02 Mar 2021, 13:05
Benjamin Wehrmann

Architects call on German parliament to initiate true transition in buildings sector

Clean Energy Wire

Activists for a better inclusion of the buildings sector in Germany's climate plans have voiced their concerns in a parliamentary petition committee, calling for a true "transition in the buildings sector" through a comprehensive set of measures to make construction works compatible with international emissions reduction targets. Michael Wicke of the Architects for Future initiative, who launched a petition gaining over 57,000 supporters, told the committee that fundamental changes to the construction industry's raw material consumption are key to making the sector more climate-friendly. A more sustainable sourcing of materials, circularity concepts, life-cycle balances and other measures that curb demand for more resources would be needed to reduce the climate impact of the sector that is responsible for about 40 percent of Germany's total CO2 emissions, Wicke argued. "This is twice as much as the entire transport sector," he said, adding that the buildings sector also consumes about 90 percent of all mineral and non-renewable resources in the country. "Sand and gravel are already becoming scarce," Wicke warned.

The easiest way to save emissions, however, would be "not building anything at all," he said, arguing that "reconstruction instead of new construction" should become a guiding principle, whereby the existing building stock is being well-maintained rather than replaced by new buildings. Tearing down buildings should only be allowed "if there is a social and ecological reason to do so," he said. Another important point would be the "grey energy" potential resting in disposed construction materials, which should be reflected in higher prices that also factor in environmental costs. A solution would be to establish better circularity concepts that allow for an easy reuse of materials that could greatly reduce resource consumption and CO2 emissions.

The buildings sector is a key element of climate action and a potential post-pandemic job engine, a study conducted by Germany's Renewable Energy Federation (BEE) and the Federal Association for Energy Efficient Building Envelopes (BuVEG) found earlier this year. As part of its Climate Action Programme 2030, the German government earmarked six billion euros for building insulation and heating modernisation in 2021.

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