Active buildings will be crucial in determining the future of our world

Brian Kilkelly, Development Lead, EIT Climate-KIC, here argues that achieving Europe’s goal of limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius by 2030 requires radical action targeting the built environment, which today accounts for at least 40 per cent of total energy demands. Promising return on investment awaits the front-runners within active house and adaptable building technologies who put well-being at the top of their agenda.

The “passive house” has been a persistent trend among energy efficiency-minded building developers: It’s an approach that makes every effort to minimise energy use by ensuring super insulated and airtight buildings, with particular care to eliminate thermal bridges during construction. However, indoor air quality remains a challenge in passive houses. Fortress-like constructions perform well in conserving and thus limiting energy consumption—at the cost of good ventilation.

This effect forced innovators to go beyond the passive, net-zero energy building technology, and the first “active house” was built in Denmark in 2009. Active houses generate a surplus of energy through the use of solar panels, solar water heaters, geothermal heat pumps, or by thermally activating the entire building envelope through an intricate air infrastructure. This energy can either be used locally or be fed back to the grid, effectively enabling the house to function as a mini power plant and providing a source of income for its owner. Innovations such as Elon Musk’s Power Wall transforms the wall into a power bank, generating, storing, and releasing energy at convenient times.

The EU’s climate innovation community, EIT Climate-KIC, has observed the growing need to develop higher performance buildings. Real estate professionals worldwide have a crucial role to play in tackling the rise of air pollution, in supporting changes to work patterns, and in harnessing the power of nature to produce optimum conditions for their customers. In this way, climate change presents not only an enormous societal challenge but also a significant business opportunity.

Moreover, active houses are designed to provide a more comfortable environment than traditional green or passive buildings. This has a positive effect on performance, providing incentives to favour active buildings. EIT Climate-KIC has supported Chalmers University of Technology in developing the Smart Sustainable Offices tool. This tool provides design recommendations to decrease sick leave, energy expenses, and emissions while increasing performance and well-being.

Considering the fact that salaries typically account for 90 per cent of company operating costs, whereas costs for energy and rent only amount to one per cent and nine per cent respectively, there’s a strong case for considering any measure of limiting sickness among employees. The employers’ choice of what office to lease will increasingly be informed by the environmental qualities of the facilities. The EIT Climate-KIC supported start-up, Office Vitae has developed an Office Vitality Index which ranks offices based on their performance in terms comfort, vitality, and environmental impact.

Chains of co-working spaces such as WeWork are emerging rapidly. These companies offer spaces that resemble hotels more than traditional offices, with a wide range of services to facilitate communication and collaboration. Smartphone apps that measure daylight levels and indoor air quality which guide the use of adaptable spaces are emerging. Natural materials and plants and being integrated to boost well-being even further. Google’s “Healthy Materials Program” has championed the practice of evaluating building products and materials through rigorous screening processes and linking them to the environmental and the social aspects of office buildings.

Active and adaptable building characteristics should be of interest to property developers and investors alike. Buildings with high ratings will be deemed more attractive, driving higher rent prices. Adaptability enables diversification of income sources and a possibility to maximise profits as well a flexibility with regards to changes that may need to be made in the future.

There is a clear return on investment in active and adaptable building prospects. The question for us all is, will we accelerate implementation in time to realise a safe and prosperous world?

 
Location
Sweden
Related Focus Area
Urban Transitions
Related Goal
Goal 1: Promote retrofit and decentralised energy
Articles you may be interested in
In The News
Brill Power’s new innovation radically increases battery life and storag...

Brill Power, supported by EIT Climate-KIC, has launched the...

Brill Power’s new innovation radically increases battery life and storage capacity
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC CEO Dr. Kirsten Dunlop gives TEDx Talk

EIT Climate-KIC CEO Dr. Kirsten Dunlop delivered a talk,...

EIT Climate-KIC CEO Dr. Kirsten Dunlop gives TEDx Talk
In The News
Putting theory into practice: EIT Climate-KIC Pioneer innovating the Greek mar...

