Race To Zero: Steps To Achieving Net Zero-Carbon Buildings

Architects and developers can tap on a variety of digital systems, sustainable materials and other tools to produce eco-friendly, net zero-carbon buildings.

With buildings and construction accounting for about 40 percent of all carbon emissions, making the two sectors more sustainable is key to limiting climate change. By using digital tools to design buildings that maximise natural sunlight and ventilation, incorporating recycled and green materials, installing smart building management systems, and more, cities can achieve net zero-carbon buildings, a key step to net zero cities.

Architects and designers can take advantage of Google Maps, public data including weather records, and modelling software to produce digital twins of sites, giving them the ability to tweak their building designs to harness more sunlight for lighting and wind for ventilation, and better expose or shade areas as needed, such as shading recreational areas to reduce the need for artificial cooling. All of this will decrease the buildings’ energy use.

Having the digital designs of buildings on hand will also be useful in the future, including for maintenance and retrofitting to further green them as new technologies arise. The virtual models of the buildings can also serve as a record of the materials used to construct them, to aid in calculating the buildings’ total emissions over their lifecycle, and in recycling the materials after the buildings are demolished.

Smart building management systems can minimise new and existing buildings’ use of water, electricity and other resources over their lifetime. Smart lighting systems could connect with occupancy sensors to automatically switch off lights in empty offices and rooms. Smart air-conditioning systems could liaise with sensors and other sources of data, such as weather reports, to continually adjust air-conditioning to save energy while maintaining comfort.

Intelligent building control systems, for their part, can monitor building systems’ performance over time to detect inefficiencies and faults, to enable optimisation of the systems as well as predictive and timely maintenance and repairs. As renewable energy solutions such as solar panels continue to become more affordable and widespread, intelligent systems can also co-ordinate the use of power from different renewable energy sources.

Beyond digital tools, the use of greener materials can shrink buildings’ carbon footprint. Mass engineered timber, consisting of small pieces of lumber laminated together to produce fire-resistant components for floors, walls, columns and more, is becoming more popular across the world, with some estimating that it can reduce construction’s embodied emissions by 25 to 45 percent, or even more, as long as it is sourced from sustainably-managed forests.

Different types of low-carbon concrete are also increasingly used as eco-friendly alternatives to traditional concrete, which is carbon-intensive and responsible for eight percent of global emissions. Carbon dioxide mineralised concrete, for example, is created by injecting carbon dioxide into standard concrete mixes. This strengthens the concrete, reducing the need for cement, and sequesters the greenhouse gas, benefiting the environment.

More cities, firms and building owners are committing to net zero-carbon buildings, with the World Green Building Council’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment already having 132 signatories. At BEX Asia 2021, which will be held virtually from September 6 to 10 and complemented with a three-week complimentary technical webinar from September 1 to 16, attendees can learn more about how they, too, can achieve net zero-carbon buildings.

 

To find out more about BEX Asia 2021 and register for the event, click here

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