What is Net-Zero Architecture?

What is Net-Zero Architecture?

What is Net-Zero Architecture? Wondered Dima Stouhi before giving some of her thoughts on the Terms and Design Strategies.

As revolutionary as the construction sector may seem nowadays, it currently accounts for nearly 40% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, 11% of which are a result of manufacturing building materials such as steel, cement, and glass. Fast forward a couple of years later, after a life-changing global pandemic and indisputable evidences of climate change, CO2 emissions are still on a rise, reaching a historical maximum in 2020 according to the 2020 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction. Although a lot of progress has been made through technological advancements, design strategies and concepts, and construction processes, there is still a long way to go to reduce carbon emissions to a minimum or almost zero in the development of built environments.

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Responding to the alarming statistics, governments have put in place several action plans to limit carbon emissions and ensure a sustainable environment. In July 2021, the European Commission adopted a package of proposals to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030. Earlier this year, the commission launched its second edition of the New European Bauhaus program, an initiative designed to transform the built environment into a more sustainable and socially valuable one.

As the world embarks on a mission towards a net-zero environment, here are some terms that encompass net-zero architecture.

Net-Zero Architecture

By definition, “net-zero”, also known as carbon neutrality, is the act of negating or canceling out the amount of greenhouse gases produced by human activity, by reducing existing emissions and implementing methods of absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Although net-zero buildings represent a fragment of new construction projects, the technology, tools, and knowledge that architects have acquired over the past years have made designing a net-zero building the new norm. To design net-zero buildings, we listed 7 things to take into account to contribute to this global objective. The list includes making use of bioclimatic architecture and passive concepts, provide renewable energy on site whenever possible, using energy efficiency of appliances and lighting, and considering embedded carbon. Beyond architecture, urban planners have also been trying to find strategies to create environmentally friendly communities. In 2018, Architecture for Humans proposed the Zero Emission Neighborhood, an eco-village concept in the city of PristinaKosovo that ensures optimum sustainability for the entire community through “zero emission” buildings, passive design strategies, active solar systems, and energy efficient appliances.

Net Zero Village. Image © Architecture for Humans
Net Zero Village. Image © Architecture for Humans

Net-Zero Energy

Net-Zero Energy is when the building is able to offset, or counterbalance the amount of energy required to build and operate throughout its lifetime in all aspects of the site, source, cost, and emissions. In other words, the building is able to produce enough energy to cancel or “zero-out” the amount of energy it takes to operate daily. Net-zero energy buildings are often designed with these three criteria: “producing energy onsite via equipment like solar panels or wind turbines, accounting for its energy use through clean energy production offsite, and reducing the amount of energy required through design optimization”. Achieving it is not entirely dependent on the building being efficient, but on reducing the energy load, and then employing renewable energy to offset the remaining energy. An example of net-zero energy buildings is the Net Zero Energy House by Lifethings, where the client wanted a house based on common sense in its design, construction, and budget. The 230 sqm house includes photovoltaic panels, solar heat collection tubes, wood burning boiler, four kitchens and four bathrooms, all built with a modest budget.

Net Zero Energy House / Lifethings. Image © Kyungsub Shin
Net Zero Energy House / Lifethings. Image © Kyungsub Shin

Net-Zero Carbon

Net-zero carbon is achieved through reducing construction techniques and building materials that result in high carbon emissions. Put simply, Net Zero Carbon = Total Carbon Emitted – Total Carbon Avoided. Reducing embodied carbon through a concise material selection and construction techniques often results in a decrease in harmful chemical off-gassing, which affects the occupants’ productivity and wellbeing. The Courtyard House by Manoj Patel Design Studio promotes carbon positive and net-zero operations through smart planning of space and material selection, all while ensuring the emotional and physical well-being of its occupants. Clay tiles on the facade are cut and interlocked in a way that explores wall hangings from the sky and compliments the white volume. The structure meets all climatic and aesthetic needs of the space, particularly through the square patterns which parallel the projections of the sun during the day and make room for cool air only to flow in through the pores.

