Going green

Glass Times editor Nathan Bushell discusses the Herculean task to reduce the carbon footprint of every existing building.

I received a press release this week from the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council arguing that we must act quicker and harder to improve the energy efficiency of the 250 million existing buildings in the EU (along with Norway, Switzerland and the UK), if lawmakers are to live up to their climate pledge under the Paris agreement.

In fact, along will all new buildings, those 250 million buildings need to become nearly zero greenhouse gas emitters.

In a new report, experts nominated by EASAC’s member science academies call for far-reaching policy action.

“Policymakers have long focused on creating energy-efficient buildings that reduce the need for heating and air conditioning or generate renewable energy on site,” William Gillett, EASAC’s energy programme director, said. “But the energy used for operating buildings is only part of the story. We must urgently broaden the scope and look at emissions embodied in construction materials and methods – both for new buildings and building renovation.”

Currently, between 1% and 1.5% of the European building stock is being renovated annually. The rate actually needs to be two or three times higher. The report said that climate neutrality by 2050 requires renovating more than 90,000 homes per week.

The report also says that the built environment needs to transition to a circular economy, which would not only allow it to reduce its resource consumption and carbon footprint, but also address the waste problem.

Rehau’s Martin Hitchin discusses that in this week’s newsletter.

This is not really news. We’ve always known that existing buildings contribute far more to carbon emissions than new buildings, and that the slow rate of refurbishment was never adequate to truly address the problem.

We also know that it isn’t just the products that need to energy efficient, but also their manufacture and route to market.

However, this report clearly moves the situation up the agenda, at a time when we are more focused on the environment – climate change in particular – than ever before.

It also presents our industry with a huge opportunity, and we need to be making it clear to UK policy makers that modern fenestration should be key in their drive to make existing buildings energy efficient, and to meet our international obligations.