Few studies focused on carbon emission performance measurement can be identified in current research. This paper presents a measurement that evaluates carbon emission performance in a total factor production framework. The Malmquist index based on Data Envelopment Analysis and sequential benchmark technology is used to quantify the performance. Sensitivity analysis on the basis of lower bound DEA models is to test the performance results. Moreover, in order to develop the performance, driving forces for the performance changes, including technological change, pure technical efficiency change and scale efficiency change, are discussed. The Australian construction industry during the period 1990–2013 is employed as an example to measure the performance which has improved from 1990 to 2013, primarily resulting from technological and scale efficiency improvements. Technology benchmarks are then identified according to a series of conditions. It would be a feasible practice to further promote performance through enhancing pure technical efficiency and learning low-carbon construction techniques from the technology benchmarks in the Australian construction industry. The approach developed in this study is generic and could measure, benchmark and evaluate performance especially for undesirable outputs, and then to identify the driving forces for improving performance.