In the era of escalating environmental consciousness, businesses within the architecture and design sector are taking proactive measures to curtail their carbon footprint and embrace sustainable practices. DECO Australia, a leading specialist supplier of architectural aluminium building products and finishes, has long been at the forefront of these efforts, and their recent resolution further cements their commitment to environmental agenda. In an industry-defying move, the Australian manufacturer has partnered with Capral Aluminium to switch all their Capral aluminium supply to the lower-carbon option, LocAl® Green. This decision elevates DECO as the first major building products manufacturer to make the transition to the environmentally forward alternative, and sets a new standard for the building industry.

DECO has consistently demonstrated a commitment to innovation and market leadership in the realm of aluminium building products. Recognising the paramount importance of sustainability, they wasted no time engaging with Capral, a pioneer in lower carbon aluminium in Australia, when the LocAl® offer was first introduced in November 2022.

“We are continuously looking to improve our responsible material sourcing and this agreement with Capral Aluminium will assist in reducing the emissions intensity of one of our major material inputs.”

says Richard Hamber, General Manager DECO Australia. “The switch to LocAl® Green aluminium will also directly support our customers across the architectural and building industries by supplying aluminium building products made from responsibly sourced, lower-carbon aluminium, helping them to achieve their own sustainable initiatives and outcomes.“

DECO’s pivotal decision has the potential to save up to 4,400 tonnes of carbon annually, which equates to offsetting the emission of over 1000 cars, planting 110,000 trees – or providing clean drinking water for 10,000 people. These striking examples illustrate the tremendous environmental impact sustainable procurement choices can achieve.

The carbon emissions of aluminium production predominantly stem from the electrolysis process used in aluminium smelting. Currently, the global average carbon emission for primary aluminium hovers around 16.8 kg CO2e/kg Al. However, the LocAl® Green offer stands out with only 8 kg CO2e/kg Al, representing a remarkable 50% reduction compared to the global average. This substantial reduction in carbon emissions positions DECO as a trailblazer in the industry, setting a new benchmark for sustainable aluminium procurement.

The decision to embrace LocAl® Green undoubtedly aligns with DECO's ongoing sustainability framework, which emphasises reducing carbon emissions throughout the business and product range. By choosing the environmentally forward alternative, the company is supporting responsible procurement and sustainability initiatives as well as meeting the growing demand from customers for better sustainable outcomes in the architectural and building industry.

This shift is even more meaningful in light of the upcoming changes to the State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP), which sets new standards for energy, water and thermal performance of new homes, and extends BASIX environmental rating standards to some non-residential buildings for the first time. It also introduces new requirements to measure and report embodied carbon across a number of building types, using Green Star and NABERS rating tools.

Following a one-year transition period designed to allow the development and construction sectors to adjust to the new standards, the policy package will take effect on the 1st of October 2023. The NSW Government estimates that the new requirements will save an additional 1.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year by 2030, and the changes to BASIX are part of a wider effort by the NSW government to reduce the state's emissions and transition to a net zero carbon future.

It’s a momentous shift because the NSW planning system hasn’t historically had rules pertaining to the operational carbon emission. With that in mind, it is more important than ever to choose lower-carbon materials wherever possible. With its strength, durability and versatility, aluminium is one of the most favoured materials in the building and construction industry – and it is already a highly valuable contributor to the circular economy. Its lightweight nature reduces transportation emissions, its highly durable profile minimises the need for maintenance or replacement, and its recyclability reduces the need for new production. In fact, according to the International Aluminium Institute, 75% of all the aluminium ever produced is still in productive use, having been through countless loops of its lifecycle. As a result, using aluminium in construction can help reduce embodied carbon footprint of buildings significantly, and it’s expected to be a crucial participant in the carbon-constrained future.

Lower-carbon aluminium manufacturing produces even fewer greenhouse gases than traditional aluminium production, and it is also more energy-efficient, which can help boost the environmental profile of the project while reducing operating costs of buildings and other structures. With the introduction of DECO's lower-carbon architectural building products and systems, architects, designers and specifiers can reduce carbon footprints in a broad range of projects even further to ensure their projects meet stricter energy efficiency and sustainability standards brought on by the BASIX changes, while providing other environmental benefits.

LocAl® Green’s environmental potential is further augmented by the fact that specifying aluminium that is certified by a third-party organisation is another way to reduce embodied or total carbon emission on a project. There are a number of third-party organisations that certify aluminium products that meet certain environmental standards, such as the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI). DECO and Capral are both proud members of ASI, a global non-profit organisation that promotes the responsible procurement and sustainable production of aluminium. ASI's robust standards and transparent practices ensure that aluminium products meet the highest environmental and social standards, and the primary aluminium sourced by Capral under the LocAl® brand is exclusively from Aluminium Stewardship Initiative (ASI) certified smelters.

DECO’s efforts signify an enormous step in the transition towards a more sustainable building industry. By prioritising the use of lower-carbon aluminium, DECO certainly demonstrate their dedication to reducing the embodied carbon emissions associated with their products, spearheading change and inspiring others in the industry to follow suit.

But DECO’s decision also serves as an exemplary model of how businesses can proactively contribute to mitigating climate change while maintaining supplier relationships. In fact, this bold – and much needed – move unmistakably demonstrates that making sustainable choices is not an isolated endeavour. It’s contingent on like-minded partners, suppliers, and manufacturers striving to effect tangible change, and as DECO begins to receive their supply of LocAl® Green from June, they invite the wider industry to embrace the same ethos.