Billi Media

27th Apr 2023

Sustainable Building

What Does the Future of Sustainable Building Look Like?


While the number of countries announcing pledges to achieve net zero emissions over the coming decades continues to grow, it is clear the gap between the climate performance of the building sector and the 2050 decarbonisation pathway is widening.

Of the annual global CO2 emissions, 40% are caused by the built environment.1 Building operations account for 27% of those total emissions, while construction of buildings and infrastructure (commonly referred to as “embodied carbon”) accounts for another 13%.

According to international reports, the building and construction sector’s energy consumption and CO2 emissions have recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic to an all-time high, despite an increase in energy efficiency investment.

In 2021, 10 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent were released into the atmosphere as a result of the sector’s operational energy use, which is 5% more than 2020 levels and 2% more than the pre-pandemic peak in 2019.4 Buildings’ operational energy needs for heating, cooling, lighting, and other equipment increased
by about 4% from 2020 and by 3% from 2019.

Against this backdrop, it is the duty of the building and design community to help address climate issues. There is a growing demand to build or retrofit buildings that aim for net-zero energy use, as shown by the growing trend of sustainable building frameworks and certification programmes, including Net-Zero, Passive House and Living Buildings.

To provide further impetus, the International Energy Agency highlights that retrofitting 20% of the existing building stock to a zero-carbonready level by 2030 is a necessary milestone toward the
Net Zero Emissions by 2050 target scenario.

Architects, designers and specifiers need to be aware of the design strategies that contribute to an efficient, compelling, and sustainable building. There are already technology and products available to reduce emissions in the built environment, and they are often practical and affordable. This leads to the following question—What does designing a sustainable building mean in 2023?

Approaches to sustainable building

When it comes to building design, there are a variety of ways to look at sustainability. The labels “Net Zero” and “Passive House”, for instance, are synonymous with the design of ultra-low energy structures that require very little energy to heat and cool them. “Living Buildings” is another design standard, created by the International Living Future Institute,7 providing the criteria for buildings that are designed from start to finish with sustainable parameters and that function in a similar way to structures in nature.

These different building design methods can have a significant impact on a variety of factors, including cost, comfort, real sustainability, environmental savings, and many others.
A net-zero home generates as much energy each year as it uses. To achieve zero net energy use throughout the year, design and engineering typically use energy-efficient technology and renewable energy sources, like solar panels. Maximising passive design strategies in the design of the home is also needed to reduce energy demand.

A study in 2019 by the Cooperative Research Centre for Low Carbon Living, identified the financial costs and benefits of upgrading typical display home designs to a net-zero energy standard in Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Townsville.9 The majority of the significant efficiency improvements were attributable to the addition of insulation, increased shading, improved glazing, and energy-efficient appliances like induction cooktops and air source heat pumps.

Passive House (otherwise known as Passivhaus) refers to a set of highly-engineered energy efficiency and design standards that use environmental factors, such as passive solar, to keep energy use as low as possible. The International Passive House Association describes the Passive House philosophy as follows: “Passive Houses require very little energy to achieve a comfortable temperature year-round, making conventional heating and air conditioning systems obsolete.” The five principles of Passive House include: Airtightness; Thermal insulation; Mechanical ventilation heat recovery; High-performance windows; and Thermal bridge free construction.

According to the International Living Future Institute, Living Buildings are: “Regenerative buildings that connect occupants to light, air, food, nature, and community. Self-sufficient and remain within the resource limits of their site. Create a positive impact on the human and natural systems that interact with them.”

What makes the Living Building Challenge unique is that success is outcomes-based and it is known for being one of the world’s most rigorous certification programmes for sustainable buildings. The Living Building Challenge comprises seven performance areas: Place; Water; Energy; Health; Beauty; Materials; and Equity.


Applying sustainable thinking to filtered water systems

According to a United Nations report, Australians spent about $580 buying 504 litres of bottled water per person in 2021. This figure ranks as the world’s second highest consumption rate, per capita, behind Singapore.

Not only are we paying dearly for water by the litre, but we are also contributing to a product that generates vast streams of waste that end up in landfills and our waterways.
The manufacturing side of single-use plastic bottles paints an even worse picture. It takes a greater amount of water in a bottle of water to make it as it does to fill it. As a petroleum product, plastic water bottles also require large amounts of oil and energy to produce.

Against this backdrop, identifying sustainable water solutions is an essential requirement to reduce the environmental footprint of buildings and create long-term value for customers. This is where Billi Australia excels, offering high-quality, environmentally-certified filtered water systems that support sustainable design as well as taking a holistic approach to reduce their own environmental impact as well as their customers.


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