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Insights Designing buildings that stand up to climate change

Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of modern times. From melting polar ice capsules to rising sea levels and temperatures, climate change is having a serious impact all over the world. Today, it’s never been more important to take action against climate change and prevent the effects from worsening. According to WeForum, buildings and their construction account for around 40% of global energy consumption and 33% of greenhouse gas emissions. 

The AtkinsRéalis Group is a global engineering, procurement and construction business. We’re comprised of Atkins, Faithful+Gould and Acuity. Our brands help us meet the challenges of our clients and sustainability is a core part of our organisational purpose. We’re committed to sustainability and Net Zero and we recognise the importance of creating green buildings to ensure a low-carbon future, as well as decarbonising existing buildings.

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How do buildings contribute to climate change?

We must design our buildings to be greener to curb environmental damage. Buildings contribute to climate change in several ways. Firstly, they have a large carbon footprint that comes from the construction itself, as well as the lighting, heating and cooling. A large amount of carbon is also generated through the manufacturing, the transportation of those materials and the embodied carbon in the materials. There’s also the onsite power generation which can contribute to building emissions. Understanding and reducing emissions is critical for reducing climate change, so the construction industry needs to adapt and focus on designing carbon-neutral buildings that do not contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. 

Making buildings more sustainable

But how can we reduce a building’s carbon footprint? In the first instance, architects and construction managers must evaluate a building’s design carbon footprint as early as possible in the process. This means you’ll be able to plan for the use of alternative materials that are more sustainable, such as recycled building materials. Furthermore, low embodied carbon materials should also be prioritised when designing buildings. These materials include steel, concrete and foam insulation. It’s important to also choose finishes that are composed of recycled content and are locally sourced. These are tactics that can have a positive impact on the climate and reduce a building’s carbon footprint.

Therefore, construction and project managers should focus on non-traditional building materials. For example, timber can reduce the carbon footprint of a building. Timber is a highly sustainable construction material – and it has grown in popularity over the years, and prices have soared as a result. According to construction news, timber is 64 per cent more expensive than it was in 2020. The material also has very low embodied carbon and benefits from being organic, so it’s well suited as a sustainable building material.

Furthermore, another way to address climate issues in building emissions is through the creation of energy-efficient designs. This means including on-site carbon-free renewable energy sources, such as solar panels – which convert the sun’s energy into a renewable source of energy. Over the years, solar power has become an increasingly popular way to produce electricity and it has huge potential for helping achieve sustainability targets. By using solar power in buildings, you’ll be reducing costs and helping to reduce greenhouse gases. And the demand for sustainable buildings will no doubt have the potential to create a wave of new jobs in construction.

Develop your career with AtkinsRéalis

At AtkinsRéalis , we base our core business strategy around the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. We’re passionate about our ESG goals and objectives, so combating climate change by reducing energy consumption remains a key area of focus for our business. We work across a range of core markets and our world-class expertise enables us to deliver exceptional value to our clients and candidates.

We recruit for a range of roles in the construction industry, including project managers, architecture jobs, assistant landscape architect and electrical engineering roles. Our business has an excellent track record of helping our clients move forward faster and we have a large pool of data as a result. We want to work with the best talent who can help deliver exceptional projects for our cities and communities. We’re proud of our work and we’re always expanding and achieving new results.

Browse our jobs in cities and development today.