Ecology and caring for the environment play an ever-growing role in our everyday lives. As you already care about the environment, you know the difference it makes to choose cycling over driving or reducing waste. Switching off the lights, turning off the water, and buying local products make a difference. You should also remember that some things we don’t even think about every day contribute to our global carbon footprint. These include our homes, for example.
For instance, the way heating is provided in buildings depends on what materials are used and which technologies are implemented. Figures from the UN indicate that the construction sector is responsible for 38 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions (2020 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction: Towards a Zero-emission, Efficient and Resilient Buildings and Construction Sector). The report says 28 per cent of the total are emissions from the operation of buildings, the so-called operational carbon footprint. The remaining 10 per cent is due to energy consumption from other construction industry activities related to extraction of raw materials, production of materials, and construction or demolition of buildings (embedded carbon footprint).
Therefore, there is room for reduction, and we need to think about ways and solutions now. According to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the global building stock is set to… even double by 2050. We would rather not invite greenhouse gases to a housewarming party.
Green building is essential for sustainable development.
Let’s face it; we do not even want to put them on the guest list. One hundred ninety-seven countries in the world have committed to the objectives of the Paris Agreement, meaning that our emissions should be reduced to zero by 2050. The decarbonisation of the construction sector is then a vital element in the efforts to protect the climate and mitigate changes.
People have started to realise this. The so-called “green building” is embedded in the foundations of sustainable cities. A “green” building is one that has a neutral or positive impact on the climate and the environment when designed, constructed and later operated. This type of building investment protects natural resources and positively affects the quality of residents’ life.
Every building can be green, whether it is a home, office, school or hospital. Some of the important factors for the green building include efficient power and water use, application of renewable energy sources, measures to reduce pollution, use of recyclable materials, care for indoor air quality, and a design that allows adaptation to a changing environment.
Green building… also after modernisation.
While the situation seems simple for new buildings, what about those that already exist? These should be modernised. A prime example is the Empire State Building, the world’s most famous office building. Renovated in 2009, today is described as a model of sustainability and energy efficiency. In 2011, the building was awarded the LEED Gold Award (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a certification system run by the American Green Building Association).
The LEED is one of the three key certifications for green building. The investments are also assessed against the British BREAM certification system (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) and the DGNB system (German Sustainable Building Association). These certifications are used primarily for quality assurance and to report compliance with relevant standards. And although the certification process is not mandatory, according to the Polish Green Building Council, the number of investments complying with the criteria is increasing every year.
A green home is made by people.
Beyond meeting strict requirements, the challenge for green building is its market accessibility. Investments should therefore be designed with the wide availability of solutions in mind. Climate and environmental protection issues should become no less important than housing prices.
After all, we are all neighbours on this planet!