Danial Hadizadeh, CEO of Mitrex Building Integrated Solar Technology.
The global news cycle is dominated by stories of heatwaves, extended power outages, droughts and extreme weather events. These all serve as reminders of the impacts of climate change and the importance of implementing large-scale clean energy solutions.
Currently, the building and construction industry is responsible for contributing greatly to the global climate crisis, and the total emissions from construction are estimated to be at 40% of emissions. Cement alone accounts for about 8% of these emissions. This staggering figure is only expected to increase, with enough buildings equal to the size of Paris constructed weekly.
Due to its immense contribution to greenhouse gases, this industry is an obvious place to look at when reducing emissions. And while many renewable energy sources, including solar, have been developed, the industry has not been able to offer viable, large-scale solutions to ensure mass adoption. As someone who works with construction alternatives within solar, I see a few areas where construction industries can significantly reduce emissions.
Barriers To Solar Energy Adoption
In my experience, many existing solar applications have not been practical for large-scale use because of the lack of creative control. Solar technology typically lacks aesthetics, design freedom, functionality and affordability; Typically, end users have been forced to limit solar panel installations to rooftops or solar farms.
Although the price of solar has been consistently decreasing, the limited design options and high demand of space required will always limit large-scale adoption. In addition, the building industry has plenty of idle vertical spaces that can be used to generate clean energy.
Overall, we must reinvent the policies around solar and other building materials and look to construction alternatives.
Integrated Solar Solutions
Innovations like building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) could provide a sustainable solution to addressing these concerns by allowing solar to be built into the exterior of a structure. By utilizing integrated solar technology, such as solar building envelopes, windows, skylights or balcony railings, building constructors and alike can contribute to a carbon-neutral future.
As we continue to build vertically in urban centers, integrated solar materials can extend energy generation to the exterior of structures. This technology produces green energy for day-to-day operations, largely reducing buildings’ contribution to operational carbon emissions.
The integration of renewable technology into typical building materials at an affordable rate via mass production and automation can accelerate the fight against global warming. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a global goal, and I believe that large-scale integration is one way we can begin to fulfill this mission.
Combating Embodied Carbon
Another solution to minimize the dependency on fossil fuels and lean towards a greener future begins with carbon-neutral building materials. A significant portion of the building sector’s emissions is from the carbon used to fabricate, transport and install construction materials.
The construction industry needs to take a carbon-sensitive approach when addressing the issue associated with traditional building materials. While building owners might be hesitant to transition their energy reliance to renewable sources, utilizing materials that have a smaller carbon footprint is one of the biggest steps we can take toward solving our emissions problem. Innovations like bricks that are made of construction site waste and lighter building materials that use less energy to transport are some things I have seen in this industry that embody this concept.
Regardless of whether you are a designer, a builder or a politician, our common goal should be to find a way to mitigate climate change and shift towards a greener future and industry. We can successfully accomplish this goal if key sectors cut down and minimize their reliance on carbon.
Policies To Promote Energy Equity
Ultimately, we also need to push government bodies to help in our commitment to reducing carbon emissions by having them enact policies with incentives that encourage the adoption of green technologies.
Especially in the construction industry, I don’t see enough of a financial incentivize for many companies to move toward greener alternatives. Areas such as “expedited permitting; tax credits, abatement, and reductions; LEED-certification incentives; and grants” are all things that we should lobby for and support. The building and construction industry should help guide these policies and encourage renewable energy production.
Strategies to help transition companies still reliant on traditional building materials should also be included in policy efforts. It is not enough to make vague commitments; these policies need to be developed and enforced as a direct response to climate change.
The Road To Net-Zero
As an entrepreneur who looks to long-term sustainability, I envision reaching the 2050 net-zero carbon emissions goal that The Department of Energy has put forth, and with the right approaches and the right solutions in mind, it is abundantly clear that wide-scale adoption of renewable energy in construction can help us in the transition.
As urban centers continue to grow, integrated solar technology and policies that encourage things like solar adoption and limiting carbon embodiment can play a vital role in creating sustainable cities and reshaping the construction industry. Making moves like replacing highly carbonated building materials with alternatives and pushing institutional changes can help ensure the reversal of climate change at its most catastrophic peak.