Buildings account for around 40% of CO2 emissions worldwide. So, as the fight against climate change becomes ever more urgent, designs will have to become leaner, greener and a whole lot meaner. Here are some of the top themes we could be looking at over the course of the upcoming year.
The drive towards net-zero
Last year’s climate conference saw most of the world’s top countries affirm their commitment towards net zero. Here in the UK, the government is sticking – in theory at least – to the ambitious goal of hitting net-zero by 2050. In order to achieve this objective, every industry will have to play its part, including construction.
The concept of the net-zero building is gaining momentum using fuel cells, wind power, solar energy and biofuels to reduce its carbon footprint. The key here is an on-site generation of renewable energy – by whichever means is most applicable. If you live in a high wind area, for example, a micro wind turbine could provide all the power you need. If you’re lucky enough to live in a sunnier climate, solar panels would be the order of the day.
These aim to ensure that the total annual energy consumption will be less than or equal to the amount you produce on-site. Doing this means zero energy waste and will require highly efficient designs, which channel power most effectively. It can provide many benefits, including reduced construction costs and the ability to sell energy back to the grid.
More resilient buildings
As the recent storms show, the weather is getting angrier. Buildings will be part of the solution to climate change, but they will also have to deal with the consequences. One of these is the rise in extreme weather conditions. Whether it’s high winds in the UK, floods in the US, or wildfires in Australia, buildings need to be more resilient to cope with everything the environment is going to throw at it.
It comes as a surprise to many people, but our biggest exposure to pollutants comes when we are in our own homes. Unwittingly, newer homes that are fully sealed, without the draughts you would expect with older buildings, can exacerbate the issues.
Poor air circulation affects air quality and can cause certain building-related conditions such as shortness of breath, headaches, fatigue, and irritation. Harmful chemicals in building materials such as paints, carpet backings, and glues also impact cognitive function.
However, developers are tackling these issues by building greener buildings with better air circulation, which can reduce these health risks and have people feeling brighter and more alert.
One of the primary sources of energy consumption for buildings comes via heating and ventilation systems. These can be alleviated with smart building designs which take advantage of the natural environment. Optimising building materials, orientation, shading and other techniques can help naturally modulate internal temperature.
Buildings are also adopting smarter technology that can monitor conditions inside the house. For example, when temperatures are too high, homes open windows to allow ventilation. Windows can also let in more sunlight to naturally heat the interior or control heating systems to minimise excess use and waste.
Into the future
These are just a snapshot of the technologies and methods used to deliver more modern, efficient and sustainable building designs. They will provide a host of benefits that go far beyond environmental preservation. They will save money and, in some cases, allow for excess power generation, which could be sold back to the grid.
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