An IKEA-Style Solution to Making Houses More Sustainable
A flat-packed renovation aims to improve the energy efficiency of homes that already exist
Under the Paris climate agreement, the world is attempting to limit the dangerous global temperature rise to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius. The agreement has also set an ambitious target for the European Union to be climate neutral (net-zero carbon dioxide emissions) by 2050. In addition to the usual suspects causing global warming, such as burning fossil fuels, significant contributions also come from the buildings that make up the towns and cities around us.
But now, a Danish architecture company is developing easy-to-install kits aimed at making homes more energy efficient. If produced on a global scale, they could have a major impact on the climate contributions of buildings everywhere.
Residential and commercial buildings account for over 40% of all energy consumption and over 30% of all carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. This is measured with a combination of two factors: operational carbon emissions, which refers to those released during the day-to-day use of a building, from heating and cooling a home to keeping the lights on in an office environment; and the “embodied carbon” of a building, which is the carbon released through the construction process, the materials used, and transportation involved in making the building.
From these two factors, a building’s total energy use — known as the “built environment’s energy intensity” — can be calculated. According to the World Green Building Council, energy intensity per square meter of buildings needs to be improved by around 30% by 2030 to have any chance of meeting climate targets. Strides are being made, but not at a pace that’s fast enough to keep up with building construction. At the current construction rate, CO2 emissions related to buildings are expected to double if action isn’t taken soon.
But there’s a bigger issue at play. While new buildings perform better in all these scores thanks to modern materials and better construction methods, most of the housing stock that will exist in 2050 has already been constructed.