How sustainable architecture could help reduce global emissions


Amid efforts to reduce the carbon footprint associated with the construction industry, the benefits of sustainable and regenerative architecture as a means of reducing emissions are increasingly being recognized.

The construction sector is one of the biggest polluters in the world. According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) 2019 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction, the sector is responsible for nearly 40% of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.

Against this background, sustainable architecture has been increasingly used in recent years.

Although definitions vary somewhat, sustainable architecture is generally viewed as architecture that seeks to minimize the negative environmental impact of buildings. This is often achieved through the use of environmentally responsible, low-emission materials, as well as site-specific designs that take advantage of the natural environment to improve efficiency and reduce costs in areas such as lighting and heating.

Although great strides have been made in sustainable architecture in recent years, there is still significant room for improvement.

According to modeling by the UNEP International Resource Panel, emissions from the material cycle of residential buildings in the G7 and China could be reduced by at least 80% by 2050.

This could be achieved through a range of material efficiency strategies such as B. building with fewer or alternative components or recycling more building materials.

Sustainable architecture in emerging countries

Some emerging markets are taking the lead when it comes to sustainable architecture, often by incorporating traditional designs and materials into construction.

For example, in March, Diébédo Francis Kéré, an architect from Burkina Faso, became the first African to be awarded the Pritzker Prize, widely regarded as the world’s most prestigious architecture prize, for his work designing sustainable buildings in Africa.

By revising and modernizing traditional building techniques, Kéré’s buildings integrate with the natural environment to improve their effectiveness in terms of light, heating and cooling – and are therefore more energy efficient.

His first major project – a single-story schoolhouse in his home village of Gando, Burkina Faso – features a filtered lighting system that allows natural light into the building while keeping the interior cool.

Since then he has designed schools, health centers, assembly halls and other public buildings in Benin, Mali, Togo, Kenya, Mozambique and Sudan. Kéré works closely with local construction companies using indigenous low-tech construction methods and locally available materials.

Using a technique known as “ramming horse construction,” which uses environmentally friendly materials such as gravel, mud and sand, and a small amount of cement, the company has built a number of sustainable housing and construction projects across the country.

The technology has been shown to reduce heat and humidity in a building, resulting in an estimated 30% reduction in CO2 emissions due to lower energy consumption.

Elsewhere, as an example of large-scale sustainable infrastructure development, Qatar plans to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup in November and December as a carbon neutral event, meaning all infrastructure, including tournament stadiums, will meet sustainability benchmarks .

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Innovations include the use of recycled materials during construction and the implementation of a range of water and energy saving solutions.

The country has also built the first fully demountable stadium in World Cup history: Stadium 974 in Ras Abu Aboud is made of modular shipping containers and will be converted into a series of sports facilities after the tournament.

Overall, Qatar says the tournament’s stadiums will be 30% more efficient than international benchmarks through the use of energy-efficient features such as thick insulation, efficient cooling and ventilation, LED lighting and building control systems.

Organizers are also expected to use 40% less water than international benchmarks. For example, water vapor collected from the cooling system is used for irrigation, while water-efficient devices have been implemented in sinks, showers and toilets.

Regenerative Architecture

Recently, the advantages of regenerative architecture have also been discussed.

Regenerative architecture refers to the design of buildings that reverse damage and have a net positive impact on the environment.

An example is the Ilima Primary School in Tshuapa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Located between farmland and jungle, the school was intended to act as a bridge between the two landscapes.

The school is constructed of custom clapboard, adobe and beams made from local materials and also features woven and dyed vines growing around the building to keep the interior cool.

The school’s construction emitted 307 tons less carbon than the world average for schools of the same size.

The Sahara Forest Project pilot plant in Qatar is another example of regenerative architecture. Since construction began in 2012, the saltwater-cooled greenhouse has attracted numerous birds, grasshoppers, butterflies and rodents to what was once a barren desert.

Of Oxford Business Group

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