Green buildings as key elements of future sustainable cities

The challenge
As one of the key elements across the skyline, buildings are essential in the creation of sustainable cities. Today, cities serve as one of society’s main sources of CO₂ emissions, with buildings representing almost 40 percent of the overall energy consumption. The inefficiency of buildings in terms of energy and resource use constitutes a large societal challenge in connection to our total consumption and CO₂ footprint. Moreover, it also puts pressure on the total integrated energy and city system.

The future
If we want to look at cities as a key enabler for a green and sustainable future, we need to look at the buildings they consist of. Through energy efficiency measures and intelligent design, buildings can go from being a part of the problem to a part of the solution, with the potential of being integrated in a smart, liveable and sustainable city.

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The urban building stock is growing rapidly as an effect of the high urbanisation rate globally. In fact, some global cities get 50 new residents per hour. Cities around the world are struggling to build enough capacity for the many new residents in terms of infrastructure, resources and housing. To make the building stock green and sustainable, we need to consider both the future buildings being built as well as the existing building stock, which constitutes a majority of the buildings we live in today and onwards. Solutions to make buildings more resource efficient include smart, efficient and circular technologies. Smart metering and management systems help automate and control the use of energy in buildings through for instance lighting, climate and air parameters. These all contribute to an improved indoor air quality as well as a more efficient use of energy. When discussing energy consumption in buildings, it is also important to implement the correct insulation and windows to avoid unnecessary heat loss, thereby reducing large amounts of energy.

In both renovation and new-built, energy efficiency and smart measures are key to create a sustainable building block. Green building design looks at the architecture and materials of the building to ensure a sustainable design integrated throughout the building life cycle, from construction to operation to the demolition phase. As 30 percent of the total waste in EU comes from construction and demolition, it is especially important to integrate circular principles during these phases. This is, for instance, done by reusing used materials for construction and ensuring recycling of the building materials when the building has been demolished.

Buildings can also play a vital role in a sustainable city by being integrated in the district energy network, where heat and power can be distributed efficiently throughout the city. Moreover, buildings can function as energy storage units or energy providers, strengthening the total energy system of the city and enabling a larger use of fluctuating renewable energy sources. .

Urbanisation and the derived expansion of the building stock represents a big challenge in terms of greater pressure on the city’s resources such as water, energy and clean air. Buildings require a large amount of these resources when they are in use and being operated. Consequently, it is important not only to implement green and smart technologies in new buildings, but also in the existing building stock.

Connect with us: Charlotte Gjedde, Project Manager, cmg@stateofgreen.com