Green Business

Climate change tech: COP21 and the buildings of the future

This is a contributed piece by Mads Jensen, CEO and Founder at Sefaira

Over the last fortnight, Paris has played host to the latest COP21 climate summit, where international leaders and thinkers have discussed how we can reduce the impact we’re having on our global climate.

The latest figures from the UN predict that the world’s population is going to grow from 7.3bn to 8.5bn by 2030, with almost all of this growth taking place in urban areas. This will naturally increase the need for buildings to provide places to live, work and study for this growing population. This is leading to a growth in the global building stock by a staggering 24% between 2013 and 2023 alone.

When we think about climate change, it is important to remember that the energy we need for these buildings is a big contributor of carbon emissions (buildings are responsible for a third of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions). Therefore, an increase in buildings also means an increase in the potential emissions on a global scale, unless we make a change to how these new constructions are designed and created.

The good news is that we already have all the technologies and solutions we need to make better buildings. For example, better use of design software and techniques could save 42-87% of the energy required to keep these buildings running. Given that 60% of the world’s building stock will be either rebuilt or newly created between now and 2030, improved building design could reduce the global energy requirement by buildings by up to a third.

The question one might ask is - why are we not already doing this everywhere? The problem is that the cost of energy is still relatively low – both compared to the high global cost of carbon emissions and also compared to the other costs related to creating and operating buildings. Therefore, more needs to be done to incentivise the buildings and construction industry to design for high performance and better sustainability.

Governments have tried to drive improved building performance through regulation, but have so far not been sufficiently ambitious. Advances in cloud computing and physics simulation mean that software for high-performance building design now is both accessible and cost effective. So there is really no reason not to make every new or retrofitted building as well performing as it can be.

The COP21 conference offered governments and NGOs a unique opportunity to create initiatives that can act fast and do more. The agreement that has been reached is a very positive signal. More importantly, the technology and tools needed are already at our fingertips. Let’s hope that regulators use this opportunity to put ambitious targets in place for how we can use building design to create a better and more sustainable future.


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