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Kirsty Hammond looks at the changes that we all need to make to help tackle climate change

We would surely all agree that our awareness of sustainability for the future is advancing, particularly amongst the younger generation of homeowners.

As the demand for a greener future arises and awareness grows within industry and design, companies and architects need to change the way they design homes and buildings.

Everything has changed, the way we live and work has changed but one thing remains the same. In order to tackle the climate crisis we need to act now.

Everybody in every industry needs to change and more importantly domestically, we need to change individually. Our homes and offices need to become net-zero.

Construction accounts for 36% of global energy use and a similar proportion of carbon emissions.

How we future proof our homes and offices is crucial. We need to be greener, quicker!

Renewable energy now powers almost 30% of the UK’s homes which has allowed little disruption to our daily lives. But how can we take on more personal responsibility?

Well, in order to reach the Paris Agreement goal of 2050, our homes will require changes. Improved insulation, better windows, heat pumps, solar panels and electric vehicle chargers as standard will all be featured with new build homes.

Retrofit will be necessary for existing ones. Future homes will be different.

80% of buildings that will exist in 2050 have already been built

Kirsty Hammond Kirsty Hammond Publisher of Specifier Review

A not too distant future

In only a few years time, no new gas boilers will be installed in newly built homes. Electricity will be used for heating our homes. This can be produced from various sustainable sources including tidal, solar and wind power.

Green hydrogen is also one to consider, although if and when it becomes viable, there may be other industries than construction that would benefit more from the carbon reduction potential such as shipping and agriculture.

Domestically we will generate our own electricity at home using solar panels and store it for use with car or home batteries. Increasingly a trend is developing to sell our home grown electricity back to power grids.

What you can do now

For now, switching to a renewable and sustainable energy supplier is the fastest way to lower our personal carbon impact. Making this switch could lower emissions by 3.2 tonnes of carbon a year at home alone.

Insulation needs to and will also improve. Heat escapes from roofs, floors and walls and accounts for 40% of energy carbon emissions.

New buildings will of course take this into consideration but it will be interesting to see what incentives the government offers to us older homeowners?

A joined up approach

To allow us all to achieve the desired net-zero, all our industries need to play an active part and sustainability needs to take priority.

Both architects and designers must now consider the overall ecological impact of each and every project. Including the embedded carbon of the materials and products used.

Green innovations and creativity are the driving force for future projects. Both aesthetics and materials are key, reused materials, recycled and upcycled materials, plastics, and bio-based composites.

The circular economy aims to design out waste in order to increase the well-being of both humanity and the environment.

Many designers across all fields are moving from the traditional TAKE-MAKE-DISPOSE model to one that has a closed loop, where materials, nutrients and data are continuously repurposed.

New tools such as artificial intelligence, the internet, and biomimicry mean our design ambitions and home constructions are now only limited by our imagination.

Creativity has never been more important and a new mindset for the homeowner is emerging.

Using new tools

We also need to focus on existing buildings.

80% of buildings that will exist in 2050 have already been built. So tighter carbon standards for new builds alone will not do.

Here in the UK, we have some of the oldest and least energy efficient buildings in Europe.

A retrofit strategy is therefore essential and many in the construction industry have been highlighting this need for some time now.

Our traditional line of thinking in our own homes is no longer relevant or defensible. The new demand for us all to personally make changes is here.

Our incredibly near future requires a total rethinking of architecture, design, manufacturing, selling, reusing, recycling and consumerism to keep all resources in use and out of the ground for as long as possible.

Extracting maximum value from each material and renewable source is key. Extracting maximum value from each home is vital.

Kirsty Hammond is publisher of Specifier Review