Talks of decarbonization in residential buildings have flooded the public consciousness. Look to all the conversations surrounding removing natural gas and heating oil from the home, the discussions around building materials. For the longest time technology was only ever looked at for its efficiency, but with embodied carbon and recyclability being scrutinized elsewhere, it stands to reason tech will eventually be looked at in the same way.
As more builders, designers and architects look to differentiate themselves through decarbonization, being able to make a strong contribution becomes more valued. Then, as integrators collaborate more and more with these professionals, being able to better support their goals may even open the door to certain opportunities on projects in the future.
On this topic, CE Pro recently had the opportunity to speak with Susan Rochford, VP of Energy Efficiency, Sustainability & Public Policy, Legrand North America to see the company’s own efforts in decarbonization, as well as what integrators can start looking out for in the sustainability credentials of the products they offer. The full conversation has been transcribed below.
CE Pro: What are your predictions for consumer/regulatory trends when it comes to sustainability in the built environment?
Rochford: Embodied carbon in the built environment is gaining traction and is steadily becoming a part of the sustainability conversation. Embodied carbon of building materials constitutes 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions – a significant contributor that cannot be overlooked for decarbonization efforts.
With this awareness, Legrand has adopted an eco-design approach to its new product development process, making it possible for us to understand the environmental impacts of our products throughout their lifecycle.
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We understand that the material choices we make impact the environmental profile of the products we offer to our customers. And when we succeed in reducing carbon emissions in our own operations, and in our transportation, we are effectively reducing the embodied carbon within our products.
As reducing the environmental footprint of buildings is linked to choices made during the design stage, it is important that designers and installers are informed of the environmental impact of the products they choose to install in their building projects. That’s why Legrand publishes recognized product transparency documents (PEPs, HPDs, Declare Labels) for nearly three-quarters of its products as measured in revenue.
CE Pro: What is your company doing to drive down its own carbon emissions moving forward?
Rochford: Legrand stepped up to the climate challenge in 2016 when we pledged to reduce our organizational carbon emissions in accordance with the Science Based Targets Initiative. Our commitment is ambitious. We have effectively pledged to decarbonize across all our business activities by 2050.
This will entail action on many fronts – how we operate, how we source, how we design our products and how we procure electricity.
This year alone, Legrand North & Central America (LNCA) has entered into supply agreements for 100% renewable electricity at three of our United States sites and are evaluating opportunities to install rooftop solar panels at 12 of our North American sites.
In 2019, we began transitioning our North American fleet of automobiles from gas-powered to fully electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and we expect to complete this transition by the end of 2023.
Through our actions on multiple fronts since 2018, Legrand Group has reduced its direct CO2 emissions on a constant basis by 28%.
CE Pro: What is your advice for professionals looking to incorporate more sustainable measures into their practices?
Rochford: For any professional, it would be beneficial for them to support those manufacturers that are making the effort to improve their products and provide transparency. For the A&D industry there are key platforms, like Mindful Materials, which give visibility to products that divulge such information. If everyone supports and utilizes these resources, they will enable a faster transition to more sustainable buildings.