Green buildings are essential to strengthen our resilience to climate change – Opinion

Kenth Hvid Nielsen

Singapore ●
Thu 23 September 2021

green building, energy, efficiency, pump, material, climate change, zero emissions, United Nations, COVID-19
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The eagerly awaited report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a stark warning on climate change, sounding “code red for humanity”. The report, released in August, noted that as global warming continues, every region of the world is expected to experience more and more simultaneous and multiple changes as different types of climate change take effect.

Indeed, we have already witnessed a series of extreme weather events in recent months – from Hurricane Ida in the United States, severe flooding in Western Europe, to record rainfall in China’s Henan Province. Closer to home, we are deeply saddened to see the devastating impact of the flash floods and landslides in April of this year.

Despite the gloom, scientists pointed out in the IPCC report that if we can halve global emissions by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050, it is possible to limit the rise in global temperatures to the threshold internationally. agreed to 1.5 degree Celsius.

For this to happen, decisive, urgent and concerted action must be taken now to make our planet, our people and our economies more resilient to climate change.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the buildings and construction sector accounted for 38% of total global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2019. As the world’s population grows and s ‘urbanization, the building stock is expected to double by 2050, according to the World Green Building Council, further increasing the sector’s impact on climate change.

It is clear that a change in the sector is needed – and today we are starting to see it happening with the planning and development of green buildings around the world. As the term suggests, a green building is a building that is constructed with the aim of preserving our climate and natural environment. Where possible, these buildings also seek to improve the quality of our lives by using sustainable, non-toxic materials and providing a healthy indoor environment.

Indonesia, one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases, is making good progress in greening its buildings. It introduced green building standards for its major cities, while setting a goal of reducing the energy intensity of buildings by 1% per year until 2025.

More recently, Indonesia has also updated its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). In addition to confirming its first NDC from 2016 to reduce carbon emissions by 29 to 41% by 2030, it has taken ocean and marine issues into account in its emissions strategy. Authorities have also updated the country’s net zero target date from 2070 to 2060.

However, as humanity is invited to run towards net zero, more can and must be done.

Carbon emissions are not only released when buildings are fully operational. In fact, 10% of global carbon emissions result from the manufacture of building materials such as steel, cement and glass, as well as the construction and demolition of buildings. Therefore, a holistic approach must be taken to reduce carbon emissions throughout the life cycle of buildings, including in their design, material production, logistics and construction processes.

The modular approach offers the industry the opportunity to manage construction in a more sustainable way. This construction method involves producing standardized components of a structure in an off-site factory and then assembling them on-site. In addition to significantly accelerating project lead times, this approach leads to greater resource efficiency during production and a remarkable reduction in waste and site disturbance compared to traditional structures built on site.

The importance of innovation cannot be overstated as we navigate towards a more resilient future. There is a huge untapped potential for innovation to generate energy and water savings in buildings.

For example, pumps control a building’s water and cooling system, run and consume energy year round. Particularly in commercial buildings, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems account for up to 40% of total energy consumption, according to a 2013 study by the Australian Department of Industry, Sciences, Energy and Resources.

With more efficient pumping solutions, global energy consumption can be significantly reduced. The result is not only a positive impact on carbon emissions and climate change, but also more efficient buildings, greater indoor comfort and increased water safety.

In line with innovation, appropriate policy and regulatory support is also essential to encourage the transition to a more resilient built environment in the cities of the future.

Rating systems for buildings have been increasingly implemented in recent years. Establishing minimum requirements for water reuse, energy efficiency and comfort, these programs constitute an important policy lever that can provide regular feedback on the energy and water efficiency of individual buildings. It also serves to inform whether progress is being made towards improving the efficiency of larger areas of buildings and reducing the carbon footprint.

From homes to offices, schools to hospitals, buildings play an essential role in our daily life. As we strive to build back better after the COVID-19 pandemic, this week’s Global Green Building Week, September 20-24, reminds us of the key role the building and construction industry plays in strengthening of our resilience to climate change and beyond. It is also a platform for us to reflect, learn and lead change.

Indonesia has great potential to improve its game in building resilience, as does the buildings and construction sector. By collectively taking bold action on climate change, we will create a more sustainable future for generations to come.


The author is Regional Managing Director Asia Pacific-Commercial Buildings, Grundfos.

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