The month of July is, according to NASA experts, the hottest month in “hundreds if not thousands of years”. The last two months have seen record-breaking daily temperatures, according to both the European Union and the University of Maine (USA), which use monitoring tools that combine ground and satellite data. This is not a one-off event; it is a trend for which we need to take responsibility. The construction industry must stop being part of the problem and become part of the solution.
The extreme heat waves we are experiencing will become more frequent, intense and prolonged, according to a recent study by the World Weather Attribution (WWA). The level of CO2 emissions must be reduced, preventing the planet from rising to 2ºC by all means, and the construction sector has a lot to contribute.
Decarbonising the sector
Historically, our sector has been in the spotlight as one of the most polluting activities. No wonder: according to one of the latest studies by the Green Building Council Spain (GBCe), in early 2020 Spain had 26 million dwellings occupying 977 million m2 of built area and another 679 million m2 of non-residential built area. Together, they were responsible for 40% of CO2 emissions and 30% of energy consumption. At the European level, the building sector accounts for more than 36% of CO2 emissions and 40% of final energy use.
Therefore, there is an urgent need to adopt a different model, which has already begun to be embraced by legislation itself, with regulations such as the Law on Architectural Quality, which incorporates the capacity of buildings to adapt to climate change as a quality criterion.
To understand the scope of what we can do we need to look at the whole life cycle of buildings, from the production phase of their materials and their construction to their maintenance and even their demolition. If we are to decarbonise our sector, it is essential to consider that the manufacture and transport of materials are an inseparable part of the problem, to the extent that around 40% of the carbon produced by buildings over their lifetime is embedded in their materials.
Reducing this negative impact on the environment therefore starts with the right choice of materials, not only in terms of their carbon footprint, but also in terms of their reusability or recyclability at the end of their useful life.
Given that 80% of building emissions are produced during the use phase, prioritising energy efficiency is paramount. This approach goes beyond the installation of clean energy sources, looking also at new bioclimatic designs that can reduce energy demand by three quarters, exponentially multiplying the number of hours in which the building can operate with virtually zero consumption.
On other occasions we have addressed the benefits of passive buildings and this is one of the lines to follow, i.e., taking advantage of the climatic and microclimatic conditions of the environment to turn them to our advantage in aspects such as orientation, natural lighting, the composition of the envelope, ventilation and compactness, among others.
At Blues Simon Group we are aware of the role we play in the fight against climate change and from our different lines of business we act accordingly. In this sense, we do so not only in new construction, but also in the comprehensive refurbishments that we carry out. After all, almost 20% of the population lives in substandard buildings. With the aim of reaching sooner than later the construction of energy buildings almost null, our bet is decided by a more sustainable and resilient future.