The withdrawal of the United States from the Paris climate agreement understandably raised fears that the current efforts of the international community to combat global warming would be derailed. However, there are a number of mitigating factors that give considerable scope for optimism. One of them is the proliferation of environment friendly technologies in construction, which is an extremely significant development, since buildings contribute to 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
China the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, has taken the lead in construction of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified buildings, closely followed by Canada and India- the third biggest emitter. In fact, China is now the world leader in green building, with over one billion square feet of LEED certified building spaces.
As countries across the globe intensify their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint, here are a few trends we can expect in the field of green construction.
- Cross-Laminated Timber: New innovations have made it possible to build massive structures using cross-laminated timber, by joining multiple sections at right angles. These structures, which can be pre-fabricated in a factory (much like those made of pre-fabricated concrete) will substantially reduce emissions, since wood does not emit carbon unlike steel and concrete.
- Bamboo: Bamboo is becoming an important part of the building design in emerging countries in Asia. With the ability to grow up to four feet per day, bamboo scores high on sustainability, quite apart from the fact that it absorbs 35 percent more carbon dioxide as compared to trees. Besides, it has more than twice the strength of steel, without the carbon emissions associated with the later. Best of all, bamboo can be recycled multiple times, making it ideal for sustainable building.
- Attic insulation: Given that household consumption accounts for approximately a third of the total non-industrial power energy used, reducing the amount of electricity used for heating or cooling would contribute substantially to reducing the carbon emissions of countries like USA and Canada, which are among the highest per capita consumers of energy. Attic insulation can help achieve this objective, by ensuring that houses remain well insulated from the outside weather.
- Solar Energy: Rooftop solar cells are increasingly becoming a fixture in buildings across the world, taking the pressure off grids which are traditionally powered by energy generated from fossil fuels. Unfortunately, solar energy suffers from the obvious limitation of being unavailable during non-sunlight hours, due to which it is not yet a viable alternative to traditional energy sources like thermal power. However, the reducing cost of battery storage combined with increasing efficiency of solar panels will help solar energy supplant non-renewable options.
- Internet of Things (IoT): Intelligent building technologies have historically been economically unviable, except for owners of large buildings. However, IoT promises to provide a level playing field, by empowering small and medium sized building owners to capture the data needed for effective management of a BEMS (Building Energy Management System) at affordable costs. While the concept is still at a nascent stage, it is likely that IoT will pave the way for setting up energy efficient buildings in the years to come.