The Courtyard House / Manoj Patel Design Studio. Image © MKG Studio
The Courtyard House / Manoj Patel Design Studio. Image © MKG Studio

Carbon Emissions & Fossil Fuels

Carbon emissions, or greenhouse gas emissions, are emissions emerging from the manufacturing of cement and burning of fossil fuels, and are considered the main reason behind climate change. Fossil fuel is another term used to describe non-renewable carbon-based energy sources such as coal, natural and derived gas, crude oil, and petroleum products. Although they originate from plants and animals, fossil fuels can be also made by industrial mixtures of other fossil fuels, such as the transformation of crude oil to motor gasoline. It is estimated that almost 80% of all manmade greenhouse gas emissions originate from fossil fuels combustion, with the construction industry being one of its biggest contributors.

Courtesy of cove.tool
Courtesy of cove.tool
Sustainability

By definition, sustainability is when a subject can be sustained, meaning that it can be maintained at length without being interrupted, disintegrated, or weakened in the long run. In architecture, however, the term “sustainability” has been used in various contexts. Some of which is to indicate being eco-conscious, an environmentalist, or “meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” using natural, social, and economic resources. Looking at all the “sustainable” projects that have been developed and are being proposed, it aims to be a holistic approach that takes into account three pillars: the environmentsociety, and economy, all mediated together to ensure vitality and durability. Sustainability is not just implemented on an architectural level through recycled materials and construction techniques, but also on an urban scale. The European Commission, for instance, adopted several nationwide proposals that pushed the continent a step further towards implementing the European Green Deal, an action plan that transforms the EU into a modern, resource-efficient, and competitive economy.

Zero House / Tenio. Image © AWESOME
Zero House / Tenio. Image © AWESOME
Passive Design

By definition, “passive solar energy is the collection and distribution of energy obtained by the sun using natural, non-mechanical means”, which in architecture, has provided buildings with heat, lighting, mechanical power, and electricity as naturally as possible. The configuration behind passive systems consists of three types: direct gain, indirect gain, and isolated gain, and takes into account design strategies such as: location with respect to the sun, the overall shape and orientation of a project, allocating interior rooms with respect to the sun and wind, window placement, sheltered entrance, choosing materials that absorb heat, glass facades / solar windows where necessary, implementing trombe walls, skylights, water features, and shading elements, to name a few.

Conservatory. Image © Onnis Luque
Conservatory. Image © Onnis Luque
Adaptive Reuse

Architects and urban designers have a responsibility of ensuring that the spaces people live in cater to them, the environment, the society as a whole, and maintain its cultural and historic value. However, recent years highlighted numerous socio-cultural predicaments related to the built environment such as housing crises, demolition of historic landmarks, lack of green areas, etc. One way of dealing with these crises was by reusing old structures and complimenting them with new elements or functions instead of opting for complete demolition and reconstruction, which would have inevitably generated a much bigger carbon footprint. Adaptive reuse can be executed in the form of reusing materialsinterventions in pre-existing architecturesreclaiming abandoned architecture, or changing the original function of the space.

Convent de Sant Francesc / David Closes. Image © Jordi Surroca
Convent de Sant Francesc / David Closes. Image © Jordi Surroca

This article is part of the ArchDaily Topics: The Road to Net Zero Architecture presented by Rander Tegl.

Randers Tegl aims to take responsibility and think sustainable as a part of reaching the goal of Net Zero. Both in terms of how building materials impact the climate and how the materials age, but also with a focus on architecture. That is why Randers Tegl created their sustainable series GREENER, which comes with full documentation in the form of EPD, so it is possible to use the product in technical calculation programs.

Read the original article on ArchDaily.

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Geospatial intelligence for infrastructure development to fight climate change

Geospatial intelligence for infrastructure development to fight climate change


How India can use geospatial intelligence for infrastructure development to fight climate change by Madhusudan Anand is a story that should be also common to those countries of the MENA region because there are certainly more similarities in The race to zero emissions, between the MENA region and India than differences.

Here are a few ways geospatial intelligence can be the catalyst for India’s smart status ambitions.

At the recent COP26 summit in Glasgow, India promised to reach Net Zero by 2070 — essentially balancing the total carbon dioxide emissions with its elimination from the environment — called carbon neutrality.

However, India is the world’s fourth-largest emitter of carbon dioxide after China, the US, and the EU. The latter two have issued a commitment to reach Net Zero by 2050. 

Despite the incredible progress made towards sustainability across the country, India seems to be lagging on a global playing field when it comes to mass scale solutions.

