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Sustainable construction in the face of climate change

This article is part of the World Green Building Week 2021 editorial series highlighting the role sustainable buildings play in #BuildingResilience to climate change and for people and economies.

Provided by BASF.

BASF offers durable solutions to the construction market to help withstand future disasters.

With nine billion people projected to inhabit our planet by 2050 and three quarters of that population living in cities, climate change is not a topic that is going away any time soon.

“We’re not getting to the baseline level of dealing with disasters and hazards that we have today, let alone what’s coming in the future,” said Ryan Colker, Vice President of Innovation at the International Code Council and Executive Director at the Alliance for National & Community Resilience.

The increasing urbanisation of the population will require new concepts for housing and construction. That’s where BASF comes in—closing the flooding risk/disaster gap by offering resilient construction solutions. With the company’s chemistry, buildings can be more durable while requiring fewer resources for maintenance. Chemistry also makes buildings more efficient, thus protecting the environment. BASF Construction created Disaster Durable Solutions™, which represents the company’s long-term commitment to addressing the high costs of environmental disasters. It improves the resiliency of homes and businesses through stronger building envelopes.

Living proof of resilient design is best exemplified by BASF with a project in Breezy Point, a neighborhood in Queens, N.Y. BASF was one of several organizations to partner on rebuilding a 1955 home destroyed by Hurricane Sandy’s post-winds and storm surge. Today, a new residence built from spray polyurethane foam, graphite-enhanced polystyrene and concrete stands in its place. Using best practices in coastal construction and an energy-efficient design, the house is a model for the future.

“Breezy Point is a showcase of a project that’s both sustainable and resilient,” said Deane Evans, Executive Director at the NJIT Center for Building Knowledge & NJIT Center for Resilient Design.

During the project’s rebuild, BASF used its disaster-resilient products that made the home stronger, more durable and more comfortable for the occupant.

Recommended by FEMA for homes in disaster-prone areas, BASF’s spray polyurethane foam (SPF) mitigates the effects of water and, when properly used in a roofing system, can sustain extreme impact from hail damage compared to a traditional roofing system. Additionally, the foam offers greater wind uplift resistance than many alternatives when fully adhered to the building structure.

“BASF starts with looking at building materials that are multi-functional. Spray foam is an example,” says Mary Poma Wiles, Head of Marketing for the BASF North American Construction team. “By insulating with spray foam, we create an airtight, thermally-efficient building envelope that adds overall strength to the structure and allows us to optimize framing and other structural members. It’s about looking at the whole house rather than its individual parts.”

Courtesy Multi-Hazard Mitigation Council (2019). Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: 2019 Report; National Institute of Building Sciences, Washington, D.C.

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As climate change will continue to accelerate environmental disasters, aside from turning to more durable construction materials, solutions such as smart design and retrofitting, innovation in technology and materials in design, better education and growing public awareness will be key drivers leading to policy change, according to experts.

“New construction has the opportunity to do a double whammy in the sense that if you design and build well, you can actually reduce the impacts of climate change through energy efficiency,” Evans concluded. “If you can combine that with resilient construction at the same time, you can prevent or reduce the impacts of these hazards.”

As buildings account for nearly 40 percent of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the construction industry can play an important role in the fight against climate change. More and more companies and institutions are requesting their buildings to be constructed to LEED standards, as buildings that are LEED-certified contributed 50% fewer GHGs than conventionally constructed buildings due to water consumption, 48% fewer GHGs due to solid waste and 5% fewer GHGs due to transportation, according to a 2014 UC Berkeley study.

By adapting green building practices, which encompass a building’s design, planning, construction, operations and end-of-life recycling or renewal, we can significantly reduce a new building’s greenhouse gas emissions and help combat climate change.
What is World Green Building Week?

World Green Building Week is the world’s largest campaign to accelerate sustainable buildings for everyone, everywhere. Organised by the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), it is led by our global network of 70 Green Building Councils and their 36,000 members.

Join us from the 20th–24th of September 2021 to find out how our network is accelerating the Sustainable Development Goals towards an inclusive and resilient net zero built environment.