The highly anticipated UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, report delivered a stark warning on climate change, sounding 'code red for humanity.' The report, published in August, noted that with further global warming, every region across the globe is projected to experience concurrent increasingly and multiple changes as the different types of climate change take effect.
Indeed, we have already witnessed a series of extreme weather events in recent months — from Hurricane Ida in the US, severe flooding in Western Europe to the record-breaking rainfall in China's Henan province. Closer to home, we are deeply saddened to see the devastating impact of the flash floods and landslides in April this year.
Despite the gloom, scientists pointed out in the IPCC report that if we can halve global emissions by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050, it is possible to limit the rise of global temperatures to the internationally agreed threshold of 1.5 degrees.
For that to happen, decisive, urgent, and concerted actions must now be taken to make our planet, people, and economies more resilient to climate change.
Indonesia makes good progress
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the buildings and construction sector accounted for 38 percent of total global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2019. As the world population grows and becomes increasingly urbanized, the building stock is expected to double by 2050, further increasing the sector's impact on climate change.
It is clear that a shift in the sector is needed — and today, we are starting to see this take place with the planning and development of green buildings around the world. As the term suggests, a green building is one that is built to preserve our climate and the natural environment. As much as possible, such structures also seek to improve the quality of our lives through using materials that are sustainable and non-toxic and providing a healthy indoor environment.
As one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases globally, Indonesia is progressing in greening its buildings. It has introduced green building standards for its major cities while setting a target to decrease the energy intensity of buildings by one percent per year to 2025.
Most recently, Indonesia has also updated its nationally determined contribution (NDC). Apart from confirming its first NDC from 2016 of reducing carbon emissions by 29-41 percent by 2030, it has taken into account ocean and marine issues in its emissions strategy. The authorities have also updated the country's net-zero target date from 2070 to 2060.
However, as humanity is urged to race to net zero, more can, and must, be done.
Decarbonising across the entire lifecycle of a building
Carbon emissions are released not only when buildings are fully operational. In fact, ten percent of global carbon emissions are a result of the manufacturing of building materials such as steel, cement, and glass, as well as construction and demolition of buildings.
Hence, a holistic approach needs to be taken to reduce carbon emissions across the whole lifecycle of buildings, including in its design, materials production, logistics, and construction processes.
The modular approach presents the industry with the possibility to manage construction more sustainably. This construction method involves producing standardized components of a structure in an off-site factory, then assembling them on-site. Besides the significant acceleration of project timelines, this approach leads to higher resource efficiency during production and a remarkable reduction of waste and site disturbance compared with traditional site-built structures.
Innovate to future-proof
The importance of innovation cannot be stressed enough as we navigate towards a more resilient future. There is a vast untapped potential when it comes to innovating to create energy and water savings in buildings.
For example, pumps control the water and cooling system of a building, operating, and using energy year-round. Particularly in commercial buildings, the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems account for up to 40 percent of total energy use. With more efficient pump solutions, the world's energy consumption can be heavily reduced. The result is a positive impact on carbon emissions and climate change and higher performing buildings, greater indoor comfort, and increased water safety.
For example, a distributed pumping solution that can operate in optimized conditions at any time. Utilizing built-in sensors and software, the pumps instinctively adjust their operations based on changes in demand, which ensures that pump systems run only when needed, thereby halving the amount of electricity consumed by traditional pumps that operate at a constant rate. On top of reducing energy consumption and operational costs, this system achieves comfort for users of the building too.
Innovation is also not limited to technologies – it extends to new business models. For example, companies can offer the as-a-service business model to help customers address the barriers of adopting sustainable technologies such as cost. It allows customers to finance new solutions with a share of their energy earnings, empowering them to save energy without requiring an initial investment.
Accelerating transition through regulation
In line with innovation, proper policy and regulatory support are also critical in encouraging the transition into a more resilient built environment in future cities.
Rating schemes for buildings have increasingly been implemented in recent years. Laying out minimum requirements for water reuse, energy efficiency, and comfort, these schemes are an essential policy lever to provide regular feedback about individual buildings' energy and water efficiency. It also serves to inform whether progress is being made towards the broader buildings sectors' efficiency improvements and carbon footprint reduction.
From homes to offices, schools to hospitals, buildings play an integral role in our everyday life. As we strive to build back better from the Covid-19 pandemic, this year's World Green Building Week reminds us of the vital role the buildings and construction sector play in strengthening our resilience to climate change and beyond. It is also a platform for us to reflect, learn, and lead the change.
Indonesia has great potential to up its game in building resilience, so does the buildings and construction sector. We will collectively take bold action on climate change to create a more sustainable future for generations to come.
Kenth Hvid Nielsen is the regional managing director of Asia Pacific commercial buildings at Grundfos, the world's largest pump manufacturer in the world.