Discussions focussed around sustainability in the built environment yesterday, at the Econcern Sustainable Energy Event running parallel to COP14 here in Poznan. Peter Head, Director and Global Planning leader at Arup, presented the company’s vision for the transition we need to make to move to an ‘ecological civilisation’ – a term coined by President Hu Jintao at the 17th Party Congress (15th October 2007).
This refers to a greener and more sustainable world, and a civilisation which respects and lives in harmony with the natural ecosystems. Arup has recently invested efforts into analysing whether 9.5bn people can live on the planet in a more sustainable way, as global land masses continue to shrink over decades. Whilst Western ecological footprints remain high, efficient use of renewable resources will define economic success globally, in a sector which has become the fastest global success and opportunity the world has seen. Head argues that as we pass peak oil, the industrial revolution model has now come to an end, and there are opportunities to make significant steps for the transition into the ecological revolution. He suggests the equation for reaching an ecological civilisation as
2050 ecological civilisation =
CO2 reduced by 50% (average) + 1.44 hectares/capita + Human Development Index (HDI)
A significant level of GHGS are emitted from the built environment globally – a sector which represents around 40% of carbon emissions the UK. Introducing sustainability measures and radical improvements within this industry will be essential if the sector wishes to make significant contributions to emissions reduction. The integration of winning strategies that are smart, responsive and simple, and those that optimise our energy use and efficiency will be essential to meeting future targets.
Whilst a wide variety of codes and quality standards already exist, these only focus on new builds which account for just 5% of the (40%) emissions from buildings. They also vary massively around the world, from BREEAM and Code 6 for Sustainable Homes in the UK to Energy Performance Building Director (EPBD) in the EU; and LEED, IECC and ASHARE in the US. Whilst consistency will be significant for future new builds, efforts to reduce emissions in the existing building stock is crucial if we serious about making carbon reductions in this sector. Increasing the concentration of renewable generation and energy efficiency, improving fittings and stimulating behavioural changes would also contribute to significant reductions in the remaining 95% of emissions.
Arup’s Sustainability Research Centres have developed low carbon projects globally, including the Dongtan Sustainable Village in China.