Developing, developed countries can reduce emissions from construction

Developing, developed countries can reduce emissions from construction


Switching from unsustainable building practices to using alternative low-carbon building materials can help developing and developed countries reduce emissions from construction.

The above-featured image is for illustration and is of GreenBiz


UN report outlines how developing, developed countries can reduce emissions from constructions

If India uses recycled materials, it could reduce emissions in the material cycle of residential buildings by 50-70 per cent.

 Processing of cement, the binding agent in concrete, contributes 7 per cent of global carbon emissions, according to a new UNEP report. Photo: iStock

Developing countries should switch from unsustainable building practices to using alternative low-carbon building materials to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a new UN report highlighted.

The world adds buildings equivalent to the size of Paris every five days, states the report — Building Materials and The Climate: Constructing A New Future — by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the Yale Center for Ecosystems and Architecture.

About 37 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions can be traced back to the built environment sector, which includes buildings, the distribution systems that supply water and electricity, and the roads, bridges, and transportation systems.

The UNEP report makes a case for “Avoid-Shift-Improve” strategies to reduce emissions. “Avoiding” emissions through circularity to ensure waste is eliminated while extending a building’s life, “Shifting” to sustainable materials, and “Improving” the production of conventional materials such as concrete, steel, aluminium, plastics, glass and bricks.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the built environment are categorised into two groups: embodied emissions and operational emissions.

Embodied emissions are all the emissions associated with the construction and demolishing of a building. They also include emissions from extraction, manufacturing, transport and on-site construction of building materials and “end-of-life” demolition or reuse.

Operational emissions are the emissions generated while maintaining the building’s indoor “comfort levels,” including by heating, cooling, lighting and electrical appliances.

Indirect operational emissions from residential buildings make up a majority of emissions (11 per cent), while embodied emissions from the use of concrete, steel and aluminium account for at least six per cent.

So far, the focus has been on operational emissions. The UNEP, however, warns that embodied carbon (the amount of carbon dioxide across the life cycle of the built environment process) is projected to surge from 25 per cent to nearly half (49 per cent) by 2050, whereas the share of operational carbon emissions will shrink due to increased adoption of renewable energy and improvement of energy-efficient buildings.

Developed countries, it adds, should focus on renovating existing and ageing building stock. Renovating a building generates 50-75 per cent fewer emissions than new construction, the report highlighted.

For new buildings, the experts call for incorporating circular design strategies such as the design for disassembly. It is a design process that enables the recovery of products, parts and materials when a building is disassembled or renovated. This can reduce greenhouse emissions by 10-50 per cent.

“Despite growing awareness, most contemporary material cycles continue to be more linear than circular. As a result, non-renewable, energy-intensive materials still supply the majority of demand,” the report reads.

The report added that a new supply-and-demand model should be developed. Tasks such as carefully dismantling buildings for storing, preparation and maintenance of second-cycle materials for resale will enable circular economies while providing job opportunities.

If G7 countries and China use recycled materials, they could reduce emissions in the material cycle of residential buildings by 80 to 100 per cent by 2050. In India, the reductions could reach 50-70 per cent, the report quotes the International Resource Panel (a scientific panel of experts that aims to help nations use natural resources sustainably).


Source: UNEP

They also state that increasing the lifetime of buildings creates significant opportunities to reduce aggregate embodied carbon.

The second principle is to switch towards properly managed bio-based materials. “To reach net zero emissions in the built environment sector, the building materials of the future will need to be procured from renewable or reusable sustainable sources wherever possible,” the report reads.

Of the available options, mass timber has emerged as an attractive alternative to carbon-intensive concrete and steel due to its potential for scalability, sustainability, strength and flexibility in mid-rise urban buildings.

Bamboo can be processed and manufactured into a variety of composite materials called engineered bamboo. This version has demonstrated structural performance similar to that of cross-laminated timber and steel.

As for the third principle “improve”, UNEP recommended electrifying and decarbonising the energy that is supplied to the production and maintenance of materials, buildings and urban infrastructure across their life cycle.

Processing of cement, the binding agent in concrete, contributes 7 per cent of global carbon emissions. Solutions such as reducing the clinker (produced from limestone and chalk)-to-cement ratio and increasing the share of cement alternatives, among others, could help in decarbonising the sector.

Another technology that could potentially be used is Carbon capture and utilisation for concrete production (CCU concrete). It is a process of removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it within the building material itself over time

It is estimated that CCU concrete can remove 0.1 to 1.4 gigatonnes of CO2 by 2050. “However, there are conflicting opinions as to whether the benefits of increased strength and optimisation of materials will outweigh the carbon costs of capturing, transporting and incorporating the captured CO2 into concrete products,” reads the report.

