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How can the Housebuilding Industry become more sustainable?

The Housebuilding Industry is currently one of the largest contributors to climate change. It is also one of the industries likely to be severely impacted from the effects of climate change. This article discusses innovative ideas that will allow the field to become more sustainable, as well as the specific complications caused by climate change to which the industry will need to adapt.

Whilst the current practices of the Housebuilding Industry means that it contributes heavily to the climate crisis, it also provides essential services to modern society and simply building less will not solve any problems. Instead, Housebuilding companies are thinking up new ways to make the process more sustainable and producing, in some cases, net negative carbon emissions. One idea to reverse the by-product emission of cement mixing is a sequestering technique where blocks are created with steel slag and each block is injected with 2kg of atmospheric CO2 as the bonding agent (Harsco, 2020). In this process, that amount of CO2 used as a material outweighs the by-product emissions. In comparison, each tonne of cement produced with traditional methods emits 622kg of CO2 (Brogan, 2021).

Climate change will impact the Housebuilding Industry in a variety of ways. The rising temperature on the planet’s surface and changing climate can have an effect on the structural stability of buildings.  Some parts of the world will have increased precipitation, while others have extended periods of drought. Climates that become increasingly warm and dry could begin to experience cracks in building foundations (Long, 2021), while those with increased precipitation could see severe flooding.

As sea levels rise, we will see increased erosion of the coastline which threaten current properties but also has an impact of reducing the amount of available land for developments in coastal areas. As the sea and oceans become warmer the frequency of hurricanes and tropical storms increases making damage to buildings more likely.

Studies around the world are looking at solutions as to how the Housebuilding Industry can adapt to our changing climate and how we can redesign buildings to increase their stability against climate change and build houses that are environmentally sustainable. Suggestions of innovative construction methods to enable the industry to become more environmentally – friendly are alternative materials, renewable energy and adopting off site production (Reporter, 2011). In some areas of the world engineers are developing floating structures, using flood resistant materials, or adding waterproof veneer to the exterior of buildings to protect from water damage.

Accurate and detailed predictions from scientists mean that we know what to expect and we have plenty of years and ideas to adapt and discover solutions to ensure that building with continue, unhindered by a changing world. Leon C. Megginson said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one most adaptable to change.” Similarly, companies that are flexible and open to adopting sustainable building practices are those that will comfortably transition to the future of building.

Written by Andrew Collison and Linda Skinner

28/02/2022

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