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Climate

It is vital to ensure that the selection of building materials is appropriate for the climate in which they are used. Material performance can strongly vary, depending on the conditions to which buildings are exposed. For example, some structural materials have more appropriate thermal properties for hot or tropical climates than others, enabling better heat retention or cooling when these properties are needed. Earth based construction is not a new strategy, but one that has fallen out of favour in the last century as preferences for materials such as concrete and steel grew.  Beyond being a more appropriate material choice in some contexts, earth construction can reduce the need for brick firing or production of synthetic binders and additives, reducing fuel and material consumption, as well as reducing health risks from air emissions and chemical use.

However, a material with improved sustainability performance in one region may not provide the same in-use performance in another, and a whole lifecycle thinking approach can help ensure that material choices are optimal. Additionally, sustainability hotspots can vary between regions. For example, there may be increased impacts from extraction in one region that are not experienced elsewhere, and from increased transportation distances. The expertise of installers with a material, ability of the local supply chain to meet demand and ensure quality, and the availability of infrastructure for end-of-life processing all bear consideration when determining if a material is appropriate for a particular climate.

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Source: United Nations Environment Programme (2023). Building Materials and the Climate: Constructing a New Future. Nairobi

However, in some cases, learnings from material selection and market development can be transferred from one region to another where there are similarities in the climate. The Hub uses the Köppen-Geiger classification, which categorises regions as Tropical, Dry, and Temperate, according to the map below. Resources that apply to a particular climate are organised accordingly.

Map of Köppen-Geiger climate classification

map

 

Note: Tropical (A - regions Af, Am, Aw), Dry, (B - regions BWh, BWk, BSh, BSk) and Temperate (C - regions Csa, CSb) are used in the Sustainable Building Materials Hub to categorise resources where climate considerations apply.
Source: Beck, H.E., Zimmermann, N. E., McVicar, T. R., Vergopolan, N., Berg, A., & Wood, E. F., CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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2023-09-25

This whitepaper focuses on the tradeoff between operational savings and embodied carbon, which are resulting from retrofit activities. The research presented in this report marks the starting point to shed a light on the relevance of embodied-carbon emissions resulting from energetic retrofits.

2023-09-22

Whole life carbon assessment 2nd edition will enable professionals to make prudent decisions to limit the whole life carbon impact of buildings and infrastructure. It facilitates carbon measurement from the production of construction materials to the design, construction and eventual end of life of built assets.

2023-09-22

Plastic pollution and climate change are serious and interconnected threats to public and planetary health, as well as major drivers of global social injustice. Prolific use of plastics in the construction industry is likely a key contributor, resulting in burgeoning efforts to promote the recycling or downcycling of used plastics.

2023-09-22

This tool allows architects and designers to analyze and estimate the carbon equivalent of emissions associated with all aspects of the project. The Zero Carbon Tool gives an overall picture of how key decisions made at early stages of design can impact the project's total carbon use.

2023-09-19

This work highlights the reactivity of soda-lime glass powder on cement CEM IV-B-L 32.5R. Three colors of soda lime glass were used with varying amount of powder from 0 to 35 wt%. The water demand for standard consistency have increased from 28.40 to 45.93 wt%. The compressive strength increased from 26.46 to 31.66 MPa and the flexural strength also increased from 5.89 to 7.14 MPa after 28 days. The optimal value of 10 wt% of glass powder gave the maximum value of mechanical strength at 28 days.

2023-09-12

This report highlights the urgent need to develop new models for cooperation on the decarbonisation of building materials, if the world is to reach its goals for net zero emissions from the built environment sector by the mid-century.

2023-09-11

Developed by Brussels Environment, the Reversible Design Checklist is a voluntary design tool which aims to help building owners and designers in Brussels to create reversible and circular buildings.

The Checklist is available in:

2023-09-11

Procedure to record building materials as a base to evaluate the potential for a high-quality reutilization prior to demolition and renovation work (pre-demolition audit).

Text in German and English.

2023-09-11

Construction and Demolition Waste (CDW) is by volume the largest waste stream in the European Union. Although a vast majority of CDW is recyclable and reusable, one of the common barriers to recycling and reuse of CDW is the lack of confidence in the quality of recovered materials and components.

2023-09-08

Limiting global warming to 1.5°C requires immediate and drastic reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. A significant contributor to anthropogenic global GHG emissions is the production of building materials. Biobased materials offer the potential to reduce such emissions and could be deployed in the short term. Timber construction has received the main attention from policy and industry. However, the implementation of timber construction at the global scale is constrained by the availability of sustainably managed forest supplies.