A growing population is making massive demands on building materials such as steel and cement. This massive growth is happening in the developing world, where infrastructure investments need to be decarbonised urgently. As a result, decisions now will determine what the future production of these materials will be like. Companies such as ACT Initiative are developing decarbonisation strategies and addressing this issue. ACT Initiative’s Marlene Dresch spoke about the urgent need for a transition plan towards a carbon neutral building material system, and how it should align with the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Impacts of climate change on building materials
The built environment has an increasingly high carbon footprint, and building materials are a major contributor to this problem. These materials, from steel to cement, are produced through energy-intensive processes, releasing greenhouse gases and depleting natural resources. In order to reduce these negative impacts, building materials should be responsibly sourced.
The construction sector contributes more than 30% of the world’s greenhouse gases, and is a major consumer of energy and raw materials. In addition, it generates vast amounts of waste. Overall, the energy consumed in building and construction processes is between twenty and forty percent of global energy consumption. It is incredibly important for the construction industry to take action and reduce these emissions. And it’s not just the materials we use – our choice of construction site can have major impacts on the environment.
While the built environment has a considerable effect on the environment, we rarely hear about the direct effects of climate change on building materials. Most of the media focuses on the effects of rising temperatures on human safety and the effects of melting glaciers on native wildlife. Very rarely do reporters discuss the effects of climate change on building materials and construction. Yet, it is important to remember that the climate changes that we’re experiencing are the result of human interference in the planet’s ecosystem. The human-induced greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere cause air pollution, which traps heat and makes the temperature rise. As a result, our buildings become hotter and more vulnerable to storms.
Impacts of steel production on climate change
The world steel industry is a significant emitter of carbon dioxide (CO2) and has a key role to play in combating climate change. It needs to significantly reduce its emissions by shifting to a lower-carbon economy and implementing new energy-efficient production methods. These efforts will require significant changes in the industry’s production practices and technologies. Fortunately, some existing technologies can help to mitigate the impact of steel production on climate change.
Several companies have already begun to adopt hydrogen-based production. One such venture is Hybrit, which involves steelmakers SSAB and LKAB as well as energy supplier Vattenfall. This venture aims to replace coking coal with clean electricity and produce its first fossil-free steel by 2026. Another effort, H2 Green Steel, is backed by the Agnelli and Maersk families and aims to produce five million tonnes of emissions-free steel by the end of this decade. The company’s green hydrogen-based technologies are expected to contribute to a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions significantly.
Impacts of reclaimed wood on climate change
Reclaimed wood is a sustainable building material that can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of a home. A recent study by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service quantified the environmental impact of reclaimed wood by using life-cycle inventory analysis. This analysis measures how much energy reclaimed wood uses, as well as its contribution to the reduction of global warming.
Another benefit of reclaimed wood is that it reduces the amount of waste that enters landfills. When wood gets dumped in landfills, it mixes with other waste and contributes to pollution. Furthermore, reclaimed wood requires less natural resources than new lumber. New lumber requires cutting, transporting, and processing trees, which has a great impact on the environment.
Reclaimed wood can be used for many purposes in a home. For instance, it can be used for patio decks, furniture, cabinets, flooring, and many other projects. It is also available from salvaged structures and can help you meet LEED points and the Living Building Challenge. It also contributes to the overall value of your home.