Rising to meet the challenge

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The UK has been challenged with bringing carbon emission levels to zero by 2050. So far, the UK has been a leader in the on-going fight against climate change, and has managed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by over 40% since 1990 – over a period when the economy also grew by 70%.

However, the target is moving – at a pace set by persistent carbon emissions despite the best intentions, and a distinctly ‘start-stop’ approach by the Government so far. But now, the Government’s Committee on Climate Change’s goal is for the UK to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

An ambitious target, yes. But theoretically achievable if industries across the UK collectively help forge the path forward. So far, it’s power generation that has been responsible for 75% of the reduction in emissions. Construction still has a way to go, especially considering that about 80% of our current building stock will be in use by 2050.

Two solutions that often come up when exploring climate change solutions are regenerating forests and developing green spaces that will absorb CO2 in the atmosphere and finding more efficient ways to use water.

Great news: the construction industry can have a direct impact upon this, starting right now.

What can we do to meet the challenge?

It’s no secret that there are acres and acres of space high above ground level that, more often than not, sits unused or under utilised. Making the most of this space could be a huge contribution to the climate change challenge we are faced with.

Green and blue roofs, as well as specialised waterproofing membranes that have the ability to absorb and neutralise CO2 are examples of the technology of Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) that is ready and available to us now, for exactly this purpose.

Wales has already taken positive steps in the fight against climate change by making SuDS mandatory on all developments of more than one dwelling or over 100m². The rest of the UK may not be far behind.

Join the green roof revolution

Blackdown Greenroofs, an Alumasc company, specialises in green roofs and a range of bespoke landscaping solutions for roof installation that can provide a natural, CO2 absorbing carpet, with bespoke features.

Green roofs can be simple layers of plant life, purely in place for the positive environmental impact they will have such as CO2 absorption, helping to insulate the building below and therefore reducing energy consumption and cost, or for the added mental, physical and emotional health benefits often enjoyed by those who have regular access to green spaces such as roof gardens. This is a real benefit in dense urban environments where green spaces are scarce and people spend many hours indoors, for lack of any outdoor green recreation space.

In today’s environmentally conscious society, it should also be acknowledged that green roofs provide vital replacement of animal habitats that have been lost through urban development, through the re-introduction of natural vegetation. In areas with falling bee populations, the introduction of a green roof can be a new natural haven, that can be left human-free, purely for the positive impacts on biodiversity.

In to the blue (roof)

Blue roof systems apply an internationally adopted sustainable drainage technique that can be combined with green roof systems to create an ideal solution for any project.

There can be a blue roof solution for any new build project, from warm to non-insulated. A blue roof drainage outlet works by using specially designed flow restrictors to control the maximum permissible discharge of water, temporarily storing water at roof or basement level.

Grey water harvested in this way can be re-used within the building for applications such as air conditioning or toilets after filtering. This results in less water consumption by the building, and less rainwater discharge into sewer systems: both more environmentally friendly and more economical. On large commercial schemes this can also create client cost savings in the £100,000s per annum.

The carbon question

Finally, new technology has also now seen the creation of waterproof roofing membranes that have the ability to neutralise CO2.

Using a naturally occurring mineral upper layer that neutralises CO2 via an irreversible chemical reaction when it comes into contact with rainfall, Alumasc Derbigum Olivine roofing membranes were developed with the objective of contributing to the on-going challenge that climate change poses.

The olivine grains within the membrane decrease in size with each reaction, however the grains are large enough to last 30 years before having completely reacted. They are 100% recyclable and BBA approved with a life expectancy in excess of 40 years.

1kg of olivine granules have the capacity to neutralise 1.25kg of CO2, meaning over its lifetime, the average roof fitted with Derbigum Olivine may absorb and neutralise an average cars lifetime’s worth of carbon dioxide.

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Future Constructor & Architect is a specification platform for architects and building contractors, which focuses on top-end domestic and commercial developments.

As well as timely industry comment and legislation updates, the magazine covers recent projects and reviews the latest sustainable building products on the market. Subscribe here.

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