Our cities and urban centres lie at the foundations of our communities, both present and future. It is estimated that 68 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050. With just under 4 billion people highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change due to their location or circumstances, it is our responsibility to protect our communities.
Buildings and infrastructure play a large role in mitigating the effects of climate change and providing safer futures. This is something that lies at the core of Sintali’s ethos. This week is World Green Building Week which focuses on #BuildingforEveryone. As part of this, I wanted to explore how Sintali, EDGE and its projects contribute to sustainable and equitable built environments globally.
Building for the planet:
There is an overwhelming scientific consensus that the rise in global temperatures is a direct result of increased greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity. We are already facing the consequences of this. Droughts, wildfires and flooding globally have ravaged our communities showing the catastrophic effects of increased global temperatures.
When we think of the most polluting sectors, buildings don’t typically spring to mind. But buildings have a significant impact on the environment. The building and construction sector contributes almost 40% of global carbon emissions. Operational carbon (the energy used by the building during heating, cooling or lighting) accounts for 28% of this.
Buildings that are EDGE certified commit to a minimum of 20% reduction operational energy compared to a local baseline, with some working towards complete net zero operational carbon. That reduction can lead to significant carbon savings. In Denmark, the 119 EDGE certified LIDL stores save the equivalent electricity consumed in 3,100 homes and the CO2 emitted by 600 cars yearly. And that’s just one project! In this last year alone, Sintali certified 1519 retail buildings at either preliminary or final certification level. This equates to a yearly reduction of 72,262 tons of CO2 . Green building then, is instrumental in decarbonisation efforts.
Building for the community:
Perhaps one of the most rewarding parts of a working in the green building sector is seeing how different projects can uplift a community. What is versatile and unique about EDGE is that it can be used across any building typology, meaning that we’ve seen EDGE buildings through every aspect of the community. From schools and hospitals that enhance social infrastructure to retail or warehouse projects that provided jobs and income to those in the local area, EDGE adds value across the globe.
One recent example that highlights this perfectly is the newly EDGE certified school, Colegio Alemán Humboldt Samborondón. The school was able to access financial and technical support by using the EDGE certification to validate their environmental achievements. But it also brought educational value. The certification and the EDGE App were used as part of the curriculum. Students at the school were taught the value of green building and how this can reduce the impacts of climate change.
EDGE has also been used to create sustainable and affordable housing. An estimated 3 billion people will require affordable housing by 2030. With the cost of living crisis taking hold across Europe and beyond, we need to take urgent action to provide affordable housing across the globe. In Colombia the number of new developments that has a green certification has grown from zero to 20% of the market in the past four years due to a combination of government incentives and increased green financing. It is now estimated that more than 73,000 housing units have been EDGE certified, and two thirds are low-income, affordable housing. The utility savings achieved from focusing on resource efficiency can transform lives and help bridge the gap between affordability and sustainability. Sakura House is another example of how using EDGE led to knock on benefits in the wider community. Not only was Sakura House used as a model to provide affordable housing in the area, but the design also addressed issues of air pollution which is prominent in Ulaanbaatar. The structure moved away from the traditional reliance of fossil fuel-based forms of heating, using passive house technology and design to reduce heat energy demand to almost zero, with the remaining need catered for by renewable energy. Resultantly, the house does not emit any smoke in the winter, which improved air quality and health concerns in the region.
Building for the Economy
The role of construction is vital in a country’s economic development. The foundations of sustainable development rely on meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to thrive. Construction creates jobs to build and maintain infrastructure, which provide services that society relies on. As the green building market grows, so does the potential to support the global economy and create an important source of GDP. The global green building materials market, for example, reached a value of $280.5 billion in 2021.
From our projects, we have seen that green buildings also have a direct impact on local economies. An example of this is Sepsi Value Center, a shopping centre that is part of the Prime Kapital portfolio. The development has created over 600 new jobs for those in the area. Improving the energy efficiency and reducing the operational energy usage also causes a ripple effect within a community. On a business level, energy efficiency means additional cash flow for investment. The Mother and Baby Unit at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi is the perfect example of this. The significant operational savings from the energy efficient design was re-channelled into better medical equipment and quality infant and paediatric care. At a larger scale, energy efficiency leads to a reduced energy demand and less pressure on the grid. In South Africa, where blackouts are crippling the country due to demand outweighing the energy supply, energy efficient buildings can provide a solution to stabilise the grid and enabling the local industry to thrive.
Buildings and people go hand in hand. The COVID-19 pandemic over the last few years has been a stark reminder of the importance of community and the need to put people at the heart of the transition to a sustainable future.
Green building is a small component of a much larger effort to address the climate crisis, but it is an important one. At Sintali, we strongly believe that it is possible to change our societal structures and find a way to prosper that doesn’t come at a cost to our planet and the people living on it. By playing our part in this effort, we hope to continue helping clients navigate towards a sustainable and equitable future for all.
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