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Decarbonisation: Closing the gap between goal and action

Joe Speicher

Design-and-make companies are prioritising decarbonisation to undo climate damage, providing a model for others to step up their own initiatives

In association with
Employees at construction-technology company Factory_OS in Vallejo, California assemble modular homes at the company’s warehouse.
Employees at construction-technology company Factory_OS in Vallejo, California assemble modular homes at the company’s warehouse.
This is an edited excerpt from an article published on Design & Make With Autodesk, a site dedicated to inspiring construction, manufacturing, engineering and design leaders. Read the full article here.
I believe climate change can be solved. I know this is a controversial statement, but it’s true. Almost all the technological innovations needed to reduce carbon emissions across the global economy already exist.
The real challenge lies in helping the design, manufacturing, construction and asset-management industries to adopt the technologies and processes necessary to deliver the right data to the right decision-makers at the right time. 
Doing this will address the second challenge: the high costs associated with adopting innovations. Industries must invest in strategies that reduce these costs - carbon removals, battery storage, environmental product declaration (EPD) databases, and so forth - so they can be easily incorporated by all. 
Historically, built environment and manufacturing processes yield a high degree of greenhouse gas emissions. Together, they are responsible for roughly 58 per cent of total global emissions per year (about 38 and 20 per cent, respectively).
Greenhouse gas emissions lead to higher temperatures associated with climate change, which eventually increase the frequency and severity of climatic events.
As people know all too well, forest fires, hurricanes, typhoons, floods, and the risks associated with increasing temperatures, have significant impacts on the lives of all humanity. When society is not doing well, business doesn’t do well, so it’s in everyone’s interest to prioritise addressing this issue.

Autodesk’s customers design and make things in the physical world. The design and make industries - including architecture, engineering and construction and design and manufacturing - are under increasing pressure to decarbonise. Decarbonisation is essentially the removal of greenhouse gas emissions associated with anything, whether it’s an asset or process.

In construction, this could mean calculating embodied carbon in building materials during the design process to make better choices for the life of the asset. In manufacturing, it could be handing tasks to artificial intelligence-powered tools to automate processes, which can speed up time to market, cut energy use and reduce errors and waste.
Using the power of technology is the most meaningful and cost-effective way to achieve this. Technology allows designers, manufacturers, construction professionals and asset owners to measure carbon emissions and make data-driven decisions that improve sustainability at both project and operational levels. 
First priority: Getting the right mindset
Autodesk has pulled together sustainability insights from more than 600 industry leaders in a report called Autodesk's 2023 State of Design & Make Special Edition: Spotlight on Decarbonisation.
It found:
  • 89 per cent of companies believe decarbonisation is important to their business, but that isn't matched by action on the ground. 
  • Nearly 80 per cent of companies said the availability of decarbonisation tools is low and only 47 per cent have a process in place to discover those tools.

So there’s an awareness problem as well as an implementation challenge. To begin to bridge this gap, there must be a shift in mindset.

There are rewards for companies that choose to prioritise sustainability. They include using sustainability as a competitive differentiator; reducing the costs associated with energy and material usage; and, ultimately, managing the risks of with inaction. This journey is long and requires buy-in at all levels of an organisation.

Read the full article here

Discover the Autodesk 2023 State of Design & Make Annual Global Report

For more information and technical support, visit


Joe Speicher is chief sustainability officer at Autodesk.


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