(Photo by Verne Ho on Unsplash)


The built environment is an important decarbonisation (and efficiency) problem. Tech innovations can help.

Summary: Modern technology can help improve both the carbon footprint and operational efficiency of the built environment across all of its phases: design, construction (and deconstruction), operations and interaction. Solutions discussed include design tools (particularly ones that bring in holistic, modular and passive elements), digital twins, 3D printing, automation, smart windows and innovative fabrics, IoT devices, predictive building control and citywide smart systems.

Why this is important: Multiple disciplines from material science, engineering, IoT, natural capital and agriculture as well as health & well-being will need to be brought to bear in order to reduce the carbon footprint of the built environment, whilst ensuring that is accessible financially for the population.

The big theme: The built environment is an important sustainability theme, both as an integral part of societal existence but also as a major decarbonisation (40% of energy-related GHG emissions) and resource consumption problem (40% of global raw materials). There are many avenues to decarbonise across all phases of a buildings life: design, construction (and deconstruction or demolition), operations and interaction with other structures and the environment. Reduce, reuse and recycle and circular design principles can be applied to the built environment to reduce its overall environmental footprint and sustainability.

The details

Pre-pandemic I was living in a small rented apartment in London and paying for my electricity via a fixed direct debit. At the time I didn't host wild karaoke parties, I wasn't staying up until three in the morning playing computer games or mining for bitcoin. It was just me. A little bit of TV, a little bit of microwaving and a little bit of heat and hot water. So I figured that the £48 per month I was paying at the time was too high and so I looked at ways I could reduce it.

I managed to cut my monthly payment by 12.5% by making two simple changes:

  • Turning off appliances at the plug socket when not using them (i.e. not leaving them on standby); and
  • Taking my hot water boiler off the timer and instead switching it off for three days at a time. The tank was big enough and lagged enough to provide me (as I was living alone at the time) with enough hot water for showers for those 'off' days.

This post is for subscribers only

Already have an account? Log in