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The COP26 fight against climate change in the built environment

The news is full of talk about COP26, the upcoming international climate event, and for good reason. The devastating impacts of the climate emergency are becoming more apparent – and increasingly urgent – every year, and this meeting may be the last chance to take serious action. It is no exaggeration to say that it may end up being the most important meeting in human history. 

According to the UK government’s introduction to the event: “COP stands for Conference of the Parties. Parties are the signatories of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – a treaty agreed in 1994 which has 197 Parties (196 countries and the EU). The 2021 conference, hosted by the UK, together with our partners Italy, in Glasgow, will be the 26th meeting of the Parties, which is why it’s called COP26. 

“United Nations climate change conferences are among the largest international meetings in the world. The negotiations between governments are complex and involve officials from every country in the world as well as representatives from civil society and the global news media.”

The built environment is one of the major areas where rapid, relatively simple advancements can be made in cutting carbon. Data from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) shows that almost 40% of global energy-related carbon emissions and almost 50% of all extracted materials are generated by buildings. 

What’s more, it is anticipated that the world’s building stock will double and 70% of the world’s population will live in urban areas by the middle of the century. This is expected to increase global material use by 100%, and a third of this rise will be solely down to the construction sector. 

The built environment’s demand for natural resources, and its extensive use of carbon-heavy process during and after construction, has major effects on the climate, human health and the biosphere. Therefore, our sector must do its part in the fight against climate change and at least halve its emissions by 2030, with the aim of becoming carbon neutral or negative in the medium- to long-term. 

Roland Hunziker, director of sustainable buildings and cities at the WBSCD, described construction sector and building emissions as “the sleeping giant”.

“Quite honestly, nobody really pays a lot of attention to the full impact of emissions from buildings […] and so that needs to change,” said Hunziker.

He continued: “How can we give more visibility to the sleeping giant, the built environment, which is a massive source of carbon emissions? It’s the energy we use to heat and cool our buildings but it’s also obviously in the materials.”

For the first time, COP26 will include a full day discussing this topic of Cities, Regions and the Built Environment, scheduled for Thursday 11th November. The day will be dedicated to “advancing action in the places we live, from communities, through to cities and regions,” amid concerns that the construction sector and buildings around the world are not doing enough to mitigate their impact on the climate.

A major way in which construction companies can look to mitigate their climate impact is to review the types of building materials they use and look for modern alternatives which have a lesser impact on the environment – both when it comes to emissions and how they can reduce the amount of extraction inherent in building.

Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) have many advantages, but their environmental impact may be the most important of all. Factory-controlled, off-site production leads to a huge reduction in waste, fewer emissions from site vehicles, as well as a higher quality of product which will naturally last longer and not need replacing as quickly.

Find out more about the benefits of using MMC by clicking here >>

This is enhanced further when applied to a product like Specwall, our solid, lightweight panel which is an alternative to: 

  • Blockwork
  • SFS
  • Drylining / plasterboard systems
  • Risers – dry risers and smoke risers / smoke shaft
  • Lift shafts
  • Concrete cores and stairwells
  • Bathroom pods

Specwall panels are 100% recyclable, and most importantly they are reusable in-situ – unlike traditional wall systems including blockwork, SFS and drylining/plasterboard systems.

Find out more about the benefits of Specwall by clicking here >>

Recycling, reusing and repurposing is going to be a vital plank of any environmental strategy in the construction industry, and Specwall allows you to do this without the need for any demolition or new materials. If the internal layout of a building changes, Specwall panels can simply be moved and reused within the footprint through a simple installation process. 

Specwall’s capability in this regard eliminates any further extraction of new materials, and removes instantly all of the carbon emissions used in the creation and delivery of new materials that would normally be required if you use a traditional walling system. This makes Specwall a prime example of the sort of MMC material that will become necessary and standardised as the construction industry continues to respond to the climate emergency.

To find out more about the environmental benefits of Specwall, get in touch with our team today by clicking here >>

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