Sustainability in architecture through optimized use of “gray energy” and renovation instead of new construction
Hamburg-based architectural firm pleads for more sustainability and climate awareness in construction.
Hamburg (pts008/17.01.2023/09:15) – Architects want to build. They want to build large, and they want to build beautifully. However, this is where the trend of sustainability clashes with this desire. The architectural firm ASSELMEYER ARCHITEKT in Hamburg is exploring how sustainability and climate awareness can be integrated into the construction process. “Thinking ahead, thinking ahead is our motto, because the current energy and supply crisis does not spare the construction sector. I advocate for more humility in dealing with existing structures. Any new construction requires the demolition of old structures and is, therefore, a waste of resources, energy, and manpower. So far, people have not given it much thought. Old things must go, new things must come. However, times have changed, and the so-called gray energy is becoming increasingly valuable and should be considered in the calculation of the construction process,” says architect Justus Asselmeyer. https://www.asselmeyerarchitekt.de
What is gray energy?
In the construction industry, gray energy refers to the energy and resources required for the production of materials, delivery and construction of a building. No matter whether for the provision and production of all required building materials or the effort for storage, transport and construction process, this increasingly includes the expense or burden on the climate and the environment.
A house demolition is always also an enormous waste of energy and resources
We worry when we throw a yogurt cup into the wrong bin, but have no problem tearing down an old house because it’s no longer modern or functional enough.
“There is always a way to preserve old building structures where it makes sense, if possible, in order to save energy, resources, CO2, and ultimately money by renovating and optimizing old substance,” says Justus Asselmeyer, who sees himself as a rebel and thought leader in the architectural scene. “Sustainability and climate awareness in construction must be at the forefront of everyone’s mind in the early stages of the process.”
The construction industry is an enormous resource waster and climate polluter
At first glance, construction sites do not seem to cause much environmental damage. Here, there is no smoke or steam obviously emanating, unlike from a coal-fired power plant.
At first, it seems relatively climate-neutral. “This is a construction site but not at all. The construction industry devours enormous amounts of energy, raw materials, water, and produces millions of tons of CO2 – year after year. Something has to change, and something is changing. We notice this in discussions with clients and building owners, who have been paying more attention to environmental protection measures and the public’s view of the building, especially in company buildings, for several years now. Old building sins are not good for the image. Therefore, the megatrend of gray energy is also becoming increasingly visible in architecture. This is not surprising, given that sustainability and environmental protection efforts are becoming more and more important and are now a part of every aspect of life. More and more people are interested in minimizing the negative impact of their actions on the environment.”
Architects must become more climate-conscious – and also convince clients
“Gray energy awareness is a encouraging development for the environment and shows that more people are willing to take action and speak up. Nevertheless, there is still much to be done to limit the negative impact of human actions on the environment. Recently, a legal opinion confirmed the demand of the German Environmental Aid (DHU) for a permit requirement for building demolitions in order to save grey energy, to reduce the demolition, of buildings and to focus more on refurbishment”.
ASSELMEYER ARCHITEKT Hamburg
Lange Reihe 29
+49 (0) 40 524 764 040