Industry Updates

Are buildings the gateway to a carbon neutral world?

Building a carbon-neutral world

Buildings Buildings

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Group Company (MHI) aim to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The mission to carbon neutral involves tackling climate change with expert engineering technology innovations.

To achieve this vision, as an MHI Group company, we are constantly rethinking and reimaging ways to decarbonise fuels, decrease carbon emissions and discover Low GWP (Global Warming Potential) refrigerant alternatives. However, could the solution start from somewhere simpler – could the solution start where we spend 90% of our days? In this article, we examine the simple ways to reduce carbon emissions from buildings.

First. What do these terms mean?

Carbon-zero, carbon offsetting and decarbonisation are common buzzwords when discussing carbon neutrality.

  • Carbon-zero is an aspirational method that removes all carbon emissions from production or process.
  • Carbon offsetting involves counterbalancing emissions created in one area, then reducing emissions somewhere else. Many organisations are paving the way to carbon neutrality by offsetting their carbon emissions by investing in sustainable and renewable energy sources or low-carbon technologies.
  • Whereas, decarbonisation is concerned with removing or reducing carbon dioxide emissions in a specific activity. Although decarbonisation is not a direct path to carbon neutrality, it is an initial step towards building a carbon-neutral world and a circular economy.

Environment Environment

Building a carbon-neutral world

According to the IEA, in 2018, the building and construction sector amounted to a whopping 35% of final energy use and 39% of carbon dioxide emissions.

To achieve carbon neutrality, policymakers emphasise the reduction of carbon emissions; and support the increase of sustainability in residential and commercial buildings.

Increasing the number of carbon-neutral buildings starts with passive design strategies that build sustainable infrastructures from the offset —sourcing carbon-neutral architectural plans, materials and ensuring energy efficiency throughout the construction. As well as, utilising technologies such as Building Information Modelling (BIM) to realise the estimation of carbon emissions.

However, there are several other ways to neutralise or reduce carbon emissions in buildings such as:

  1. Maximising sustainable HVAC solutions

Sourcing sustainable heating ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) solutions are essential to lowering residential and commercial buildings’ environmental impact.

For example, heat pumps are gaining increasing attention across the world due to an ability to decarbonise buildings. There are three types of heat pumps, aerothermal (sourced from the air), hydrothermal (sourced from water), and geothermal (sourced from the ground). Heat pumps utilise such natural sources of energy to transform and provide thermal renewable energy. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries estimate that our Q-ton aerothermal heat pump can reduce carbon emissions by 45% coupled with an outstanding global warming potential (GWP) of only 1, and 0 ozone depletion potential.

Buildings can also dramatically reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by souring environmentally sustainable refrigerants less harmful to the ozone layer and are superiorly energy efficient— for example, refrigerants such as R32 representing one-third GWP in comparison to refrigerants such as R410A.

  1. Increasing water efficiency

The enormous water demand from buildings contributes to global carbon emissions. There are several measures to increase water efficiency in buildings. For example, implementing innovative technology such as air-to-water heat pumps to provide complete heating systems, cooling and producing sanitary water in houses.

  1. Improving indoor air quality

Indoor air pollutants such as carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide are not only harmful to individuals, but it is also damaging for the environment. Studies show the importance of mechanical ventilation to supply sufficient indoor air quality. Suggesting that ventilation units are an adequate way to decarbonise, or offset, buildings in indoor air quality.

  1. Reducing waste

The carbon footprint of wasted food in buildings amounts to an overwhelming 3.3 Gtonnes of CO2 equivalent. Municipalities need to improve or construct environmentally-focused policies that focus on shifting behavioural patterns for individuals and businesses. As well as, naturally improving the number of carbon emissions released from waste in commercial and residential buildings.

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