The building industry currently accounts for 39% of global energy-related CO2 emissions, 11% of which result from manufacturing building materials and products such as steel, cement, and glass. And yet, to date, emission reduction efforts have not really focused on decarbonizing the construction sector but the two other sectors responsible for the most emissions, electric power and transportation.
Understanding and reducing emissions from the building sector is vital if we want to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and if we are really serious about leaving a healthy flourishing planet for future generations.
In the third episode of The UN Forest Podcast, Ms. Nyasha Harper-Michon, architect and activist or as she likes to call herself “archtivist,” and Ms. Sandra Frank, co-founder of Arvet, discuss the advantages of timber construction. Both are seasoned champions of change and have been fighting for environmentally sound, livable communities and our Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for years.
When put into context, the need for and importance of creating more sustainable, low-carbon cities is indisputable. Between 2020 and 2050, 2.3 billion new urban dwellers will need housing and commercial buildings. Using conventional materials like steel and concrete would generate annual emissions of 0.53 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) per year. Using wood for half of these buildings could reduce emissions by 0.15 billion tCO2e per year, with an additional 0.52 billion tCO2e per year stored in the buildings.
But the benefits of wooden construction go beyond sustainability. Wooden buildings, Ms. Harper-Michon reminds us, are proven to have a positive effect on our health and well-being, fostering productivity and creativity, while connecting us with nature.
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