Concerns and protests around climate change have kicked up several gears recently, thanks to the efforts of 16-year old Greta Thunberg, the Swedish schoolgirl who has inspired an international movement to fight climate change and has been nominated to receive this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Thunberg started the Fridays for the Future movement (#FridaysForFuture) and recently thousands of schoolchildren protested against climate change in more than 100 countries around the world, including South Africa.
“Climate change is possibly one of the most serious concerns facing our future, and we applaud Greta Thunberg for catapulting this issue across the world, including South Africa,” says Atisha Gopichund-Lutchman, Director of TechnoMarketing at Saint-Gobain.
Buildings have a massive impact on the environment, with both their construction and use contributing significantly to environmentally issues faced today. According to research done by Saint-Gobain, the built environment globally is responsible for 33% of energy consumption, 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, 40% of solid waste streams (in developed countries) and 40% of raw material consumption. In Africa, 56% of all energy use is attributed to the built environment which is responsible for between 25-40% of all waste generation, 5% of all water consumption and 3,9 tons of CO2E (greenhouse gas emissions).
For this reason, sustainable construction methods are becoming increasingly important. As such efficient and sustainable housing materials have been core to Saint-Gobain’s ethos for some time, underpinned by its Multi-Comfort principles.
Gopichund-Lutchman says Saint-Gobain has taken action within the product life cycle from raw materials, manufacturing, logistics, installation, building lifetime, to end-of-life and recycling, locating manufacturing facilities close to local construction sites, undertaking the land restoration of gypsum quarries, minimising energy consumption, CO2 emissions, and water discharge. It also supports local governmental “green” initiatives, assessing environmental impact through LCA’s and EPD’s and adheres to several international building label certifications (LEED, BREEAM, DGNB, GREEN MARK).
The company engages in the eco-innovation product development process, promoting eco-logistics initiatives and sustainable procurement policy, collaborating continuously with customers to incorporate feedback into the product innovation and improvement process, training staff about sustainable construction and sharing best practice with other countries.
South African construction needs a mindset shift in how we approach building and development. By swapping out traditional building methods with more sustainable materials that support interior drywall construction, expenses will remain relatively the same, building time will be reduced and, most importantly, the end-user will benefit.
Sustainability extends to efficiency and comfort levels. “There is a growing trend within the construction and building industry, across commercial and residential developments, to ensure a building’s structure specifically enhances the comfort of those living or working in it.”
Gopichund-Lutchman says that most people spend the majority of their time inside buildings, so the way a building is designed and constructed, and how it functions, is crucial when it comes to health and general comfort. She explains that the Multi-Comfort concept relates the design of living or working environments to human senses, incorporating feeling, seeing, hearing and breathing with a focus on thermal sensation, aesthetics and colours, acoustics and the quality of the air we breathe.
Sustainability and efficiency drive Multi-Comfort. With ever-increasing energy costs, effective, sustainable construction materials are one way of addressing environmental concerns while easing the financial strain of rising electricity costs with the added plus of enhancing comfort levels. The thermal qualities found in most plasterboard products contribute directly to energy efficiency (warmth in winter and a cooler home in summer) leading to a financial benefit in the face of ever-increasing power prices.
“The prioritisation of environmental concerns and sustainability is beginning to take on an unprecedented urgency and importance. Saint-Gobain has always strongly positioned these criteria within its operations, and we are gratified that thanks, in part, to a Swedish teenager, the rest of the world is taking more notice,” concludes Gopichund-Lutchman.