Towards Zero-Impact Buildings

Leveraging technology for a regenerative built environment.

We want to believe that in the near future the success of a real estate project will not be measured merely by financial indicators. Instead, the wellbeing of the inhabitants and the impact on the planet will also be added to the balance sheets as equally important key measures. These concepts, for now, are abstract in the daily lives of project developers, structural engineers and investors. Our mission is to change that.

We do believe, that by leveraging technology and sharing knowledge, we can tear down some of the barriers in the way of this change. Technology enables the simplification and automation of many processes.

Current and upcoming regulations, slow and insufficient as they are, do help the transition and force the sector to invest in sustainability. Sustainable construction is not the responsibility of a single discipline. Owners, investors, architects, engineers, construction managers, BIM coordinators, legal departments, everyone has to work together to shape a more sustainable and equitable future. This is what shapes the structure of our company and the range of services we are to provide.

Should global temperatures rise by 3°C till the end of the century, humanity would face catastrophic repercussions. The extreme weather and a more than a metre of sea level rise would be an existential threat to all of us. This underscores the vital necessity to meet the Paris Agreement’s targets. These targets involve a global action plan to limit global warming to well below 2°C, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. Achieving these targets is not merely a policy issue, but an essential commitment for our collaborative survival and prosperity.

The construction industry in itself is responsible for over a third of global CO2 emissions, over a third of global energy expenditures and 40% of global waste. It is also currently off track to decarbonise by 2050. In the wake of new technologies, evolving regulations and green certifications, objective measurement and reporting of the progress is key.

One of the main drivers of the net zero transformation is regulations. Net zero simply means cutting emissions to close to zero, with any remaining emissions re-absorbed from the atmosphere by oceans and forests for instance. In recent years many countries have been updating their national building energy codes in order to push for more sustainable developments.

The regulations cover a range of factors from energy efficiency to indoor air-quality and future well-being. International standards and certifications for green buildings, like LEED and BREEAM are gathering momentum in the industry all around the world.

Yet an all-important aspect often remains overlooked: embodied energy. Existing net zero definitions focus too much the operative energy. Renewable energy sources and good insulation are, by all means, important, but so is the amount of energy needed to erect the walls and produce the solar panels in the first place. The embodied energy is the total sum of all the energy that was needed to construct the building.

It can take up to 80 years for a new, energy-efficient building to overcome the climate impact of its own construction—compared to an average building. We want to emphasise the target of comparison, an average building. For it means that there is still an impact on the environment, albeit lower than before.

Initially, we focus on two building materials: concrete and steel. These two are responsible for most of the emissions. During the production of 1 ton of cement an equal amount of CO2 is a created as byproduct. For steel, it is 1.8 tons of CO2 for 1 ton of steel.