Emerging technologies for carbon reduction in building industry: Evidence from patent inventions
Authors: Lingyue Li
Abstract: According to the "Global Building Construction Industry Report" released by the United Nations Environment Programme, the carbon emissions generated by building operations alone have reached about 10 gigatonnes in 2021. With its rapid and large-scale urbanization, China is one of the main contributors to the global carbon emission. Decarbonization thus became the central task for China's building sector. Emerging technologies, especially digital technologies, provide the potential for building decarbonization, which is possibly realized through the full life cycle of buildings. Yet, understanding towards a localized innovation of these technologies and how they engage carbon reduction remains far from clear. Moreover, due to the large scale and massive nature of buildings, threshold of business applications of these emerging technologies is high thus discussed insufficiently. Draws on literature and expert review, this research discloses the linkage of 14 specific emerging technologies and building decarbonization in a full life-cycle (the planning, construction, use/operation and demolition phases) of buildings. Yangtze River Delta, one of the fastest urbanizing and largest market for building sector in China, is selected for observation. With an OT-matrix and over thousand sorted patent inventions, it identifies that contribution of the emerging technologies to building decarbonization is most secondary. Quite a few general-purpose technologies (e.g., blockchain, IoT), which possibly disrupt the industry fundamentally, are almost vacant. State owned enterprises are the main actors in the technology innovation, followed by university and public research institutions. There is a mixed location of downtown, periphery and outskirts characterizing the spatial pattern of these technologies. The findings help to recommend policy makers, firm managers, professionals and researchers in accessing and developing disruptive technologies for low carbon building industry, and promote business application in this field.
Keywords: emerging technology, building industry, carbon reduction, patent, Yangtze River Delta, China
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