Green, ecologic, sustainable – these are words we hear more and more often in industries ranging from automotive to fashion. One of the hottest trends of the moment at the European level has brought a series of changes with a significant impact on people’s lifestyles. We eat organic food, collect selectively our waste, drive electric vehicles and recycle electronic products and home appliances.
And yet, most of the romanian population lives in unsustainable buildings, with a harmful impact on the environment and on people’s health.
Studies provided by the European Commission show that on our continent, buildings are responsible for around 40% of energy consumption, 36% of carbon dioxide emissions, a third of water consumption and a quarter of waste generation. All these converge towards a high level of pollution and, obviously, a higher risk of getting sick of the population.
If you think that the air inside is cleaner than the air outside, well, find out that in the case of classical (non-ecological) constructions, most of the time, the air inside is polluted by chemicals used for paint or for thermal and sound insulation. And if you live in Bucharest, you already know that the options for spaces in which to breathe fresh air are limited, the Capital of Romania being the last in Europe at the area of green spaces per capita (7.1 sqm / capita in 2021, according to the NIS), well below the limit of green space set by the World Health Organization (9 sqm / capita).
What to do?
The European Union has already taken a step towards more sustainable buildings by introducing the nZEB standard. Because in Romania it was introduced for authorized residential buildings from January 1, 2021, and the application rules were given only at the beginning of this year, there are still no such completed constructions.
While it is a commendable initiative and an important first step towards sustainability, the nZEB standard largely solves the problem of energy consumption and only partially the problem of a more “green” environment.
The step towards more sustainable buildings and a healthier environment
In order to protect the environment as much as possible and to provide a healthier environment for the inhabitants, the Building Research Establishment has developed a method for evaluating the ecological performance of buildings: BREEAM. Internationally recognized, the BREEAM standard has a wider coverage than nZEB, recognizing the value of the project throughout the life cycle, starting with the design and construction phase. It is a very complex process, which evaluates the energy performance of buildings, to what extent they provide a healthy environment for residents, innovation, land use, quality of materials used, construction management, pollution (reducing carbon emissions), transport, water and waste management. Therefore, BREEAM involves buildings built with sustainable materials, which offer residents a high degree of comfort indoors and outdoors, which withstand climate change well over time (another challenge nowadays) and which protect both the environment and biodiversity from the construction stage.
The BREEAM assessment has several levels, which gradually increase, depending on the percentage obtained by the buildings/projects: Acceptable, Pass, Good, Very Good, Excellent and Outstanding.
In Romania, this standard is too little known, being used more often for office buildings and less for residential. There are only a few residential compounds with BREEAM certification, the first BREEAM Excellent certified residential compound being Luxuria Residence, which obtained a score of 80.4% at the evaluation (4*/5*). The complex is located in Bucharest, the Expozitiei area, and is fully completed.
What advantages do you have if you live in a BREEAM Excellent certified building
If we were to reduce all the advantages of living in a BREEAM Excellent certified building in 5 words, they would be: a better quality of life. But, that may sound pretty vague to you, so let’s take them one at a time.