15 January 2010 18:17 [Source: ICB]
The chemical sector is laying the foundations for greener, more sustainable construction
NOW, MORE than ever, industry, politicians and consumers are united in their efforts to address global climate change.
Energy efficiency and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions have risen to the top of the agenda over the past decade, with forward-thinking companies investing heavily to cut their carbon footprints.
Although the construction sector is one of the main generators of emissions, importantly, it is also part of the solution.
Statistics available in advance of last December's climate change summit in Denmark showed buildings were responsible for more than 40% of global energy use and one-third of greenhouse gas emissions. However, efficient buildings are the cheapest abatement solution, with the sector providing more potential for cost-effective greenhouse gas mitigation than other industry.
Materials produced by the chemical industry can contribute significantly to achieving these savings. Many producers are therefore focusing on developing innovative products to support green construction.
Among them, Germany's Bayer MaterialScience is a strong advocate for sustainability and has pledged to take the lead in energy-efficient construction through a new initiative. Its EcoCommercial Building (ECB) Program started two years ago and was officially unveiled in November 2009.
A core component of the ECB Program is developing a hand-picked network of specialized suppliers, engineering firms, architects and property developers. The aim is to raise awareness and influence key decision-makers in the construction sector. The focus is on public and non-residential buildings, which have often been neglected in the past, yet pose the greatest opportunities for savings, says the company.
"Over the past 20 years, I think people have been slightly frustrated that although they have developed efficient solutions in the construction industry, the adoption rate is still remarkably low. This program is the next step," says Bayer MaterialScience CEO Patrick Thomas. "I believe that the world is setting some fairly stretching targets for carbon dioxide [CO2] reduction that are totally deliverable with existing technologies."
There are huge opportunities ahead, he says. China, for example, is currently responsible for around 40% of the world's construction and its government has committed to reduce its energy intensity and build to better standards. It wants to reduce CO2 emissions by 40-50%, relative to GDP growth through 2020.
"If you start setting targets like that, you really do have to take notice of initiatives like ours," says Thomas. "When you look at the value chain and the decision-makers in the construction industry, everybody says the right things, but getting them to actually do it can be quite a challenge. If we can reach out to the people that are able to make key decisions, then we can really start to make a difference - and that's what we're trying to achieve. We've taken on a system integration role."
The German major has a strong pedigree in efficiency, but the initial rollout phase is already exceeding expectations.
"Our EcoCommercial Building Program is an entirely new worldwide business model that we've developed for the construction industry," adds Peter Vanacker, member of the executive committee. "We've implemented a network with like-minded partner companies and aim to raise the awareness about the potential waiting to be explored in sustainable, energy-efficient and cost-effective buildings."
By way of example, Bayer plans to draw more on the ECB Program within the Bayer Group itself by applying the standard to future Bayer buildings worldwide.
"The concept is always adapted to each location and the environment," says Vanacker. "We want to drive this forward and prove that it is feasible. Most of the solutions are already available in the marketplace, but are perhaps not combined in the right way or well known.
"Climate protection does not mean limiting yourself," he says. "People don't always connect architectural freedom and design with the fact that it can be done eco-commercially."
WHAT IS THE ECOCOMMERCIAL BUILDING PROGRAM?
Bayer MaterialScience's EcoCommercial Building initiative offers the construction industry an overall solution for energy-efficient buildings; an expert network of companies that fosters sustainable construction. Acting as a contact and intermediary, Bayer MaterialScience uses its expertise and its own high-tech products to provide solutions that range from low-energy and passive buildings to zero-emission buildings.
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