How to Make Homes and Buildings more Environmentally Friendly in 2023
According to the International Energy Association (IEA), around one-third of global energy and process-related CO2 emissions were attributable to the building industry in 2021.
Specifically, 6% of these emissions were caused by the production of cement, steel, and aluminium used in construction, 8% by the usage of fossil fuels, and 19% by the generation of power and heat required to keep them running.
This shows that we need to pay more attention to making our buildings greener and more sustainable. Fortunately, 2023 will be the year we begin to make major progress toward this aim.
“The building sector has not received nearly the amount of attention that it deserves given the havoc it wreaks on the environment,” Talia Rafaeli, Partner at KOMPAS, a Copenhagen-based early-stage VC firm.
“Next year, I think that the quicker we provide financing to scale sustainable technologies for the built environment, the faster we reach economies of scale to allow for widespread adoption,” she added.
Rafaeli said that the investments should be focused on lower-emission concrete, green steel, cooling technologies to improve HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems, and heat pumps.
Optimistically, European companies are already developing projects on low-emission concrete and green steel production.
Among them is the Finnish Betolar, a company that develops an alternative to cement-based concrete. H2 Green Steel and SSAB, both Swedish companies, are also researching hydrogen-based green steel solutions.
Yet, there is a lot to be done with pre-existing buildings. Dr Aidan Bell, co-founder of UK-based EnviroBuild, maintains this is a “significant” step that should start with ensuring a house is well-insulated. “Roof and wall cavity insulation [in particular is] very cost-effective,” Bell said.
He also mentioned Airex, a form of smart air brick that lowers heat loss, as an additional technology for individuals who have already done the basics.
Bell thinks that two more trends will pick up in 2023: more people will put solar PV panels on their roofs, and more people will use smart metres, which help people "better understand the peaks and troughs of electricity use." He said simple things like using machines overnight would lower the peak demand on the national grid.
Flexibility services are one way to help people use energy in a balanced way. CEO of OakTree Power, Chantel Scheepers, thinks these are likely to be common by 2023. The goal of these proposals is to pay people money if they use less energy during peak times.
Scheepers said they are becoming more popular in places like London, where multinational companies like the Financial Times and Pinsent Masons are using them. This shows that they have "enormous potential" to make better use of energy.
In the end, making our buildings more eco-friendly won't happen just in 2023, but even small steps are important in the long run, and there's no better time to start than now.