Strap: According to a UN study, the buildings and construction sector generated 37% more energy-related CO2 emissions in 2021 than the transportation sector (22%).
We are shielded from the elements by our homes. However, building them is bad for the environment and heating them uses a lot of energy. DW examines more environmentally friendly ways of life.
Buildings produce a lot of emissions. Around 10 billion metric tonnes of CO2 are produced annually worldwide by their construction, electricity, and heating. That equates to approximately 1.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person annually.
According to a UN study, the buildings and construction sector generated 37% more energy-related CO2 emissions in 2021 than the transportation sector (22%).
What is the best way to lower these high emissions? How can we ensure a comfortable, affordable, and sustainable way of life?
The need for housing has increased over the past 100 years in addition to the growth in the global population. The number of people living alone has increased, in part due to the rise in income levels. However, the amount of space that people have to live in varies greatly.
For instance, the typical living space used by a person in Nigeria is 6 square metres (65 square feet). 18 square metres are required in Turkey, 24 in Brazil, 30 in China, 38 in the EU, and 75 in the US.
Since 1950, the average living area in Germany has increased by more than threefold, from 15 square metres to 48 square metres. Seniors typically have the most space, with an average of 60 square metres per person for older empty-nesters.
More energy is required for heating and electricity as there are more homes and apartments, and new construction emits more CO2 as a result.
Older structures require a disproportionately large amount of energy for heating, which can get pricey. But with insulation and contemporary ventilation systems, they can save up to 90% of energy. Additionally, if less space is used, heating costs can be reduced.
Alternatives to fossil fuels that are friendly to the environment include biogas, wood, and wood pellets. However, due to their increasing scarcity and high cost, heat pumps are also advised by experts. These are electrically powered and extract heat from the earth or the atmosphere. From 1 kWh of electricity, they can produce up to 7 kilowatt hours (kWh) of heat energy.
Heat pumps don’t release any harmful particulates or CO2 if they are powered by green electricity. In Scandinavia, district heating is run by sizable heat pumps, and buildings have long been heated with them. Some of these networks are almost climate neutral when combined with deep geothermal energy, biomass, and solar thermal energy.
Additionally, energy-efficient heat pumps, refrigerators, and LED lighting can reduce a building’s power usage. With photovoltaic roofs and facades, affordable electricity can even be produced right at the home.
Solar energy can be produced in Germany by roof-mounted solar panels for less than 0.10€ ($0.11) per kWh. The average cost of electricity from the grid is 0.40€ per kWh, which is not even close to what it costs here. Solar panels generate free electricity for about 20 years after they pay for themselves in 5 to 15 years.
Building construction produces between 0.5 and 0.8 tonnes of CO2 per square metre of living space. That equates to 50 to 80 tonnes of CO2 for the development of a new apartment measuring 100 square metres. India, in contrast, emits 2 tonnes of CO2 annually per person.
Construction itself accounts for 10% of emissions, followed by the production of building materials like insulation boards and metals (8%) and cement, lime, and gypsum (25%).
Construction site CO2 emissions can be greatly reduced by using green building materials like wood and straw as insulation. It could reduce them by 50% in Germany.
Another way to reduce CO2 emissions and costs is to upgrade older units rather than building new ones. Since renovations typically cost about 25% less than new construction, both construction and operational emissions can be more than halved.
Because of this, city planners, scientists, and environmental advocacy groups want builders and architects to reconsider their plans. They contend that remodelling existing structures should take the place of new construction and demolition whenever possible.