Sustainable construction explained

Background article

Let’s face it: Winter is back again and so far there is no sign of spring yet. Heating systems are running at full speed, winter clothing has replaced bathing suits, shorts and bikinis. We spend most of our time inside our homes or in public places like schools or supermarkets.

‘Thermal comfort’ is the magic word: having a pleasant room temperature that makes us feel comfortable. Unfortunately, in many buildings, too much energy is wasted in order to achieve thermal comfort. Energy efficiency, however, is not just another buzzword. It is a reality.

Every detail affects a building’s energy consumption: not only the local climate, the building’s size and its design or the technical installations inside, but also its placement and its surroundings. Other houses, trees and hills can block wind. Windows facing south increase the amount of sunlight entering a room. Dark roofs become hotter than light-colored roofs, sending additional heat inside the building. There are many ways to make heat enter a building… and, of course, many ways to keep the heat inside.

When reading this you might be sitting in cold classrooms or chilly dorm rooms. Even if the heating in your classroom is insufficient, the real problem you have might be poor insulation of walls and windows. Luckily, new insulation methods are slowly becoming a standard everywhere, as many chemical companies are working on new materials which provide better insulation resulting in lower energy consumption, lower emissions and also financial savings.

Topics for discussion

The role of chemicals in construction materials today and tomorrow
• Chemistry is at the heart of construction and refurbishment and new materials such as insulation, adhesives, sealants and cement are being developed thanks to smart chemistry innovation. Even the strength of concrete has risen dramatically as a result of construction chemicals.

• But the impact of chemistry innovation goes well beyond traditional construction materials when we think about the next generation of eco-efficient technologies, such as heating and cooling systems based on renewable energy sources, high efficiency lighting, energy capture and storage.

Smart Cities and Communities
Half of the earth population lives in cities and the share is growing. All cities need to be transformed into smart cities that use innovative solutions for supplying energy more effectively and efficiently, in terms of costs, environmental footprint and/or social impacts. The change to a Smart City should also bring large benefits to the population in terms of quality of life, better transport and a reduction of pollution related illnesses.

The Smart Energy Home
Buildings consume 40% of the energy used in Europe. Modern housing therefore need to focus on:
• energy and resources, ie reduce demand for water and energy employing renewable resources and recovery techniques

• smartness or advanced information and communication technology giving residents greater control over their lives

• health and comfort, ie high indoor air quality and maintenance

Related documents and links

• The Smart Energy

• EU Smart Cities and Communities

• Energy Efficient Buildings

• Video: Icca - chemistry and energy efficient buildings
Improving the energy efficiency of buildings is vital for reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the world. Learn about how products that depend on chemistry - insulation, pipe and pipe insulation, air sealing, reflective roof coatings and pigments, and windows - help increase energy efficiency and reduce emissions in the buildings sector.

• Household cleaning and maintenance products website is the No1 reference website for consumers, teachers, students across Europe on household cleaning and maintenance products. The Charter for Sustainable Cleaning is a voluntary industry initiative encouraging manufacturers and consumers to adopt more sustainable cleaning practices. Visit the House.

• BASF “Neopor” expandable polystyrene

• Evonik insulation materials

• Dow Chemicals “Styrofoam” polystyrene

• Living tomorrow: house of the future