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Scoping Out the Path to Absolute Zero: How we plan to tackle Scope 3

  • 22 Mar 2023
  • by
  • Sara Neff
Lendlease’s Head of Sustainability for the Americas, Sara Neff, recently detailed the company’s approach to chipping away at real estate’s 40% share of global carbon emissions.

Sara's article, “Scoping Out the Path to Absolute Zero”, appeared in The US Green Building Council (USGBC) Los Angeles chapter blog. An independent non-profit organization, USGBC-LA’s mission is to leverage the built environment as the entry point to transform Southern California into a more sustainable region for all through equitable and inclusive access to knowledge, technology, resources, and networking. Lendlease is aggressively reducing carbon emissions at 3401 S. La Cienega Blvd. in Los Angeles, a transit-oriented, mixed-use project we are co-developing with Aware Super. Like all Lendlease developments, the La Cienega project will be designed to achieve LEED Gold or higher (the residential portion is pursuing LEED Gold and the office portion LEED Platinum), and the use of reduced-carbon construction materials will help us get there.

In her article, Sara says the best approach to chipping away at real estate’s 40% share of global carbon emissions is more uptake of net zero strategies.

Lendlease has committed to achieving Net Zero by 2025 for Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions. Our Scope 1 emissions include the fuels we burn such as diesel and natural gas, and our Scope 2 emissions are from the electricity we use.

Our Regional Mission Zero Roadmap sets out initiatives in our key decarbonisation pathways. Typical Lendlease Scope 1 and 2 reduction activities include electrifying buildings and construction equipment, installing energy efficient mechanical systems, and procuring renewable power.

La Cienega will be an all-electric building, meaning there will be no gas service for heating, cooking or any other action in any of the building’s 260 residences or across the 250,000 square feet of office space. We are also installing on-site renewables. During the construction process, we will reduce Scope 1 emissions through the use of electric cranes and other heavy machinery. We will address Scope 2 emissions through renewable power procurement. But at Lendlease we go far beyond net zero targets. As part of our Mission Zero campaign, Lendlease has committed to achieving Absolute Zero across Scopes 1, 2, and 3 by 2040, without the use of offsets. Reducing Scope 3 emissions to Absolute Zero will be challenging but we believe focusing on Scope 3 emissions can become a lever to accelerate the decarbonization of our industry.

Our Scope 3 emissions are generated in upstream activities, such as the manufacturing of building materials or downstream activities, such as emissions from the use of electricity and natural gas by tenants. To tackle Scope 3 emissions, we will have to take a different approach to design and construction processes as well as to the procurement of key materials such as steel, concrete, aluminium, and glass.

Part of the difficulty with Scope 3 is that the GHG Reporting Protocol is very broad and open to interpretation. Without local or federal regulatory guidance, it’s currently up to organizations to decide what is included in Scope 3. Because disclosure frameworks do not currently focus on Scope 3 emissions, it’s even harder for real estate companies to start making lasting and meaningful progress in this space.

So, how do we tackle Scope 3 emissions? We have been, and must continue to be, leaders in procuring lower-carbon materials, including steel and concrete, which both have incredibly carbon-intensive manufacturing processes. At La Cienega, we worked closely with our supply chain partners to procure low carbon concrete and steel for the project. And, for the first time at Lendlease, we have addressed embodied carbon in the design of the project by switching the structural design from a prescriptive to a performance-based approach to seismic.

Climate change is a global issue, so it will take a global mindset to combat it. Lendlease strives to be a catalyst for radical collaboration across the real estate and construction sectors to accelerate the speed and scale of decarbonization. Only by tracking and measuring all sources of emissions along the value chain will we be able to reduce the built environment’s carbon footprint.