Avoiding raw material extraction by promoting steel reuse and producing steel from scrap (discarded steel or steel product) can save around 60-80 per cent of energy, the report noted.

It also helps to reduce steel demand by extending building lifetimes, and switching to circular bio-based materials such as engineered timber and bamboo, it added.

Using renewable energy for aluminium production is important and producing aluminium from scrap can reduce the energy demand by 70-90 per cent.




Sustainable architecture in face of climate change


The above-featured image is for illustration and is IDEALWORK on similar concern.

Sustainable architecture in face of climate change

By ANSUMAN PATI in the Pioneer.

As the globe struggles to overcome the obstacles presented by a rapidly changing environment, the complex interaction between art, architecture, and climate change has become more important. By designing buildings that blend in with the environment, reflect sustainable practices, and endure the effects of climate change, architects, as stewards of the built environment, play a crucial role in determining the future of our world.


Design inspired by nature


In a time of environmental awareness, architects are looking to nature more often for inspiration. The design principle of “biomimicry,” which imitates natural patterns and processes, is essential for developing sustainable buildings. Architects can create creative solutions that cut down on energy use, improve thermal performance, and minimise resource waste by studying the effectiveness of natural systems. Natural-inspired structures not only have a less carbon footprint but also mix in perfectly with their surroundings, making them real-world illustrations of sustainable art.


Construction methods, sustainable materials


The environmental impact of a structure is significantly influenced by the materials and construction techniques used. To reduce embodied carbon and advance a circular economy, architects are adopting sustainable materials like reclaimed wood, recycled metal, and low-emission concrete. Additionally, prefabrication and modular construction methods reduce waste from building projects, energy use, and harm to nearby ecosystems. Sustainable architecture elevates the building process to the level of an art form by demonstrating how ecological responsibility and human inventiveness may coexist together.


Passive design, net-zero energy


The movement towards net-zero energy buildings, or buildings that produce as much energy as they need, is being led by architects. Buildings that generate clean energy while preserving their visual appeal are being made by architects by utilising renewable energy sources including solar panels, wind turbines, and geothermal systems. The use of artificial cooling and heating is reduced by passive design techniques including orienting buildings to maximise natural sunlight and ventilation, creating places that are both energy-efficient and comfortable. The architect’s dedication to sustainability and creativity is demonstrated by the way in which technology and design have been combined.


Adaptivity, resilience


Architects must create structures that are durable and flexible as climate change leads to increasingly frequent and intense weather occurrences. The architect’s commitment to protecting human life and preserving architectural history is exemplified by the use of flood-resistant foundations, hurricane-resistant windows, and earthquake-resistant buildings. By lowering the need for new building materials, adaptive reuse, or repurposing old structures, he helps the environment. Through their innovative designs, architects are reinventing how structures react to shifting environmental conditions.


Urban planning, green spaces


Urban planning and public spaces are also included in the convergence of art, architecture, and sustainability, in addition to specific buildings. The integration of parks, green roofs, and urban forests into the urban fabric is something that architects are strong proponents of. These green areas reduce urban heat islands, offer crucial ecological services, and enhance air quality. Urban planning that emphasises bicycle infrastructure, walkability, and effective public transportation lowers carbon emissions and promotes thriving, liveable communities. The architect’s position as a visionary artist sculpting the urban landscape is reflected in this comprehensive approach to sustainable design.


Cultural preservation


In addition to protecting the environment, architects also have a duty to preserve cultural heritage and promote social justice. Historic building preservation and the incorporation of regional architectural cues into contemporary architecture celebrate cultural identity and promote a sense of neighbourhood. In addition, architects work to design inclusive and accessible settings that improve everyone’s wellbeing, regardless of their age or level of ability. Architects express their dedication to sustainability, which includes both the physical and human components of design, by placing a priority on cultural preservation and social effect.


A sustainable future that seamlessly integrates art and architecture into the structure of our environment is something that architects can create in the face of climate change by using a special combination of creativity, innovation, and responsibility. The skilful blending of nature-inspired design, sustainable materials, net-zero energy solutions, resilience, and social effect demonstrates the architect’s crucial role in establishing a society in which beauty and sustainability coexist. Architects represent the transforming force of design via their imaginative works, pointing humanity in the direction of a time when art and architecture will stand as enduring symbols of our dedication to the environment and its inhabitants.

