Home » Climate Action » What radical measures can we take to transform the built environment?

Every site has its unique challenges. But the flexibility provided by today’s up-to-date materials allows every building to meet its full energy efficiency potential while meeting the needs of its users.

Buildings are responsible for 37% of global emissions, according to the UN Environment Agency, so creating energy-efficient living and working spaces is essential to meeting global climate targets. Whether it’s reimagining old buildings for maximum efficiency or redesigning an industrial facility for sustainability from the ground up, creating a net zero future is well within our grasp.

Energy-efficient homes

Old homes tend to be far less efficient than new homes, but redesigning buildings sensitively can also be challenging. Add this into an urban context where space is at a premium, and the challenge becomes even greater. To solve this problem, architects at alma-nac designed a warm ‘coat’ for the aptly named ‘House-within-a-House.’ It has reimagined a 1950s property into a contemporary, energy-efficient design — saving the owners money on heating bills and reducing materials sent to landfills.

The revised design adds an outer envelope to the structure, using Kingspan Kooltherm products to make the energy-efficient vision a reality. The materials were specifically chosen for being thin and lightweight while offering leading thermal performance. Only 50 millimetres of Kooltherm cavity board insulation was fixed between the old structure and new brick frontage, with a further 57.7 millimetres of Kooltherm insulated plasterboard on the inside of the masonry wall. The low thickness allows the design to retain interior space.

At large industrial facilities, for example, space can be a challenge rather than an opportunity.

Sustainable buildings and large spaces

Retrofitting larger commercial buildings presents other challenges too. At large industrial facilities, for example, space can be a challenge rather than an opportunity. In the design of a new wine bottling facility for Greencroft Bottling, Kingspan’s QuadCore PowerPanel was chosen to make the most of the 22,000m2 facility when it completes in 2023. The pitched roofing product not only insulates the huge building effectively but provides the potential to generate over 1.7 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year through its solar photovoltaic capability.

The facility was built to more than double the capacity — up to 400 million litres annually — while prioritising the company’s sustainability ethos in terms of reducing energy usage and carbon emissions. The new product used combines energy-saving with power generation to form the ideal roofing solution.

Adding wall insulation to the design helped to create a thermally efficient and virtually airtight building. Greencroft projects that the amount of heat they will need will be just a third of an equivalent building without these sustainability measures, and they will have made a return on investment in just four years.

Making use of resources

These projects demonstrate that the onus is on everyone in the built environment ecosystem — designers, owners and end users — all working together to implement the solutions the world needs to meet its net-zero targets. We have the capabilities and tools to drive change and avert the worst impacts of global warming. Now is the time to put them into action.

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