Naturally, there’s a lot of expectations and hopes riding on the government’s initiatives, including on the recent PM Gati Shakti Master Plan, which aims to create holistic infrastructure across the country through the incorporation of a centralised geospatial data platform.

The Rs 100 lakh-crore initiative is envisioned to ensure transparency, standardisation, and most importantly, sustainability through efficiency.

The programme will bring together 16 central government agencies, including the Railways, Roads and Highways, Petroleum and Gas, Power, Telecom, Shipping, Aviation, and more.

The overarching idea is that a smart city is sustainable — equipped to mitigate climate change’s effects by harnessing the power of technology. 

Geospatial knowledge can provide answers for most everyday problems, especially developing sustainable smart cities. Urban spaces contribute to around 80 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, they are also responsible for 80 percent of a country’s GDP.

With the intersection of artificial intelligence and geospatial data — including census data, satellite imagery, remote sensing, weather data, cell phone data, drawn images, and social media data — urban planning can be highly efficient and contribute to better living conditions both environmentally and financially.

Astoundingly, the market of geospatial analytics is expected to grow at a CAGR of 24 percent between 2020 and 2025.

Here are a few ways geospatial intelligence can be the catalyst for India’s smart status ambitions. 

Environmental repair 

Consumption of resources, energy, ecosystems, and transport directly impact climate change. Geospatial intelligence can help monitor emission sources through collaborative workflows that harness big data to arrive at efficient solutions.

Detailed maps can help evaluate the productivity of land to arrive at its habitable or agricultural status. GIS also makes it easy for civic authorities to balance nature with humans in urban cities to avoid unnecessary culling of green spaces and wildlife conservation. Moreover, it can monitor and correct pollution and noise levels accordingly. 

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Critics claim Qatar’s sustainable 2022 stadium is just ‘PR’

Critics claim Qatar’s sustainable 2022 stadium is just ‘PR’

Critics claim Qatar’s sustainable 2022 stadium is just ‘PR’ by Nikolaus J. Kurmayer of EURACTIV.de would not be a slightly out of control criticism but a serious snapshot of our life of today. This can be summarised in a few words such as: should we build more and more of these sports infrastructure.

30 November 2021

The above image is for illustration and is of EURACTIV.com.

The new modular stadium 974 built for the 2022 Qatar world cup may solve some of the issues associated with world cup venue construction: empty unused stadiums left behind. [dezeen/Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy]

As Football comes under pressure to go carbon neutral, one major source of emissions remains the stadiums that need to be built for every world cup, something Qatar seeks to address. But critics remain unconvinced that supposedly sustainable stadiums are enough to tackle the issue.

A big part of the 3.6 million tonnes of greenhouse gas equivalent emissions associated with the 2022 Qatar world cup counted by FIFA stems from what the report describes as “permanent construction of venues”.

Some 639,482 tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions would be emitted during the preparatory phase of the world cup during venue construction, FIFA notes.

As a result, Qatar proudly presented stadium 974 to the world on 26 November. Made from recycled shipping containers, the stadium is named after the number of containers used and its Qatari area code.

The design, based on prefabricated modular elements, reduced the waste generated during production and on-site during construction, say the owners.

The use of modular elements also reduced the venue’s construction duration, they added.

Considering the 6,500 deaths of migrant workers in Qatar since the country won its bid to host the world championship in 2010, as reported by the Guardian in February 2021, speeding up construction may be conducive to preventing more deaths.

According to the organiser, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), 34 migrant workers died on World Cup construction sites during the aforementioned period. 

The committee says it is transparent about these figures and doubts other “misleading” reports on the number of deaths.

The greenwashing issue

Aside from the human rights concerns and the deaths of primarily Pakistani migrant workers, environmental activists are also concerned that the new stadium may be one big greenwashing exercise.

The stadium, built from recycled materials and will be dismantled at the end of the world cup, boasts a modular design, allowing it to be disassembled and turned into multiple smaller stadiums or scraped easily.

“If you look at all the criticism for all of the big stadiums created around the world — and nobody uses them later on — this is, well, it’s useful,” Zeina Khalil Hajj, of 350, a global climate protection NGO, told Deutsche Welle

Yet, the innovative sea-side stadium, which can forego cooling due to its construction and location, is just one of eight massive stadiums Qatar built for the 2022 world cup.

