The built environment may be synonymous with the idea of cities, one begets the other, but increasingly city administrations are thinking about buildings in terms of environment.
The majority of buildings standing today in Europe (80%) will still be around by 2050. Buildings, or the building sector more specifically, constitute the largest single energy user in Europe. So, with cities, and other levels of governance, thinking about what needs to be done to achieve climate neutrality, it’s obvious that something must be done about our buildings.
As often large landlords themselves, city authorities manage extensive portfolios of public buildings, and can make a big impact to market conditions, through targeted actions such as their use of public procurement, employing energy saving renovations, and by thinking about the entire lifecycle of a building.
Take the example of Oslo, where a project to transform one of the city’s streets has introduced the world’s first zero- emissions construction site, or that of Brighton & Hove where the city council has rethought how it thinks about its offices, assets and approach to deconstruction work.
The King’s House project, in Brighton and Hove, involved emptying the largest office block in the city of 1,000 staff along with all their furniture and equipment. But rather than send the material to waste, as in the past, it was used to benefit local residents, organisations and community groups. In total 150 tonnes of materials were reused, which is equal to £150,000 of economic value re-entering the local community.
One relevant focus for Eurocities is the proposed ‘renovation wave’ as part of the European Green Deal initiatives: Without a deep and comprehensive renovation wave across Europe, the EU will not be able to meet its climate ambitions.
The #BuildingLife campaign, launched this week by the World green Building Council, will bring many of these ideas together.
“Eurocities members are driving change through zero emission construction sites, renovations to increase energy efficiency, and using concepts of the circular economy,” said Anna Lisa Boni, Secretary General of Eurocities, and one of the ambassadors for the #BuildingLife campaign.
The project aims to achieve the mix of private sector action and public policy necessary to tackle the whole-life impact of buildings. Currently, EU and member state buildings policy only addresses energy use, while buildings are operational.
“A green shift in Europe’s building policy will help create a healthy urban future for everyone. We can improve our resources efficiency and urban resilience while reducing energy consumption,” commented Klaas Verschuure, Deputy Mayor, City of Utrecht, who will also be a campaign ambassador for Eurocities.
The campaign hopes to accelerate the ambitions of the European Green Deal in the building sector, and create the first region-wide vision of a net-zero embodied carbon built environment.