First of all, I would like to introduce myself to all the people who follow this blog of my good friend Juan Diego Berjón with the collaboration of other co-bloggers from different backgrounds creating an interesting project in which I was very excited to get involved adding an additional point of view to sustainability matters. I am Alfonso Redondo, architect and recently M.Sc. in European Construction Engineering, education in which I focused on Sustainability of materials and construction systems being the scope of my Master thesis. That is why I would like to share some ideas I learnt or for potential further discussion.
Currently, there is an increasing awareness towards environment issues of sustainability on the activities developed on a daily basis without matter the scale or application. This idea may be extended to the specific case of Architecture, as well as Construction sector. That is mainly done by the usage of concepts considering energy aspects such as the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energies that are the so-called future of the construction industry.
However, it does not seem to be longer enough to focus only on operational energy due to the importance of other options in terms of the Life-Cycle perspective of materials, their footprint and impacts.
Construction works both civil and building ones, have a consumption of 60% of all the raw materials extracted from the lithosphere in a worldwide scale, being a 24% of the total from buildings. It clearly represents a significant amount of natural resources that could mean a possible issue of scarcity in several cases.
That is one of the main reasons why life-cycle views could be a main approach in order to achieve some sustainable objectives with close circular approaches from cradle to cradle, in spite of the fact that building industry have a long lifespan and an important operative stage of use.
Current EU regulation efforts have been focusing in the achievement of sustainable objectives, mostly by the reduction of energy demands and toward a low-carbon economy by the reduction of CO2 and other GHGs. This have been applied also into the construction industry due to its large provider of CO2 emissions, over 30% of CO2 emissions and about 40% of European energy consumption.
It has been shown in several European strategies, such as the Europe 2020 that has established the aim of a sustainable growth by the efficiency use of resources, as well as other fixed targets that include the reduction of GHG emissions by 20%, the increment of renewable use in energy consumption to 20% and moving towards a 20% increase in energy efficiency. Thus, another long-term framework strategy is the Energy Roadmap 2050 that is committed to reduce the GHG emissions to 80-95 % compared to 1990 levels, get renewable energy sources of 55% in gross final energy consumption and achieve energy neutral buildings and districts. In the building industry, the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive have been imposed requirements for certification, examinations or renovation in Member States.
Lastly and apart from all the regulations, there is a common issue to be solved in Europe when GHGs are intended to be reduced in the building industry. New buildings represents a low percentage due to the change into the economy, therefore a reduction of global warming will not be reduced only by taking into consideration new buildings with passive house standards due to the long turn-around in the building sector. Apart from that, existing buildings have a lifespan time of 50 to 100 years while mitigation of global warming involves far shorter reduction times for the consumption of fossil fuels. As a consequence of these issues, renovation of existing buildings becomes a vital part of the GHGs mitigation strategy. That is why, different evaluations about the environmental impact of demolition, new build or refurbishment become an important tool to reduce these CO2 levels for the future.