisation and found 22 which could “potentially reduce overall emissions from the built environment by up to 75% if implemented at scale in the next five to ten years”.

Many of the technologies are already cost-effective, some are slightly more expensive and others require investment and scale to be cost-effective.

Erik Sjödin, partner at McKinsey & Company said: “The report highlights potential pathways to decarbonise the built environment and presents many proven and available technologies and solutions that companies in the ecosystem can implement today, and often cost-effectively. 

“We have aimed to focus on some of the largest opportunities that industry players could realise by scaling production, building future operating models, and developing skills and expertise across the value-chain.”

For example, McKinsey reports that 75% of emissions from multifamily residential assets come from space and water heating and claims these can be reduced by 60% using heat pumps. The report claims the cost of heat pumps is already no greater than the alternatives. Using another eight levers, including high-efficiency insulation and smart thermostats, could abate 90% of operational emissions from multifamily assets.

The report notes that scaling up remains a significant challenge to decarbonising technologies. “No matter their abatement potential, if decarbonisation levers and solutions cannot be produced and implemented at scale, ecosystem players will not be able to realize their full impact,” the report says.

McKinsey suggests that cooperation, even amongst competitors, will be critical for success. For example, real estate developers collectively using low carbon materials would create demand, enabling investment and innovation.

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