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EIT Climate-KIC with Build By Nature to accelerate the transition to sustainable construction in cities

The built environment accounts for close to 40 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions globally. And with cities becoming increasingly populated and growing rapidly, there is an urgent need to make construction more sustainable by seeking alternative low-emission materials.

EIT Climate-KIC is partnering with Laudes Foundation’s Built by Nature to achieve just that, working with the cities of Milan and Madrid as testbeds for innovation.

Using a mass timber superstructure in buildings would not only require less steel and concrete but also deliver a lighter foundation, reducing building embodied emissions by almost a third, according to a study by EIT Climate-KIC partner Materials Economics. This presents a big opportunity for the construction sector to transition to more sustainable practices and have a positive impact on the planet and society.

To support this transition, Laudes Foundation has launched Built by Nature, a multi-million euro grant-making fund and network that aim to drive forward the timber building transformation and fully decarbonise the built environment – working with nature, not against it.

The initiative includes an accelerator fund to help businesses bring positive climate impact by developing solutions that scale up timber building from sustainably sourced forests. Additionally, a network is being launched that connects key actors across the built environment and forest communities through national and city networks and events. This will result in increased research, innovation and regulatory work needed to go beyond pilots and spark city-scale projects, and will amplify the stories of ground-breaking timber projects and solutions, changing perceptions around  construction with timber.

The initiative includes a range of partners enacting positive change such as Bauhaus der Erde, the Centre for Natural Material Innovation at the University of Cambridge, the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance (CNCA), Cities4Forests and EIT Climate-KIC.

EIT Climate-KIC joined Built by Nature through its “Healthy, Clean Cities: European Cities for Carbon-Neutral Construction” (HCC EU CINCO) project, working with developers, designers, investors, asset owners and insurers, alongside policymakers and city leaders in the municipalities of Milan and Madrid to shape the market for circular and bio-based embodied carbon neutral buildings.

The project integrates the systemic approach of EIT Climate-KIC’s Deep Demonstration methodology, bringing transdisciplinary, cross-cutting alignment towards shared societal goals, with the objective to:

  • Reduce Scope 3 emissions from the production of materials in buildings and infrastructure
  • Better integrate circularity principles in the built environment
  • Redesign supply chains in two regeneration projects in the cities to increase use of bio-based materials, sequester carbon, and replace more carbon-intensive
  • Ensure collective learning, so that the two participating cities, Milan and Madrid, share knowledge and experience.

“Cities are complex systems in which policy, capital, and project scales all interact. We cannot ask cities to embrace net zero ambitions if we are not prepared to offer them the capabilities and resources to drive systems-level changes. Doing that demands that we push boundaries with businesses, finance partners, and city governments simultaneously. In this context, Built by Nature is a convening and funding power that will enable a revolution in the way we think about innovation for climate action. One of the most interesting things we are learning is that once this approach begins, it leads to actions no one could have anticipated before we started. We cannot state strongly enough that the path to net-zero carbon requires a focus on innovation shaped to learn about what we do not yet know, rather than trying to do what we already know as fast as we can.” 

Kirsten Dunlop, CEO, EIT Climate-KIC