Changing Real Estate’s Carbon Footprint with Data as a Guide

Carbon Footprint Industry Construction US cities

Production of cement, concrete, and steel for construction contribute one third of those emissions, while operational carbon released during heating, cooling, and electricity accounts for the rest.

In many US cities, lawmakers have announced ambitious targets to achieve net zero (a balance between the greenhouse gas that’s produced and the amount that’s removed from the atmosphere) in the next few decades. This puts real estate leaders under pressure to help meet these targets while still making a profit. An abundance of technological innovations and incentive programs are available, but adoption by the real estate industry remains low due to barriers such as a lack of reliable information and confusion about upfront costs.

“My work focuses on how to accelerate the adoption of all the new decarbonization technologies and how to improve the resilience towards climate risks in the real estate industry, how to identify the barriers and create new policy or market mechanisms to speed up this sustainable transformation,” says Siqi Zheng, the STL Champion Professor of Urban and Real Estate Sustainability in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning and faculty director of the MIT Center for Real Estate and the MIT Sustainable Urbanization Lab.

Zheng’s work in this area with the Center for Real Estate is supported by an MIT Fast Forward Faculty grant created by the MIT Climate Nucleus to catalyze interdisciplinary teams of climate and sustainability leaders from across the Institute.

“The real estate industry is so huge and so traditional,” says Zheng. “From development to asset management, and to investment, practitioners hadn’t really put the climate issue onto their ‘most important’ agenda.”

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