Climate protection and sustainable development have long been among the most pressing global issues. If we want to leave future generations a planet worth living on, we must all use its finite resources as sparingly as possible and minimise the production of greenhouse gases. In 2015, the United Nations put the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on its agenda and the deadline for implementing its comprehensive action plan is 2050.
As one of the leading industrial nations, Germany in particular has set its sights high, aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in all sectors by at least 55% by 2030 compared with the base year 1990. So, how do they intend to achieve that? The question is primarily directed at the construction industry, as a large part of this complex, mammoth task falls within its area of responsibility. Greenhouse gas emissions for 2020 have just been calculated. At 120 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents, the building sector is still exceeding its annual emissions limit under the Climate Change Act by 2 million tonnes. For the construction industry, this means targeted sustainable solutions must be developed quickly.
So what can the construction industry do to save CO2?
One of the most important requirements when it comes to construction projects is the recyclability of a building or whatever is left after demolition. In principle, a building’s individual components must meet similar requirements to the waste permitted in recycling bins. All the building materials used should be as homogeneous as possible. If the number of different building materials is manageable, then fewer disposal methods are generally required.
In a similar vein, it should be easy to separate the different materials from each other. For example, imagine a building designed like an environmentally friendly yoghurt pot, with packaging made of pure white plastic and an aluminum lid that is easy to remove. The label is on a paper band that can be easily detached and disposed of with other waste paper. Try doing the same thing with a building from the 50s! And not to mention the potential pollutants in old buildings. How can harmful materials be disposed of in a way that is both environmentally friendly and affordable? In the meantime, requirements for building materials have become so much stricter that the use of hazardous materials (such as asbestos) is now prohibited by law.
Creating architecture for eternity now means applying circular economy principles to construction
The pinnacle of recycling – essentially an endless recycling loop – is referred to as “cradle-to-cradle”. Any building constructed according to this principle should benefit the environment after demolition, rather than simply trying to contain the damage as much as possible. This concept is particularly challenging for architects and designers, as it means they need to include a building’s potential second life in their plans. This gives a whole new meaning to architecture for eternity where the building must be integrated into a cycle of recyclable materials.
Germany: top of the heap when it comes to paper consumption
The only environmentally friendly aspect of conventional methods is how easy it is to dispose of blueprints as waste paper. 227 kg paper per head is used every year in Germany! Germany unfortunately uses far more paper than many other countries. This is where our opponents will claim that using construction software also uses energy! Yes, it does, but nowhere near as much as the things we’ve already mentioned. And don’t forget that recycling paper is also very energy-intensive, while construction software pays for itself in the long term – for the environment and for your wallet.
Another positive factor in the environmental balance is the way construction software makes collaboration possible, regardless of location. Whatever the time and wherever they are, the entire project team can access shared documents, make changes, track annotations and forward data to the relevant departments. No meeting rooms, travel or hotel accommodation are needed as the project progresses. Individual tasks and progress reports can be delegated, processed and completed digitally and quickly. Again, construction software offers significant time and money savings here. And the integrated measuring tools can also help with needs-based and economical material procurement, because if estimates are more accurate, fewer resources are wasted.
In a nutshell, construction software like Revu offers the following benefits in terms of sustainability:
Significant paper savings
Thanks to digital communication structures, much less paper is used in construction projects because data is simply uploaded to the cloud.
Fewer trips to the construction site
Why travel to the construction site when all the data is available online? Photos and drawings are all conveniently stored in one place and can be accessed wherever you are.
Precise material procurement
Integrated measuring tools make sure that planning is extremely accurate and material requirements are reliably calculated. Only building materials that are actually needed are ordered.
Efficiently planned green buildings are the future
To sum up, there is much to be done to make the construction industry sustainable worldwide. Whether this can be achieved by 2030 remains to be seen, but Germany has the means to set an example for the rest. The trend is definitely going in the right direction: in 2016, for example, the market volume for energy-efficient buildings was around EUR 133 billion. According to Statista, this volume is expected to at least double by 2025. And with the right construction software, “green” buildings can be implemented with even lower emissions and in even less time.