We are facing a major twin challenge in 2021 – recovering from the coronavirus pandemic and drastically reducing carbon emissions to respond to the climate crisis. Eleni Polychroniadou of Sintali explains why it is important to set an ambition of making every building green.
We are faced with a climate crisis. To mitigate the worst impacts, we need to halve carbon emissions in the next ten years and move to net zero by 2050. We know where we need to be, but the road ahead is not straightforward.
Our homes and the built environment have a big role to play in the net zero vision, as buildings generate around 19% of greenhouse gas emissions just through their operation. If we do a simple maths equation of the reductions needed to achieve the 2050 target, it is clear that we need to address buildings at scale. Greening one building at a time simply won’t suffice.
And yet, this vision has been lacking in the built environment sector. There are many good individual examples of ‘green buildings’ (after all, the ideas and the technology are not new) but there isn’t scale. In many ways, green buildings are still considered a specialist ‘luxury’. To truly achieve impact, every single building on this planet needs to be green, regardless of age, type, budget or location.
Is this even possible? The simple answer is yes.
To apply green thinking to buildings at scale, we need the path to low and net zero carbon buildings to be accessible, not mysterious or hard to create. Attaching complexity to reducing carbon is self-defeating and an unnecessary barrier to entry.
That’s where EDGE comes in. EDGE (Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies) was created by IFC, member of the World Bank, to transform the global built environment. A unique combination of a free software tool, a green building standard and a green building certification scheme, EDGE has broken the barriers to building green.
The freely available EDGE App allows anyone around the world to understand the performance profile of their asset or portfolio compared to a local baseline. The local baseline is calculated based on local building regulations, climatic conditions, typical utility costs and industry standards, and is available for every country in the world. This creates a comparable metric for emissions reductions, which also takes local differences into account.
The EDGE App also includes a list of efficiency measures that pave the pathway for zero carbon buildings. Users can gain an understanding of what is possible for upgrading and refurbishing, or designing new buildings, and understand the carbon and cost implications of each decision. This becomes the quantifiable roadmap to zero carbon, both in terms of efficiency savings, as well as financial returns.
The democratisation of data through the EDGE App changes the game. It means everyone can start implementing green building principles, regardless of resources. As we look to recovery from the global pandemic, ‘greening’ every building should be a priority. It is an essential component of tackling the climate crisis, represents an opportunity to create green jobs, and positively affect the environments that we live and work in.
And for the first time, the vision of greening every building on this planet is actually possible.
Eleni Polychroniadou is the co-founder and commercial director at Sintali, a company that quantifies and verifies the environmental impact of decisions, and helps organisations map out the road to net zero. Sintali collaborates with SGS to act as a global certification partner for IFC’s EDGE green building program. In her role, Eleni leads the commercial division of the organisation and drives business development activities to help the EDGE market grow internationally. Prior to Sintali, Eleni worked at thinkstep (now Sphera), a sustainability consulting and software firm, where she led on sales and marketing for the UK and managed the EDGE certification program. Eleni is a trained Climate Reality Leader and a Global Shaper in the London Hub.