(The writer is an architect who shows insight into things that helps in producing sustainable architectural eco-friendly buildings)




This simple and smart solution could solve cities’ extreme heat problem


In the MENA region, where shading, because of the prevailing climate, has been for millennia and still is one of the most important architectural elements for all built structures of the past, this simple and smart solution could solve cities’ extreme heat problem exposure.

The above-featured image is for illustration and is credit to TENSILE FABRIC SHADE


This simple and smart solution could solve cities’ extreme heat problem

Gensler spent three years researching how to mitigate extreme heat in vulnerable communities.
[Photo: courtesy Gensler]

Three years ago, the community impact team at the global design, architecture and planning firm Gensler set out to find answers to a question that rises to the very top of every architect’s mind when a heat wave sweeps over a city: What is the fastest, cheapest way to cool down our cities? Or as Amanda Stone, Gensler’s research manager and community impact specialist, put it: “How can we design a design process to create solutions for the built environment that would combat extreme heat?”

The answer Gensler came up with—an adaptable shading structure that can be configured to fit different kinds of public spaces—is by no means a silver bullet that will help cool cities everywhere in the world. But it is worth dwelling on the process that informed it, which could (and should) become a blueprint for any designer or urban planner working with local communities.

[Image: courtesy Gensler]

After receiving three internal research grants to more deeply explore the question, the Gensler team got to work, but it found that answering Stone’s original prompt—which puts an emphasis on the process, not the output—was too broad and complex to come from only one team. And so, it was circulated across Gensler’s broader network of designers and researchers, who then tapped into their own networks in search of community partners who may want to participate.

One of those communities was in the Costa Rican city of Curridabat, which has been suffering the consequences of climate change for years. Paula Badilla, sustainability specialist at Gensler’s Costa Rica office and regional resilience leader for Latin America, explains that Curridabat already had a strong climate action plan and had been measuring things like its heat vulnerability index, urban heat island effects and flood risk across the municipality. But the team didn’t simply rely on those datapoints to inform the design process—they actually asked residents where they felt the hottest.

[Photo: courtesy Gensler]

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the heat maps and residents’ responses didn’t always match, so in Curridabat, the community chose the final three locations based on their own experiences of the city: right outside a human development center, close to a sports field, and in a skatepark with one lone tree.

[Photo: courtesy Gensler]

In those three locations, the team developed a brief for a shading structure, which they turned into an internal competition to design what it would look like. More than 80 people participated across Gensler’s Latin American offices. The winning design ticked all the boxes: it was modular and could therefore be accommodated to fit all tree locations; it was easy enough for the community to build it (and feel a sense of ownership in the process); and it could be made with pretty much any locally found materials—in this case bamboo, rope and canvas. As a bonus, it could also provide more than just shade: residents could use the canvas as a projection screen, or replace it altogether with art, or a trellis for ivy.,c_limit,q_auto:best,f_webm/wp-cms/uploads/2023/09/i-1-90947083-costa-rica-heat.gif

[Image: courtesy Gensler]

To measure the impact the structure will have on the community and how they experience heat, the team is planning to install humidity and temperature trackers on all three structures, then will monitor them over the next three months. They’re also hoping to install CCTV-like cameras to understand who is using the structures (children? teens? parents?) and what they’re using them for. They could, of course, survey residents in a few months, but as project manager Ana Thomas notes: “When you ask people, they tell you things you want to hear, but we need the right information about how they really feel.”

Either way, the findings will not only inform future iterations, but also serve as validation for the community. “The one good thing that I have seen in terms of what really works is knowledge sharing,” says Stone. “It’s gathering the data, gathering the best practices, and sharing those with community members, not keeping it insular.”

Our cities: Now it’s in our hands to make them homey


Our cities: Now it’s in our hands to make them homey and it is not too late.  Anyway, let us start by going through the following steps to reshape economic geography and rejuvenate the MENA cities.

The above-featured image is credit to Efetova Anna /Shutterstock

The philosopher Marc Augé defined our cities. Now it’s in our hands to make them homey

By Isabel Argüelles Rozada, Universidad de Oviedo

“[The] city is a spatial figure of time in which present, past and future come together. It is, at times, a cause for astonishment and, at others, for remembrance or expectation […]. In this sense, the city is both an illusion and an allusion.” (Marc Augé, “Pour une anthropologie de la mobilité”).

We head to the mall to do some shopping. Since it’s out in the suburbs, we take the car. Along the way, we pay less attention to our surroundings than to the traffic signs we encounter, with which we automatically comply.

