The implementation of decarbonized buildings is essential to fight against climate change, according to experts. Hence, many countries are making important efforts to reduce as much as possible the carbon footprint in new buildings and to reduce it in those already built. The Ecómetro Association has launched a tool to promote the decarbonization of buildings in Spain : the CO2Null seal will certify buildings with zero emissions for the first time.
Those buildings whose energy consumption is almost zero in the use phase, that do not depend on any fossil fuel, that all the energy they use (electricity) is 100% renewable, that calculate their carbon footprint through the LCA methodology (life cycle analysis) and compensate it with a recognized program.
Ecometer explains that a building will obtain the CO2Null certification after following five steps:
1.Measure the carbon footprint of the construction or rehabilitation of a building in its different stages: extraction of materials, transport to work, commissioning and execution of operations.
2. Minimize the carbon footprint through measures related to the choice of materials and a bioclimatic design of maximum energy efficiency.
3.Compensate for the carbon footprint that could not have been avoided through recognized compensation programs. The fact of polluting must carry an associated payment for its compensation.
4.Electrify the building or premises to 100% so that there is no source of combustion in the building.
5. Get renewable energy through own production in the building or premises, or through a contract with a marketer that guarantees the supply of green energy.
The association considers that building is “crucial” in the fight against the climate emergency, since this sector is responsible for 40% of emissions worldwide, so it considers it “essential” to have “transparent, rigorous and reliable that guarantee the decarbonisation of buildings ”.
Among the buildings that already have this CO2Null certification are the Triodos Bank offices in Malaga, and three buildings in Madrid, the Spanish headquarters of Greenpeace, the Triple office and the building of the Entrepatios housing cooperative. This last building offset the 1,270 tons of CO2 emitted during construction with the development of three projects to promote renewable energy in Namibia, restore biodiversity in Kenya and reforest in Spain.
The president of Ecometro, Diego Ruiz, stressed that after several years of reducing the energy demand of buildings, the next step in reducing the impacts of the sector must be “to include the life cycle approach in the equation.”
“There are already tools to assess emissions”
“As of today, there is already a sufficiently mature methodological framework to consistently apply this perspective in the construction sector. On the other hand, the appearance of tools and material databases allows the evaluation of all greenhouse gas emissions generated by a building.
In this way, a more conscious design can be carried out and more effective decarbonisation measures can be developed ”, Ruiz stressed.
Giorgos Tragopoulos, director of Ecometer, pointed out that the elimination of the carbon footprint in buildings is “a one-way path if we want to achieve the objectives of decarbonizing the economy in 2050 and have a chance of being below 1, 5ºC ”, one of the objectives signed in the Paris Agreement.
According to Tragopoulos, to achieve this goal it is necessary to “consider all the stages of a building, along with the entire value chain, and not just the use phase. The CO2Null certificate offers this methodology for the integral decarbonisation of buildings, both new construction and renovation ”, he added.
Architecture plays a very important role in reversing the climate emergency . In an analysis carried out in 2018 by the Ministry for Ecological Transition on emissions from diffuse sectors (activities not subject to emissions trading), transport ranked first with 48%, agriculture and livestock occupied second place with 17% and building ranked next with 15%, just ahead of the non-emissions trading industry (14%).
But, as many experts have highlighted, the building, in addition to emissions due to the energy consumed in the use phase, adds all those derived from the transport of materials, use of fluorinated gases, waste and manufacturing of materials.
Not in vain, only cement, concrete and concrete are responsible for 8% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the world, which means that they emit more CO2 into the atmosphere than jet fuel, according to the center of British studios Chatham House.
The climate footprint of construction
In such a way that adding the energy expenditure of the use phase, the energy costs derived from construction, the use of fluorinated gases, waste and the transport of materials, buildings could reach 56% of carbon dioxide emissions , according to a report by the European Environment Agency (EEA) published in 2018.
To put that 56% into context, it is enough to point out that cars pollute less than a quarter: they are responsible for 13% of CO2 emissions. With the aggravating factor that a vehicle has an average useful life of about 10 years, while more than half of the buildings in Spain are more than 40 years old and do not comply with any regulation on thermal and energy conditions suitable for habitability. And since they lack proper thermal insulation, they are “true energy predators,” according to the EEA.
The Council of Ministers has just taken a new step against the climate emergency with the approval, last day 1, of the Royal Decree that establishes the basic procedure for the certification of the energy efficiency of buildings.
This regulatory change updates the technical and administrative conditions of the process for energy certification of buildings and responds to the adaptation of Spanish regulations to the new needs and challenges acquired to achieve the decarbonisation objective by 2050.
The Royal Decree promotes measures to improve the energy efficiency of buildings, in line with the objectives of the National Energy and Climate Plan 2021-2030 (PNIEC), which establishes the rehabilitation of 1,200,000 homes as a goal by 2030, reducing dependency energy and emissions from buildings.
At the same time, this regulatory change will be key for the promotion and implementation of measures to improve the energy efficiency of buildings, through actions in the field of housing rehabilitation, urban regeneration and modernization of the Public Administration.
The approval of this Royal Decree expands the number of buildings required to have an energy efficiency certification . In this way, those constructions with a total useful area greater than 500 square meters and destined for administrative, health, commercial, public residential, educational, cultural, recreational, logistics, hotel or sports uses must have their Energy Efficiency Certificate.
The same occurs with buildings occupied by a public administration with a total useful area greater than 250 square meters, regardless of the frequency and influx of the public. The measure exceeds the minimums required by Brussels.
In turn, those properties that must pass the Technical Building Inspection (ITE) and energy renovations in the coming years will also be required to have this energy efficiency certification.