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CII's Role in the Decarbonization of Capital Projects

January 17, 2023 | Sustainability, Environmental & Security

Dear CII Members,

Throughout the 2022-23 ideation process, and looking at the feedback received by the CII Board of Advisors and other committee engagements, decarbonization has been identified as a strategically important area for CII members. As a result, we intend to make decarbonization a prioritized area in 2023.

Based on input from CII members, we can see two different threads in a roadmap for addressing decarbonization in the capital projects delivery:

  1. Decarbonization in the construction phase

  2. Decarbonization of assets/facilities and industrial/manufacturing processes

At the CII Fall 2022 Board meeting, our board members steered CII to focus on decarbonization in the construction phase. Therefore, we are planning to launch a new research team that will investigate practices and standards to address decarbonization in the construction phase. We have invited Dr. Fernanda Leite, with the University of Texas at Austin, to lead this research initiative. Dr. Leite has an extensive background in research related to sustainability, including her leadership of our research on circular economy (RT-380); her leadership in the creation of UT’s Sustainable Systems graduate program; her participation in Planet Texas 2050, a University of Texas at Austin 10-year grand challenge initiative focused on urban resilience; and her current involvement in a Department of Energy (DOE)-funded center focused on better understanding projected climate impacts across Southeast Texas in a way that is generalizable to other regions and on co-designing climate resilient infrastructure.

Because carbon emissions resulting from the construction process are small compared to emissions related to the production of materials and operation of facilities, it is important to advance the decarbonization of materials manufacturing and operations as well as the manufacturing processes. Although some of these aspects are not a current CII core competency, there are ways in which CII can consider advancing the topicss. See the table below describing potential CII activities over the coming years. CII members have an opportunity to advance decarbonization by properly addressing it in the design/engineering and construction phases, as well as in operations. CII can also collaborate with other organizations to capture and disseminate technologies and trends in the decarbonization of manufacturing processes.

Some questions that we may address in collaborations and future activities, such as those described in the table above, are as follows:

  1. What new types of projects and new project demands are emerging from current decarbonization efforts?

  2. What decarbonization technologies are emerging across different industry sectors that are likely to be adopted in projects and affect the delivery of capital projects?

  3. What is the role of capital delivery in disseminating and adopting decarbonization technologies? How can capital project organization/teams drive the adoption of new technologies (for instance, being able to report cost/benefit and feasibility analysis)?

  4. What do these new technologies mean in terms of management practices? Will current practices require modification, or can they be applied as they are currently?

Future CII research can expand from the scope of the initial research for the construction phase by addressing engineering practices decarbonization in facility operations.

We also anticipate that other initiatives may be created in parallel with the initial construction phase research project. CII is currently considering an event for those interested in creating a broader vision for our decarbonization initiatives beyond the initial research project. Also, CII may consider creating a specific group to be the home of decarbonization discussion – leveraging the Community for Business Advancement model. The initial research may help set the foundation for an effective CII decarbonization community.

Thank you for your interest in this important CII topic, as we are looking forward to working with our members on decarbonization-related initiatives. 

Daniel Pinho de Oliveira, Ph.D.
Interim Director of Operations and Associate Director for Funded Studies
Construction Industry Institute
The University of Texas at Austin
Office: (512) 232-3050|Fax: (512) 499-8101
Fernanda Leite, Ph.D., P.E., F.ASCE
Professor & John A. Focht Centennial Teaching Fellow in Civil Engineering
The University of Texas at Austin