When we arrive at our destination, we walk through the doors (also automatic), and navigate the aisles of the store by following, once again, the signs. We select products by either studying their ingredients or simply by their brand name. We come across other people, but don’t converse with them. At the cash register, new figures and familiar phrases await us.

We frequent these kinds of spaces on a daily basis: subway systems, gas stations, airports, malls, theme parks. Unlike traditional settings, they aren’t intended as places to dwell, but simply to be transited.


French anthropologist Marc Augé, who died on July 24, is renowned for his concept of “non-places”. His 1993 text of the same name describes a reality that is very much relevant to our everyday lives.

By reading it, we can better grasp the apparent paradox of life in the big city. That is to say, why, despite the fact that we are surrounded by so many people, we still often feel lonely.

Marc Augé, in a photo at an event in Italy in 2012.
Vedro/Flickr, CC BY-SA

As is often the case with any frequently quoted statement, its meaning has often been reduced to a negative critique of the spaces that modern capitalist societies have created.

The fact is that a non-place is a depersonalised space in which we act as mere users, devoid of history – what does the history of a supermarket matter? However, it’s also relational since in these spaces we become cashiers, drivers, customers, etc. and in those terms we interact with others. This illustrates that the non-place is defined, by its very nature, by what it is not.

It’s precisely for this reason that the term is so elusive. However, no space can be understood simply by being a place or a non-place, but by what we do in it and with it. Of course, as a function of their design and purpose, an airport or a supermarket have far more chances of being labelled a non-place than a town square.

Nonetheless, as its users, we are able to redefine it, however tenuous or temporary that may be. After all, Nobel Prize-winning author Annie Ernaux turns a supermarket into a place for romance in _Look at the Lights, My Love. It seems the French have a knack for unlocking the aesthetic potential of non-places.

Augé and beyond

Augé’s more recent works should also be remembered in the wake of his death. These include Pour une anthropologie de la mobilité, which examines the concepts of borders and migration in the context of the globalised world.

Meanwhile, L’impossible voyage: le tourisme et ses images, reminds us that, strictly speaking, the concept of travel is a difficult undertaking in the modern world of mass media since we have already consumed images and perceptions of our destination before we set out on our journey. These days, it’s impossible for us to replicate the experience of Ulysses facing the unknown.

Augé taught us a great many things. For instance, that we need not travel to inhospitable lands, if that notion still exists, in order to be anthropologists. He started out, in fact, in African studies. Although Augé was born and died in Poitiers, most of his texts focus on Paris, where he spent much of his life.

He also demonstrated that academic prose is no impediment to beautiful writing. He enjoyed providing literary and cinematographic examples, illustrating that links between anthropology or philosophy and the arts are not only possible, but necessary.

For the scholar, our experience of the city must not be limited to its infrastructures. Instead, it should comprise the dynamic result of the complex interplay of our personal memories and experiences, the collective past and the arts. Some of his other examples include Venice, which cannot be viewed without the filter of Thomas Mann, Santiago de Chile, without recalling Isabel Allende, and San Francisco, without picturing the mysterious woman in Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece Vertigo.

An image from the film Vertigo, by Alfred Hitchcock, with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.

Even if we haven’t read anything by Charles Baudelaire, we have acquired a series of expectations about Paris that have, to a large extent, a lot to do with his tableaux (portraits of the city).

In effect, the city is what we see, but also what we don’t see. Its streets, or what’s left of them, or even the buildings that are no longer there, in a gentle or violent manner, transport us to other times, and that’s why every city is like poetry of which we are readers and, at the same time, writers.

Or, in the words of Augé himself:

“Urban planners, architects, artists and poets ought to realise that their fate is intertwined and that their raw material is the same: without the imaginary there would be no city, and vice versa.”

Isabel Argüelles Rozada, Investigadora predoctoral en Filosofía, Universidad de Oviedo

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.



Are we smart enough for smart cities?


The above-featured image is for illustration and is credit to

“One of the biggest threats is smart cities’ vulnerability to cyberattacks. This is because using large and connected networks gives cybercriminals more entry points and the perfect opportunity to jump from one exposed system to the next.

Are we smart enough for smart cities?

29 August 2023

SMART cities are becoming a reality rather than a concept, and integrating technology into everyday infrastructure has become a norm.

They present local authorities with a vast number of opportunities, including data-driven decision-making, enhanced engagement between citizens and the government and a reduced environmental footprint.


As with any new technology, there are risks to consider when developing smart cities.

One of the biggest threats is their vulnerability to cyberattacks. This is because using large and connected networks will give cybercriminals more entry points and the perfect opportunity to jump from one exposed system to the next.

