A primitive design problem of climate change has been persistent around for a couple of years now. Buildings worldwide use about sixty percent of the total energy and emit nearly half of it as embodied carbon dioxide (CO2) via cement production, burning fossil fuels such as coal and gas, etc. This CO2 traps the solar energy in the atmosphere and increases the overall temperature of our planet.
Climate change brings out a few alarming concerns, questioning our current way of life and driving people to explore new avenues to counteract it. One of the critical ways will be to mitigate climate change by capturing the carbon from the atmosphere.
Carbon Negative Architecture
A building that generates its energy, surplus to its demand (an excess of renewable or carbon-neutral energy) and exports the rest to another off-site to meet its energy demand is tagged as a net exporter of zero energy. In this style of architecture, they consume the atmospheric carbon for their construction, i.e., absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere more than it emits—one such architectural design is found in the Serpentine Pavilion.
The team constructed the pavilion using bio-materials such as recycled steel for structural support, mycelium for the cladding, and zero-carbon cement for the foundation. The pavilion is expected to last for 60 years and undoubtedly promotes the concept of sustainability among our present generation.
Mining from the Sky
Carbon can be considered a sustainable resource under the right conditions. The newly found technology by Climeworks company named Direct Air Capture devices (DAC) sucks in the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and converts it into fruitful materials. This also helps us to achieve negative emissions. The atmospheric carbon from this can be used to make cement and other construction material. This machinery can be scaled to be used for architectural projects in the coming future.
According to the company’s study, 80 million Climework units can absorb up to 4 gigatons of carbon each year, which pertains to about 40 percent of the total amount and could stabilize the climate.
A Key Role Played by Wood Architecture
Wood is one of the critical materials in the architecture field that produces less CO2 emission during production and captures carbon for its entire life span. Wood-based materials can be used in various building components and still store carbon regardless of their frame, covering, and insulation. Along with this, it also has the potentiality of getting recycled into other useful products. This recycling assures that the carbon is locked away for a long time.
Wooden materials are reused for bioenergy production, which ensures low CO2 emissions from fossil fuels. Renewable wood grows more than its usage in European countries, capturing more carbon during its growing phase. To ensure the increase in forest reserve for the future, sustainable forest management and forest certification are implemented.
A Walk to the Past
Traditional construction techniques and materials such as mud, lime, and bamboo produce no carbon emissions. At the same time, the expense for the design of the structure reduces by a significant amount. Bamboo can be used as a reinforcement and structural material. At the same time, a combination of mud and lime can be a viable replacement for cement.
Traditional methods can be implemented to withstand natural calamities. Techniques such as cross-braced bamboo frame, which offers protection from an earthquake, buildings raised on stilts to protect from flooding, and so on. The power lies within the architects and designers to implement these in their designs, providing a cleaner atmosphere.
Paving the Way for the Future
Looking forward, the rate at which the climatic change occurs is increasing rapidly. If repercussions are not taken for this current pace, there is bound to be a setback in the future. It is possible to start bringing a change to this trend in the architecture field of practice. For example, The studio of Loyn & Co has come forward with a proposal for a carbon-neutral neighbourhood in Park Hadau of Wales. It will comprise 35 eco-friendly houses alongside a communal garden for both residents and locals.
The neighbourhood layout is optimized to balance daylight, solar gains, heat loss, and thermal efficiency. Each house will be built using cross-laminated timber, which can absorb atmospheric carbon and retain it during its life on the building. The current site layout is designed so that all the houses can predominantly store solar energy in the morning and use it in the evening when the energy demand is highest.
Following the new government policy of the UK for carbon-neutral homes, many architecture studios are coming forward with carbon-neutral project proposals to meet the housing norms set in the UK. This will soon begin to appear in other countries and pave a new way for architecture in the future.
The Other Side of the Coin
An immense duty lies in the hands of an architect to counteract the concerning issue of climate change. One way is to minimize the use of energy and carbon inclusive technology such as lighting and air conditioning and replace it with passive ventilation methodology. The advancement in technology allows the buildings to be constructed using renewable energy resources and reduce emissions.
As the sustainability movement is starting to grab the spotlight, many people are dipping in to play their part for Mother Nature. Carbon plays a vital role in the architecture industry in terms of goods and materials, and at the same time, encourages people to choose a path that leads to a brighter future.
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Fairs, M., 2021. Serpentine Pavilion’s use of biomaterials “more than compensates” for concrete emissions, says Aecom. [online] Dezeen. Available at: <https://www.dezeen.com/2021/06/16/carbon-emissions-serpentine-pavilion-biomaterials-concrete-aecom/> [Accessed 4 August 2021].
Fairs, M., 2021. “We’re mining the sky because there’s too much carbon in it” says Climeworksv. [online] Dezeen. Available at: <https://www.dezeen.com/2021/06/14/carbon-climeworks-mining-sky-interview/> [Accessed 4 August 2021].
Crook, L., 2021. Loyn & Co reveals proposal for carbon neutral neighbourhood in Wales. [online] Dezeen. Available at: <https://www.dezeen.com/2020/01/17/loyn-co-parc-hadau-carbon-neutral-housing-wales/> [Accessed 4 August 2021].