Die Herausforderungen unserer Zeit sind vielfältig und eng verwoben. In einem exklusiven Gastbeitrag für NÄHRSTOFF beschreiben der frühere EU-Umweltkommissar Janez Potočnik und Julia Okatz von der Nachhaltigkeits- und Transformationsberatung Systemiq, wie kreislauffähiges Bauen nach Cradle to Cradle und neue Wohnstrukturen zur Bewältigung der Klimakrise beitragen können.
The problems of our time are many and it is hard to pick the most urgent or relevant, as most social, environmental and economic challenges are interconnected. Let us therefore look at two particular challenges that are connected closely and are urgent to our wellbeing: the climate crisis and just access to essential societal services, such as quality housing and mobility.
In fact, the following will outline how we can see the challenges of our time very much as the great opportunities of our time. That is, if we approach them systemically with a ‘smart resource management’ lens and the aim of fundamentally ‘decoupling’ economic development from resource use and environmental impacts.
Cradle to Cradle is an essential framework to untap these opportunities. Particularly if applied in a wider circular economy and a smart resource management approach.
The International Resource Panel (IRP) report ‘Resource Efficiency and Climate Change’ (2020) shows: Material efficiency and circularity strategies in housing and personal transport can reduce emissions massively, by over one third, in addition to energy measures (in G7 countries). These strategies include ‘Intensification of Use’ to reduce total floor space required in housing a countries’ society at high quality (e.g. smart multi-party residences instead of single family houses), use of renewable materials (e.g. sustainably sourced timber), enhanced recycling, extension of lifetime (e.g. by renovation) and higher yields (e.g. through optimized modular fabrication), as well as leaner design (e.g. by using modern high-strength load bearing structures).
Let us look at the housing example in more detail to illustrate this proposition. In G7 countries, there are three particularly urgent challenges with housing:
1) Its accessibility and quality for people living in it, 2) the emissions caused by heating and cooling, and 3) the material challenges in constructing, maintaining and discarding of houses, both in terms of the emissions caused by the production of building materials like cement and steel, and the waste produced in building them and particularly in discarding of them; as well as their direct impact on health, for example by certain chemicals used in building materials or in the process of manufacturing them.
Traditionally, C2C solutions do a great job tackling the third part of the challenge by optimizing material use and their environmental and health impacts. Particularly in new products by designing them for a specific use case and with the ability to continuously circulate in either the biosphere or the technosphere. If designed for the biosphere, the used materials are compostable. If designed for the technosphere, the materials have to be easily separable and recyclable without a loss in quality. Better materials and design along a C2C principle will turn buildings into material banks, in which precious and finite resources can be used, removed, and reused repeatedly. C2C design can also lead to circular and climate positive buildings that generate more energy than they use, e.g. by using solar or wind energy as well as regulating heating and cooling through roof and façade greening.
However, the big challenge is to improve the large existing building stock in G7 countries: renovating houses by upgrading to better materials, recyclability, and energy efficiency; and discarding those houses that cannot be insulated, with minimal negative impact and maximum reuse of materials.
The IRP report shows that those material efficiency strategies are broadly corresponding to cradle to cradle solutions (including renewable material use, renovation and recycling) show potential to save cumulated lifecycle emissions of about 3 gigatonnes (Gt) in G7 countries until 2060 (RECC 2020). While that is an important reduction, adding ‘intensification of use’ to the strategy mix can save an additional 6 to 7 Gt of CO2 in the same time frame. This is because this strategy saves materials, as well as reduces (wasted) heating for (underutilized) space. Altogether, material efficiency strategies can achieve at least an additional 20% of Greenhouse gas savings in comparison to a scenario where only energy efficiency and electrification is pursued, without smart material-management solutions. From today’s level, this can mean a saving in lifecycle emissions of more than 60% in G7 countries.
This means that cradle to cradle solutions, known to be crucial for waste prevention and health, can also be essential to tackle climate change when applied in a strategic mix with the ‘intensification of use’, directed to contribute to smarter systems, such as national housing stocks and city design as a whole.
Autor*innen: Janez Potočnik und Julia Okatz
Julia Okatz ist bei der Umwelt- und Transformationsberatung Systemiq für das Programm “Natural Resources and Global Policy” zuständig. Sie koordinierte mehrere Publikationen des International Resource Panel der UN zum Thema Ressourceneffizienz und ist Co-Autorin der Studie “A System Change Compass: Implementing the European Green Deal in times of recovery”. Seit 2018 arbeitet sie mit dem Co-Vorsitzenden des IRP, Janez Potočnik, zusammen. Der slowenische Politiker war von 2004 bis 2014 Mitglied der EU-Kommission, unter anderem als Umweltkommissar. Neben seiner Position beim IRP ist Janez Partner bei Systemiq und sitzt im Vorstand des Forums for the Future of Agriculture sowie der Stiftung RISE. Er wurde für sein Engagement für Umweltschutz und skalierbare Nachhaltigkeitslösungen mehrfach ausgezeichnet.