Chapter 7
Make carbon visible through improved data access and quality
Make carbon visible through improved data access and quality
Adapt norms and standards to allow for the use of alternative or lower-carbon building materials and construction practices
Accelerate the industry transition
Ensure a just transition
Strengthen international action and collaboration for collective impact

Ensure a just transition

7.5.1 Couple social and environmental justice in developing ethical decarbonisation policies.

A just transition means that the benefits of a green economy are widely shared across all sectors of society, ultimately advancing all of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Increasing stakeholder engagement and cooperation across the lifecycle, from producers to demolition companies, is critical to ensuring a just transition. However, a coherent climate mitigation strategy must be coupled with assertive regulation of labour markets, and without it a just transition could fail, as multiple building material sectors are already some of the highest-at-risk for forced and unjust labour practices.

The transition to bio-based and circular material economies may exacerbate these risks across the supply chain, especially in informal economies where building codes are extremely difficult to enforce. Therefore, it is crucial that governments seise the opportunity of coupling social and environmental justice with fair and visible labelling and certification processes to raise awareness among consumers, since the two issues combined may ultimately have greater market ‘pull’ than either issue labelled separately.

Key Action

Engage stakeholders across the supply chain by funding just transition programs, labelling and certification.

Anticipate and fund problem areas for a just transition, particularly in conventional high-carbon material sectors.

Highlight and encourage the resolution of existing inequities.

Promote the widespread use of Just Transition planning Toolkits such as by Climate Investment Funds and Design for Freedom.

Support industry to secure workers and their communities affected by downscaling of conventional processes and encourage synergies with new opportunities and replacement methods that are biobased or circular.

Encourage inclusive and transparent planning.

7.5.2  Tackle Gender Bias in Both Formal and Informal Building Sectors

Sustainable Development Goal 5 is dedicated to ending gender inequality that creates impediments to effective sustainable development. As outlined in the 2022 report of the United Nations Secretary-General, better environmental outcomes can be attained through achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in the context of climate change and disaster risk reduction policies. Increased participation of women in decision-making and management of regional natural resources can result in more inclusive and equitable governance as well as more favourable conservation outcomes (United Nations 2022b). There are opportunities to address gender and minority inequalities across the building lifecycle including land use, planning, design, construction, management and end-of-life (see Annex 7).

Although gender bias is prevalent across the built environment sector, it tends to manifest differently across regions. In the formal sectors, the two principal issues to act on are: 1) closing the large gender pay gaps that persist across architecture, engineering and construction industries, (AIA, 2020) and 2) addressing the dominance of men in senior decision-making and administrative roles. In many informal construction sectors, women’s economic contribution to settlements remains unpaid, unrecognised and undervalued. Women are often employed in the most hazardous, labour-intensive and low-paying jobs, with gender pay gaps ranging from 30 per cent to 50 per cent (Baruah 2010).

Key Action

Close the gender pay gap and improve working conditions.

Incentivise gender inclusion in government contracts and prioritise project approvals for companies that promote women to leadership positions.

Create investment funds for female career innovation and promote skill development among casual labour.

Enforce national and municipal regulations for safety and improved working conditions at construction sites.

7.5.3 Improve the training and capacity building offer for stakeholders along the whole supply chain, in both the public and private sector

The success of government policies, financial incentives, regulations, and schemes in reducing carbon and improving the resilience of the building sector will depend on the availability of a skilled workforce to implement these changes. The shortage of “green-collar” professionals with cutting-edge skills in energy efficiency, low carbon engineering, and skilled construction labour has been identified in a number of countries as a major obstacle in implementing national strategies to cut greenhouse gas emissions or address environmental changes (International Labour Organisation, 2011).

Overall, the challenge of promoting and implementing high performing buildings lies in the transition from traditional construction practices to sustainable alternatives and the lack of skills is considered a bottleneck for the growth of a low carbon building sector.

Key Action

Embed environmental sustainability, resource efficiency and climate resilience within all mainstream learning, including national curricula, apprenticeships, degrees and professional qualifications.

Promote awareness among building design professionals of alternative low-carbon construction materials and components (both virgin and recycled materials).

Include training as an integral component of national building and construction sector strategy, involving industry and social partners in the design and delivery of training, combining practical and theoretical knowledge, and targeting initiatives towards migrant and informal workers as well as small construction businesses.

Enhance knowledge sharing, foster collaborative curriculum development, encourage experiential learning and exchange programs, strengthen partnership and resource sharing, provide more technical assistance and capacity building support, as well as funding and incentives.