Decarbonizing the Built Environment: Upcycling, Materials and Innovation

Session: Track G: Vertical Sustainability: Design and Engineering for the Environment

Frank CerraProject image

Frank Cerra
Managing Director, BG&E

At BG&E, we strive to help our clients fulfil their obligations by reducing the embodied carbon on some projects by up to 55 percent. We explore the various stages of design and specification, selection and supply of materials, manufacturing and transportation of materials, construction methods and assessing re-use possibilities. We have an opportunity to pivot the focus away from popular methods of reducing embodied carbon by materials selection/use in isolation and broaden thinking towards innovative design and clever engineering. However, this should be coupled with using the most advanced materials, which may at times, be a combination of conventional and unconventional.

In Sydney, upcycling is gaining traction, with the iconic Quay Quarter Tower (QQT). The sustainability strategy for this circa 1970 building involved upcycling an existing 50-story skyscraper, retaining a high percent of the tower’s beams, columns and slabs, and its existing core which resulted in an embodied carbon savings of over 12,079 tons. QQT demonstrates that demolition need not be the favored option for creating a world-class development.

While upcycling is an effective design option, we also advocate achieving structural efficiency as it provides rewards in terms of efficient and sustainable design and materials use. SmartCrete, one of Australia’s Cooperative Research Centres and which BG&E has a formal partnership with, promotes scientific and engineering research for the concrete industry.

As professionals in the built environment, we have a responsibility to mitigate climate change and greenhouse gases when shaping and supporting communities. Decarbonizing construction and the built environment is becoming our new normal, it’s something we do as engineers, architects, urban designers, planners and scientists, to fulfil our duty to society.