Will 2021 be the year climate takes centre stage?

With the COP26 climate conference and the first stepping-stone on the road to the UK government’s Future Homes Standard, 2021 is likely to be a big year in the fight against climate change. Carlos Negreira, exlabesa Building Systems Global Director, gives his thoughts on how this will affect fenestration.

At the moment, it’s hard to imagine anything other than coronavirus at the top of the international agenda – but I wonder if 2021 might be the year that climate makes a major comeback.

That’s because January didn’t just mark the end of the long and difficult first year of the COVID pandemic.

It also started the countdown on 2050 – by which time Britain has committed to achieving carbon neutrality.

In 2021, we’ve now got less than thirty years to meet that extremely challenging and ambitious target.

Three decades sounds like a long time. But big change is rapidly approaching.

At the start of the year, the UK government issued its response to a round of consultations it ran on its proposed Future Homes Standard – the tough new requirements for sustainable housebuilding the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government first unveiled.

In it, the government restated its intention to cut the carbon emissions produced by the average new-build house by between 75 and 80% – and, as a stepping-stone along the way, to introduce measures this year that would cut them by 31%.

What’s more, in November – pandemic permitting – leaders from all around the world will congregate in Glasgow for COP26, the United Nations’ annual conference on climate change.

In short, even with the pandemic still raging, 2021 could be the year the race to 2050 really began.

The impact of construction

But why does any of this matter to fenestration?

Business owners across our industry have had an extremely challenging year adjusting to the pandemic – so why should they spend time thinking about the environment?

Because we’re part of the global construction sector – a sector with the same carbon footprint as China, a country home to nearly 1.4 billion people.

In Britain, the built environment accounts for a third of national carbon emissions – and as the industry with one of the biggest environmental impacts, we have a responsibility to do more to respond.

There’s no doubt that we have a very long way to go.

Working for a cleaner planet

According to a report by the World Green Building Council there are only 500 net zero commercial buildings anywhere in the world, and just 2,000 net zero homes – significantly less than 1% of all buildings worldwide.

That’s something that needs to change, and fast.

But manufacturers also have a major role to play in the fight against climate change – which is why, at exlabesa Building Systems, we’ve launched our Clean Planet initiative.

In Spain, our state-of-the-art recycling facility turns old profiles into recycled aluminium billets, helping us make major reductions in our environmental impact.

Making one kilo of our recycled aluminium produces 3.67kg of carbon. The global average is 18kg per kilo, meaning we’re producing 79.6% less carbon.

We then use these billets to extrude new aluminium profiles, and produce windows, doors, curtain walling systems and more made from recycled materials.

Crucially, recasting this recycled aluminium only uses 5% of the energy required to extrude primary aluminium.

Striving for sustainability

We’re pleased with the progress we’ve made already to reduce our carbon footprint as a company – but we know there’s a lot more work to do.

We hope that businesses throughout the sector will join us in striving for a greener future – and that construction can shift from the industry with the biggest environmental impact, to one at the forefront of sustainability.