While we should not let fear get in the way of innovation, it is essential that we adequately prepare ourselves with robust security protocols.

Challenges facing smart cities

Smart cities face unique challenges when it comes to cyber security. Networks are used by public and private entities, individuals and thousands of IoT (Internet of Things) devices each day.

The massive amount of data exchanged across these networks require a stringent security strategy. Some of the main challenges include:

Connected devices: A multitude of IoT devices that control everything from CCTV and traffic light management to organisations’ personal and financial data can be connected to a network at any one time. In theory, this sounds ideal for seamless communication and management, but in practice, they offer hackers thousands of potential entry points to launch an attack.

Automation of infrastructure operations: Automation offers numerous advantages across various functions within smart cities, reducing the need for direct human control over such operational systems. However, the proliferation of sensors can result in a greater number of connections to oversee and regulate. These connections can become vulnerable points susceptible to compromise.

Sub-standard data management processes: Data is at the heart of any smart city and is critical to everyday operations. However, many lack the correct processes to ensure this information is managed safely and securely. If a database is not policed correctly, it can be simple for hackers to target, which can lead to sensitive data being leaked, stolen or compromised.


Risks from ICT supply chain and vendors: We know the risks posed by supply chains and third parties. These were particularly evident during the recent zero-day vulnerability found in file transfer software MOVEit, which was subsequently exploited as part of a large-scale ransomware attack. Hackers continue to attack the weakest links, making smart infrastructure systems an appealing and lucrative target for them. To combat this, we need to adopt and adhere to secure-by-design and default practices to minimise these risks.

Outdated technology: Many cities have infrastructure and networks built on outdated technology, which leaves them susceptible to cyberattacks. Ensure systems are up to date with the latest software updates and security patches. Technology is central to the success of any smart city, and having resilient systems is a priority.

Inefficient security: Being linked directly to outdated technology, having inefficient security protocols in place can expose smart cities to malicious threats. This can leave individuals and organisations vulnerable to data breaches, identity theft and loss of sensitive information. Protecting existing infrastructure with robust security measures can prevent a potentially disastrous breach.

How do we ensure that the safety, security and privacy of those who live and work in smart cities are not compromised?

Build cyber resilience

Research indicates that by 2024, the number of wide-area network smart city connections is projected to surpass 1.3 billion. The level of complexity within these digital infrastructures is only increasing, which means any digital services implemented by a government or organisation are vulnerable to cyberattacks.

To realise their potential, smart cities need to find an effective balance between managing risk and enabling growth.

Building resilience to protect a smart city against these attacks is key. The starting point should be developing a cyber security strategy that maps out the broader objective of the smart city. This will help mitigate risks arising from the interconnectedness of processes and systems.

Part of any effective strategy should be to assess current data, systems and cyber defences to help give an idea of the current posture and quality of infrastructure.

Creating a formal relationship between cyber security personnel and those in governance of data is also vital. This will create an agreed approach to cyber security between all parties.

This means all stakeholders should work together to ensure that data that is being exchanged is secure across the networks. The policies put in place will mature alongside a city’s cyber strategy and add transparency to processes.

Finally, building strategic partnerships to help address the cyber security skills shortage is key to any successful security strategy. This is a good way to develop skills and increase the knowledge base, which in turn will bolster the overall security posture and resilience.

Get smart and be proactive

Smart city technologies need to adopt a proactive methodology to ensure cyber security risks are at the forefront of the planning and design of technologies.

Being “secure by design” is strongly recommended as a defence-in-depth approach. There may be some legacy infrastructure connecting to the smart infrastructure, and this may require a redesign to make secure connectivity and integration possible.

Hackers will continue to exploit vulnerabilities. An overwhelming number of cyberattacks against businesses can be avoided if supply chains and third-party security are taken seriously.

Attackers are quick to exploit vulnerabilities in well-known products. Invest in resources to help combat the everyday struggle of security patches and updates.

Operational resilience is the cornerstone of smart city technology implementation. To make sure organisations are well prepared, contingencies should be put in place for different types of incidents, which can have operational impact or cause disruption.

Autonomous functionality and isolation tools should exist to help minimise disruption.

Risk, privacy and legality all play an important role in smart cities, making sure data that is collected, stored and processed are in accordance with regulations.

Leaders, developers and business owners think that securing cyber risk within their smart city is a one-time objective. However, it is an ongoing and evolving process that can make a difference between a major breach or major growth.

The writer is the lead security engineer at Check Point Software Technologies.

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