Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Why should more architect firms turn to recycling materials to reduce the carbon footprint in construction projects?
As the need for sustainability becomes more urgent, architects are increasingly turning to recycled materials. On a larger scale, cities are implementing strategies to reduce the carbon footprint of construction and development. This approach encourages “degrowth” by focussing more energy into the renovation and rehabilitation of spaces through adaptive reuse projects, as opposed to the development of new structures.
“The whole world is changing to more sustainable approaches. It is shifting from being a trend to a fundamental requirement that respects our environment and planet.“
Alarmingly, the new report released by the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction shows that buildings and constructions generate nearly 40% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. By 2060, construction energy demands might rise by 50% which is a disturbing fact in my humble opinion. Reacting to these threats is overdue and started to cause implications towards our urban fabric and structure.
Despite the whole world is one connected hub, yet material manufacturing and transportation contributes significantly to the carbon footprint. Regardless of the advanced technology yet we tend to go to new manufacturing rather than recycling. Recycling materials is a necessary starting point that can save from 40-90% of the energy compared to making those from virgin materials. When it comes to identifying materials, one of the major key points considered if this material is recycled/recyclable or not. We, as architects, have a big role in directing the suppliers to innovate more towards recycling technologies. Yet the regulations need to be more rewarding to increase the use of recycled and regional materials. During our design for the LLFP Meydan School, we considered recycled content to meet at least 10-15% of the material volume. Example of these materials is reinforced steel, aggregates, concrete blocks, insulation materials, and ceramic/porcelain tiles.
On the other hand, a sustainable way is to reuse existing abandoned buildings rather than demolishing them. I have taken the initiative with UNICITI along with a group of volunteers to do deeper research on repurposing and improving the quality of the existing building stock – reutilise and improve upon the existing urban fabric. This will help to look at various tactical interventions towards the existing urban fabric to make it more liveable. Understanding to what extend restoring or repurposing these abandoned buildings before demolishing. With these strategies, it is eye-opening towards a more humane environment and reduction of carbon footprint.
Overall, concentrating further on more efficient ways to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle our conventional methods will help shape our perceptions of space designing for new structures. Specifications will be standardized to respect the environment more and shift from economical concentric to functional orientation. Net Zero Energy Cities will be common norms and not an achievement for high-quality sustainable living.