Residential and industrial buildings In the EU consume 40 per cent of total energy and are responsible for 36 per cent of CO2 emissions. To reach the 2050 carbon neutrality target, indirect emissions from the building stock need to be reduced by 60 per cent by 2030. There is much still to be done to regenerate the building stock so that it is green throughout its life cycle.
The quality of the air we breathe and, consequently, of our lives is influenced by the approach adopted in all phases of the life cycle of our buildings (homes, companies, offices, or shopping centres).
This is not an exaggeration. European Commission figures show that the real estate sector consumes 40 per cent of total energy and produces 36 per cent of CO2 emissions. In addition, 75 per cent of Italian buildings have a very low energy classification, below D. These numbers demonstrate how the entire building ecosystem is highly polluting.
For the European goal of zero carbon emissions (carbon neutrality) to be achieved by 2050, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has calculated that direct CO₂ emissions from buildings must decrease by half and indirect emissions from the building sector must be reduced by 60 per cent by 2030.
The need to take a significant step towards a green redevelopment of our building stock is therefore evident.
Reduce consumption in the name of regeneration
To achieve the European carbon neutrality goal, we need to reduce consumption and emissions from our residential and industrial buildings. This should not only apply to designing and building new buildings with minimal environmental impact.
To solve the problem, we must redevelop our building stock by recovering existing areas that have been neglected. With a green regeneration of cities, a change is truly possible.
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What does it mean to decarbonise a building?
“Decarbonising” means reducing, up to zero, emissions of pollutants into the atmosphere, including the infamous carbon dioxide - the cause of low quality of the air we breathe and disastrous environmental effects. One of the biggest consequences, and a primary source of concern, is climate change. This is a vast problem that involves the world as a whole. We must succeed in reducing the dangerous soaring temperatures, at all latitudes. To do so, we must reduce CO2.
This is a focus that must be spread across all sectors, but that particularly concerns the building sector precisely due to the figures mentioned.
How can we reduce the production of pollutants by buildings? With a twofold approach: by redeveloping building sustainably and by erecting buildings that are energy efficient throughout their life cycle.
The goal is to get as close as possible to zero emissions, summarised by the acronym NZEB - Nearly Zero Energy Building. This can be achieved through designs that consider many factors, including the exploitation of local resources with on-site energy production, materials produced with lower carbon emissions, making choices which optimise consumption and cutting energy waste while maintaining a sensitive approach to the quality of life of those who live and work inside buildings.
Building decarbonisation must be continuous
To achieve the decarbonisation goals set out by the UN with its Sustainable Development Goals and by the European Commission with its European Green Deal, designing and erecting new buildings and regenerating old ones adopting solutions that limit energy waste and carbon dioxide production is not enough.
It is fundamental that decarbonisation be part of the very essence of the new building, which must meet green requirements safely and constantly throughout its life cycle.
These recommended measures do not benefit just the planet’s health (which already in itself would be considerable). Living or working in an environment that does not waste energy and does not produce carbon dioxide improves the quality of life and saves large sums of money. This is a significant advantage, especially in these difficult economic and geo-political times.
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There is much still to be done
To date, many projects and measures have been adopted to achieve building decarbonisation. Standards involving recycled materials, adopting solutions to improve energy performance, using renewable materials, and incentives for sustainable building works are just a few examples.
These are crucial steps, but there is still a long way to go. The European Union created the CRREM (Carbon Risk Real Estate Monitor) tool to facilitate redevelopment to achieve net zero carbon through the preparation and provision of tools and methods for measuring greenhouse gas emissions.
Conversion to a green approach can only bring benefits in the long run. However, the building of new decarbonised buildings and the conversion of still non-decarbonised buildings require massive investments, exceeding the funds available from the EU budget. According to estimates, the additional needs required are about €180 billion annually. To implement building decarbonisation effectively, the action taken by individual local authorities and the EU will not be enough. The financial system will need to decide to invest heavily in this sector.
Fervo provides Facility and Energy Management solutions to meet the needs of every company, with a focus on the construction, operation and maintenance of plants and buildings and energy efficiency. With its experienced and professional team, Fervo can help you analyse the steps to reduce the impact curve of your building on the environment and the actions necessary to make it NZEB in a long-term strategic perspective.
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