Sustainable and climate-resilient buildings – a core principle for the future Dundrum
A key part of Imagine Dundrum’s vision for the future Dundrum Village is that it be designed and built to the highest environmental standards. Its buildings must be sustainable in operation, and “future-proofed” for our changing climate. There is a huge opportunity here to showcase the very best of green design and building, which should not be missed.
Why are new approaches needed? The climate and biodiversity crises are so serious and imminent that we must rapidly ensure that existing housing, and all other building, becomes as sustainable and energy-efficient as possible, and that future developments don’t add to carbon emissions and are fully climate-resilient, able to withstand the extreme weather and flooding risks that a more unstable climate brings.
Reducing emissions from buildings: The global climate is changing because of carbon emissions caused by human activity, and the built environment accounts for a very high proportion of the annual total – in Ireland around 37%. The whole life carbon emissions of a building (also called “lifecycle carbon” or “cradle to grave carbon”) are the emissions resulting from the materials, construction and use of a building over its entire life, including demolition and disposal. Legally-binding targets for substantial reductions from current levels in the construction sector form part of the Government’s Climate Action Plan.
The need for radical thinking: The accomplishments of today’s Green Architecture, as highlighted by the UK’s Green Building Council ( https://ukgbc.org/) are admirable but so far are only making things less unsustainable! True long-term sustainability requires radical change and different ways of thinking, including learning from the past, for example in terms of materials and methods of building, and will require both public education and real community participation in doing things differently.
Energy-efficient buildings, whether new constructions or renovated existing buildings, are those that are designed to minimise energy use (heating, cooling, lighting). The Passive House standard (https://phai.ie/ ), involving insulation, heat exchange systems, ventilation, water conservation and the use of solar technology, is recognised as the highest level of efficiency and produces the smallest or even no carbon footprint.
Surprisingly, high-rise housing developments are not energy-efficient beyond a certain height and may well not be climate-resilient. It is good to see Irish architects and builders exploring “high density, medium- or low-rise” housing styles: more energy-efficient and better liked by residents!
Rethinking demolition: demolition in itself creates huge carbon emissions and waste, rebuilding requires more of the earth’s finite resources, and the disappearance of old buildings can mean the loss of a community’s sense of place and belonging. Recently, forward-thinking architects have been arguing for the creative redesign and reuse of buildings which have outlived their original purpose. Redundant factories have become schools and arts centres, huge 1960s apartment blocks have been adapted to become energy-efficient and resilient, and redundant office blocks turned into sustainable housing. (See Building for Change: the Architecture of Creative Reuse, published by Gestalten 2022.)
Further information and ideas about sustainable building: see video recording of the presentation by Dr Philip Crowe at Imagine Dundrum’s webinar, December 2022.