Australia has signed up to the Paris climate agreement, pledging to reduce our net carbon emissions to zero by 2050. With buildings producing one fifth of Australia’s carbon emissions, it’s obvious that a reduction in emissions from the building sector will go a long way towards meeting these obligations.
Australia is a highly urbanised society. Many of us spend large amounts of our time in homes, offices, and schools, so better buildings means a better quality of life for all of us. Research shows that low carbon buildings are better places to live, work, and learn. Lower costs for light, heat, and cooling also improve life for the poorest in our society.
Many other high emissions sectors are waiting for technological breakthroughs to improve their carbon efficiency. Aviation, for example, is waiting for a better kind of fuel. But the building sector has the technology right here, right now, to improve our buildings.
ASBEC’s recent Low Carbon, High Performance report contained detailed modelling showing how the building sector can save emissions and reduce costs.
Here are four of the technologies that are already being used on building sites today that will lead the way to a low carbon building sector:
We’re all familiar with rooftop solar – in fact, Australia has the highest rate of uptake in the world, with more than a million homes now producing energy with solar panels. But what about solar that is built into building materials themselves? There are already products that include PV panels in roofing and paving materials. As well as producing power, they save the cost – and emissions – of producing materials like roof tiles that will only have PV panels attached over the top.
Low cost sensors
Smart technology allows buildings to self-regulate to save energy. For example, they are capable of switching off lights or heating when no one is home, or only heating the parts of the building where people are at that moment. In the US, there are prototype sensors with a unit cost of less than $US10, the low cost making wide rollout a real possibility.
Data is king in many arenas these days, and energy savings are no different. The better our understanding and control of our day-to-day energy use, the more efficient it can be. Smart meters are a well-known example of this technology, allowing consumers to see at a glance where the bulk of their energy use is occurring.
Offsite, factory-based construction of building elements is already common in Europe, and gaining popularity in Australia too. It allows reduced costs, faster construction, and a higher level of customisability.
This list demonstrates that a low carbon building sector isn’t just a pipe dream. It’s something that, with the right government support, can be a reality within a few years. All that’s needed now is for our governments to step up and provide the leadership and incentives needed to get cracking.
For more information on these technologies and on the pathway to a low-carbon building sector, check out ASBEC’s Low Carbon, High Performance report.