Marius Dumitrescu, Holcim: Decarbonising the built environment is essential for a net-zero future

Mihai-Alexandru Cristea 27/09/2022 | 15:59

As climate change and its large-scale negative effects are no longer just presumptions but a reality we are all facing on a daily basis, every member of society, including those in the business environment, must behave and do business in a more sustainable way. Business Review talked to representatives of large companies in Romania and highlighted several solutions that can ensure a greener and safer future for the coming generations. Implementing sustainable urban development, water management, and farming, supporting businesses with green finance, and finding ways to lower carbon emissions in all our activities are among the actions that could be part of the solution.

 

Marius Dumitrescu, National Civil Buildings Solutions and Promotions Manager at Holcim

 

The transition to a sustainable built environment

It is well known that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has published new reports over the past year with data showing accelerating climate change. These summaries of the IPCC’s scientific knowledge show that climate change is already occurring and is accelerating rapidly due to the accumulation of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere at a rate that far exceeds the natural capacity of our planet’s terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems to absorb them.

Thus, to achieve the climate transition, the EU has put forward sets of policies (Council of the European Union, 2022b), including the European Green Deal and the ‘Fit for 55’ package, which addresses the legislation and measures needed to achieve climate targets by 2030, among other existing and emerging policies. Romania supports all these efforts.

Climate change, unfortunately, is no longer just numbers, graphs and research presented by scientists and hard to perceive by individuals through their direct senses. We have reached the point where it is a tangible reality and something needs to be done about it as soon as possible.

In 2021, our country faced a record number of immediate severe weather warnings (so-called “code red”) issued by the National Meteorological Administration (ANM), and experts warn that these will become increasingly frequent in the context of climate change.

Decarbonising the built environment is essential for a net-zero future and to limit the effects of global warming. Nearly 40% of the world’s CO2 emissions are linked to the way we construct and operate buildings. 30% of this footprint occurs in the construction phase. We, in the construction industry, have a great responsibility towards society and future generations. Concrete is the most widely used man-made material because of its extraordinary characteristics and we, as part of the construction industry, are aware of the responsibility we have.

 

Carbon emissions, the impact of construction activity and the need for collaboration between all the parties involved in the construction process

To make the decarbonisation of the built environment happen effectively and in an accelerated way, before it is too late, the whole ecosystem of the built environment needs to be part of it. From design, execution and all the way through to the operation of a building. We all need to consider the environmental impact, to consider what we can do from the perspective of our profession.

At Holcim we proactively work with our partners and customers, with developers, architects and engineers to facilitate this transition, we have programs and collaborations for everyone involved in the building process so that we can do our part to accelerate it.

And to make it possible, we launched ECONCEPT, a new business model to accelerate the transition to a sustainable built environment, last year. It is important to realize that every actor is part of the change and can contribute to overcoming it. 


We are all part of a system: the legislative environment, through the proposed changes, investors are already shifting their funding towards “future friendly” investments, the banking environment has started some time ago to incentivise green project financing and credit benefits; architects have their levers to reduce, engineers have their levers to reduce, construction companies have their levers to reduce, and we, as building material manufacturers, are creating green materials with low natural resource consumption and low CO2 footprint.

One important step in building sustainable is to have products and materials which have their environmental impact asseses and declared through EPD’s. Holcim started this process years ago by issuing EPD’s (Environmental Products Declaration) making this information available for the industry enabling designers, green certifiers and others to use this third party data in their projects. This is a very important step that the building industry should advocate sau take in order to get closer to Net Zero.

 

Building materials with a low carbon footprint and their importance in the context of the Life Cycle Assessment of a construction project

With “Strategy 2025 – Accelerating Green Growth”, Holcim aims to become a global leader in innovative and sustainable building solutions. We have already exceeded our “Strategy 2022” targets on sustainability one year ahead.

Sustainability is at the heart of our strategy, with Holcim being the first industry-wide company to validate net-zero science-based targets for 2050, endorsed by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). Holcim will remain at the forefront of green building solutions, such as ECOPact, ranging from 30% to 100% lower CO2 footprint.

Holcim Group is expanding at global level and, in the past two years, has entered in new construction industries that have a big impact on the carbon footprint – one such example is Firestone Building Products, a global leader in roofing systems, as a new driver of growth and innovation for the company amidst very strong growth in the market (closures, roofing etc.).

Holcim Group globally will continue to implement smart technologies, from 3D printing using 70% less materials to green mineral components such as calcined clay. Also globally, Holcim will continue to develop state-of-the-art technologies, including 30 pilot projects in carbon capture, utilization and storage, in line with our goal to operate at least one net-zero factory by 2030.

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Mihai-Alexandru Cristea | 29/11/2022 | 10:17

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