Is it possible to build affordable energy-efficient housing?

Can affordable energy-efficient housing be built?

We are shielded from the elements by our homes. However, building them is bad for the environment and heating them uses a lot of energy. DW examines more environmentally friendly ways of life.

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We are shielded from the elements by our homes. However, building them is bad for the environment and heating them uses a lot of energy. DW examines more environmentally friendly ways of life.

According to UN research, the building and construction sector produced 37% more energy-related CO2 emissions in 2021 than the transportation sector (22%).

What is the best way to lower these high emissions? What steps can we take to ensure a comfortable, inexpensive, and sustainable way of life?

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More homes mean more CO2

The requirement for housing has increased during the past 100 years in addition to the growth in the global population. The number of persons living alone has increased, in part due to the rise in income levels. However, the quantity of room that people have to live in varies greatly.

For instance, the typical living space used by a person in Nigeria is 6 square metres (65 square feet). 18 square metres are required in Turkey, 24 in Brazil, 30 in China, 38 in the EU, and 75 in the US.

More energy is required for heating and power since there are more homes and apartments, and new construction emits more CO2 as a result.

Older structures require a disproportionately large amount of energy for heating, which can get pricey. But with insulation and contemporary ventilation systems, they can save up to 90% of energy. Additionally, if less space is used, heating expenses might be reduced.

Generating solar energy on your own

Additionally, energy-efficient heat pumps, refrigerators, and LED lighting can reduce a building’s electricity usage. With photovoltaic roofs and facades, affordable electricity can even be produced right at the home.

Solar energy can be produced in Germany via roof-mounted solar panels for less than 0.10€ ($0.11) per kWh. The average cost of electricity from the grid is 0.40€ per kWh, which is not even close to what it costs here. Solar panels offer free electricity for about 20 years after they pay for themselves in 5 to 15 years.

Renovation as opposed to construction

Another way to cut CO2 emissions and costs is to upgrade ageing units rather than creating new ones. Since renovations typically cost around 25% less than new construction, both construction and operational emissions can be more than halved.

Because of this, municipal planners, scientists, and environmental advocacy groups want builders and architects to reconsider their plans. They contend that remodelling existing structures should take the place of new construction and demolition whenever practicable.

Replacing concrete, steel, and plastic with renewable materials

Building construction produces between 0.5 and 0.8 tons of CO2 per square metres of living area. That equates to 50 to 80 tons of CO2 for the development of a new residence measuring 100 square metres. India, in contrast, emits 2 tons of CO2 annually per person.

Construction itself accounts for 10% of emissions, followed by the manufacture of building components such insulating boards and metals (8%) and cement, lime, and gypsum (25%).

Construction site CO2 emissions can be greatly reduced by using green building materials like wood and straw as insulation. It might reduce them by 50% in Germany.

How can we inexpensively heat in a way that is climate neutral?

Alternatives to fossil fuels that are good to the environment include biogas, wood, and wood pellets. However, due to their rising scarcity and high cost, heat pumps are also advised by specialists. These are electrically driven and extract heat from the earth or the atmosphere. From 1 kWh of power, they may produce up to 7 kilowatt hours (kWh) of heat energy.

Using green electricity eliminates the production of CO2 and hazardous particulates, respectively, from this technology. In Scandinavia, district heating is run by sizable heat pumps, and buildings have long been heated with them. Some of these networks are almost climate neutral when combined with deep geothermal energy, biomass, and solar thermal energy.

Less living space to preserve the environment?

In addition, experts urge society and politics to reconsider their priorities in light of the housing crisis and the climate catastrophe.

According to sociologist Maike Böcker of the Institute for Cultural Studies in Essen, Germany, “the area of land on which people in Germany currently live would be sufficient for 200 million people if they were content with an area that was usual in the 1960s.”

In the meantime, the Graz University of Technology in Austria has projected a scenario in which, despite a growing population, world energy demand declines by 40% to stay inside the 1.5-degree limit. The average living space per person worldwide, according to the experts, should be 30 square metres.

For better living, more social connections

Experts predict that elderly people may downsize their homes. After their children leave home, many older singles or couples in industrialized nations like Germany move into large apartments or houses, even though these dwellings are frequently not designed to accommodate the needs of the elderly. Young families also struggle to find housing, particularly in urban areas.

For instance, individuals can downsize their flats or renovate their residences to create an extra dwelling unit. They might even sublease or share housing with others. There are lots of fantastic, tried-and-true solutions.

For a fair price, this model allows for the short-term rental of office space and hotel rooms. These communal spaces are valued by many residents. They can spend time together, get to know one another better, and encourage one another in this way.

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