“It doesn’t mean they are the biggest culprit in the world. It just means that they have a duty,” Hajj told DW. “They have a responsibility as a rich nation. They have to contribute. And that means they have to change their domestic consumption pattern.”

Residents of Qatar have some of the largest per capita carbon footprints due to their oil-based economy in a relatively inhospitable environment necessitating artificial cooling.

Instead of tackling the systemic challenges to their society, “What they’re doing instead is all this ‘PR machine’,” added Haji.

Despite all the smart design the Qatari SC employs to cut emissions and make the world cup as carbon-neutral as possible, critics are worried about their reliance on carbon offsets.

To achieve the SC’s pledge “to measure, mitigate and offset all FIFA World Cup 2022 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions” will ultimately require a massive amount of so-called carbon offsets, as a majority of emissions from air travel and venue construction are challenging to abate.

Offsetting “unavoidable emissions” by planting a million trees, as Qatar has pledged, rather than using solar power or wind energy to cool stadiums is not what Phillip Sommer, of environmental action Germany, would call sustainable, he told DW.

Neither organisers like the SC nor “FIFA should therefore not rely on offsets, but on direct investments in solar or wind power, and tie conditions for venues to the climate footprint of member countries,” Michael Bloss, Greens EU lawmaker, told EURACTIV.

[Edited by Alice Taylor]

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MENA region’s GDP to surge by over 3x by 2050

MENA region’s GDP to surge by over 3x by 2050

MENA region’s GDP to surge by over 3x by 2050 according to Gulf Capital White Paper as reported by SME10X . In effect, the oil and gas trade revenues allow considerable financial power and a strategic position on the international scene for those exporting countries but also a source of vulnerability for their economies, especially in the aftermath of not only this recent COP26 but to also the ensuing COPs Let us nevertheless look at this prediction of this white paper.

MENA region’s GDP to surge by over 3x by 2050

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A New report quantifies unprecedented growth opportunities across “Ascending Asia” which is set to drive 40 percent of global consumption by 2040.

Gulf Capital has released a white paper, “Bridging West and East Asia: The Investment Case for Ascending Asia”, that outlines the significant future growth of the Asian economies and the growth in the intra-regional trade and investment flows between West Asia, including the GCC, and East Asia.

The study, jointly published by Gulf Capital and Dr Parag Khanna, Founder and Managing Partner of FutureMap, reveals that the MENA region is expected to increase its GDP by over 3x by 2050, the ASEAN region is expected to grow by 3.7x, and India by 5x. This turbo-charged growth is in sharp contrast to the projected slower growth of the European and US economies at only 1.5x and 1.8x respectively for the same period.

Within greater Asia, the GCC and Southeast Asia are two ascending regions with rising youth populations where demographic and technological shifts will generate a significant expansion of the services sectors. Across these societies, rising affluence and consumption will drive business expansion, corporate profits, and higher valuations. Longer-term reforms including capital account liberalization and accelerated privatization will unlock fresh investment inflows into new Asian listings.

Dr Karim El Solh, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Gulf Capital, said: “The unprecedented growth opportunities presented by the emergence of ‘Ascending Asia’ have never been greater. The strong macro-economic fundamentals, a growing middle class and youth population, increasing GDP per capita, rapid adoption of technology, and growing intra-regional trade and investment flows will only strengthen the case for the Asian economies. We are fortunate to be investing and operating across Ascending Asia from the GCC to the Near East and Southeast Asia, where we have acquired a large number of companies in the past.”

Additionally, East and West Asia’s deepening trade and investment networks indicate that capital, companies, and consumers will increasingly traverse the Indian Ocean and strengthen ties along the new Silk Roads, stitching the region into a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

El Solh concluded, “Against the backdrop of the evolving megatrends of deepening trade links, sizable FDI flows, greater political cooperation, and the fastest growing consumer sector, Gulf Capital is ideally poised to capitalize on this once in a generation cross-border opportunity. It is our firm belief that if investors want to capture rapid growth over the next three decades, they need significant exposure to the fastest growing industries across Ascending Asia.”

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Accelerated renewables-based electrification paves the way for a post-fossil future

Accelerated renewables-based electrification paves the way for a post-fossil future

The hydrocarbon producing countries of the MENA region believe in their preeminent albeit shrinking source of revenues for decades. But, as shown by some counties of the Gulf net-zero recent pledge, they see economic and political opportunities in moving to the green energy transition. Accelerated renewables-based electrification paves the way for a post-fossil future by Nature Energy explains how the world and particularly the EU in order to achieve its climate and geopolitical goals, it will need to substantially increase its engagement with Gulf states.

The image above is for illustration and is about how Fossil Fuel Jobs Will Disappear, So Now What?

Accelerated renewables-based electrification paves the way for a post-fossil future

The research was published in Nature Energy.

Accelerated renewables-based electrification paves the way for a post-fossil future
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Cost-slashing innovations are underway in the electric power sector and could give electricity the lead over fossil-based combustion fuels in the world’s energy supply by mid-century. When combined with a global carbon price, these developments can catalyze emission reductions to reach the Paris climate targets, while reducing the need for controversial negative emissions, a new study finds.

“Today, 80 percent of all energy demands for industry, mobility or heating buildings is met by burning—mostly fossil—fuels directly, and only 20 percent by electricity. Our research finds that relation can be pretty much reversed by 2050, making the easy-to-decarbonise electricity the mainstay of global energy supply,” says Gunnar Luderer, author of the new study and researcher the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “For the longest time, fossil fuels were cheap and accessible, whilst electricity was the precious and pricier source of energy. Renewable electricity generation—especially from solar photovoltaics—has become cheaper at breath-taking speed, a pace that most climate models have so far underestimated. Over the last decade, alone prices for solar electricity fell by 80 percent, and further cost reductions are expected in the future. This development has the potential to fundamentally revolutionize energy systems. Our computer simulations show that together with global carbon pricing, green electricity can become the cheapest form of energy by 2050, and supply up to three quarters of all demand.”

The reasons lie mainly in the ground-breaking technological progress in solar and wind power generation, but also, in the end, uses of electric energy. Costs per kilowatt hour solar or wind power are steeply falling while battery technology e.g. in cars is improving at great speed. Heat pumps use less energy per unit of heat output than any type of boiler and are becoming increasingly competitive not only in buildings, but also in industrial applications. “You can electrify more end-uses than you think and for those cases actually reduce the energy consumption compared to current levels,” explains Silvia Madeddu, co-author and also researcher at the Potsdam Institute.

“Take steel production: Electrifying the melting of recycled steel, the so-called secondary steel, reduces the total process energy required and lowers the carbon intensity per ton of steel produced,” says Madeddu. “All in all, we find that more than half of all energy demand from industry can be electrified by 2050.” However, some bottlenecks to electrification do remain, the researchers point out. Slowest in the race to decarbonisation are long-haul aviation, shipping, and chemical feedstocks, i.e. fossil fuels used as raw materials in chemicals production.

Limiting the reliance on negative emissions

The scale of the technological progress holds great opportunities for countries to leapfrog and for investors alike. However, not every technology is a success story so far. “In this study, we constrained the reliance on technologies which aim at taking carbon out of the atmosphere, simply because they have proven to be more difficult to scale than previously anticipated: Carbon Capture and Storage has not seen the sharp fall in costs that, say, solar power has. Biomass, in turn, crucially competes with food production for land use,” Luderer lays out. “Interestingly, we found that the accelerated electrification of energy demands can more than compensate for a shortfall of biomass and CCS, still keeping the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal within reach while reducing land requirements for energy crops by two thirds.”

Era of electricity will come—but global climate policy must accelerate it to meet climate goals

“The era of electricity will come either way. But only sweeping regulation of fossil fuels across sectors and world regions—most importantly some form of carbon pricing—can ensure it happens in due time to reach 1.5 degrees,” Luderer says. Indeed, the simulations show that even if no climate policy at all is enacted, electricity will double in share over the course of the century. Yet in order to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement of limiting global warming to well below two degrees, decisive and global political coordination is crucial: pricing carbon, scrapping levies on electricity, expanding grid infrastructure, and redesigning electricity markets to reward storage and flexible demands. Here, hydrogen will be a crucial chain link, as it can flexibly convert renewable electricity into green fuels for sectors that cannot be electrified directly. “If these elements come together, the prospects of a renewables-based green energy future look truly electrifying,” says Luderer.

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