To tackle complex climate challenges, we need a broader...

Putting theory into practice: EIT Climate-KIC Pioneer innovating the Greek maritime sector
In The News
EIT launches call for proposals to boost innovation in Higher Education Instit...

Unlocking the potential of higher education institutions for innovation...

EIT launches call for proposals to boost innovation in Higher Education Institutions
In The News
Dolomites forging climate resilience

The Italian Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are...

Dolomites forging climate resilience
In The News
People-powered resilience: Andalusia announces new climate action plan

The region’s climate action plan has been announced, with...

People-powered resilience: Andalusia announces new climate action plan
In The News
Built by Nature: new initiative to accelerate the transition to sustainable co...

The built environment accounts for close to 40 per...

Built by Nature: new initiative to accelerate the transition to sustainable construction in cities
In The News
The State of California and EIT Climate-KIC advance partnership for climate in...

Glasgow, 8 November – The California Governor’s Office of...

The State of California and EIT Climate-KIC advance partnership for climate innovation
In The News
COP26: UN Climate Change and EIT Climate-KIC partner to establish new Global I...

A new digital Global Innovation Hub has been launched at...

COP26: UN Climate Change and EIT Climate-KIC partner to establish new Global Innovation Hub
In The News
ClimateLaunchpad announces 2021 competition winners

EIT Climate-KIC’s ClimateLaunchpad – the world’s largest green business...

ClimateLaunchpad announces 2021 competition winners
In The News
EIT Cross-KIC New European Bauhaus launches Ideation – Deadline Extended

EIT Climate-KIC has launched a call for ideas on...

EIT Cross-KIC New European Bauhaus launches Ideation – Deadline Extended
In The News
Call for proposals: Scaling the New European Bauhaus Ventures

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) has...

Call for proposals: Scaling the New European Bauhaus Ventures
In The News
Glasgow City Region in the race to resilience

Glasgow, which is hosting this year’s UN Climate Change...

Glasgow City Region in the race to resilience
In The News
Gipuzkoa’s quest for sustainability

Gipuzkoa, the smallest Spanish province located in the Basque...

Gipuzkoa’s quest for sustainability
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC to host week-long celebration of climate innovators

The EIT Climate-KIC Week of Action will celebrate, recognise...

EIT Climate-KIC to host week-long celebration of climate innovators
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC launches new series of circular economy courses

As companies and practitioners around the world are looking...

EIT Climate-KIC launches new series of circular economy courses
In The News
NetZeroCities: the new project leading European cities’ transition to net-ze...

Starting in October 2021, the new project NetZeroCities will...

NetZeroCities: the new project leading European cities’ transition to net-zero emissions by 2030
In The News
In the face of complex challenges, Europe stronger together, says EU President...

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen outlined her...

In the face of complex challenges, Europe stronger together, says EU President von der Leyen
In The News
New IPCC report reveals urgent need for climate innovation

The IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report has launched. The report...

New IPCC report reveals urgent need for climate innovation
In The News
Moving beyond ‘brown coal’ in Europe’s rural regions

Together with Partners, EIT Climate-KIC is leading a process...

Moving beyond ‘brown coal’ in Europe’s rural regions
In The News
EU’s “Fit for 55” to spur policy innovation for climate action

The European Commission has released its “Fit for 55”...

EU’s “Fit for 55” to spur policy innovation for climate action
In The News
Munich Re and ERGO invest in EIT Climate-KIC carbon removal programme

Major German corporate group sets the ambition to accelerate...

Munich Re and ERGO invest in EIT Climate-KIC carbon removal programme
In The News
23 pilot projects selected by EIT to unlock higher education’s innovation po...

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) has...

23 pilot projects selected by EIT to unlock higher education’s innovation potential in Europe
In The News
Investing in start-ups scales the offering of climate adaptation solutions in ...

A partnership between EIT Climate-KIC and CDC Group, the...

Investing in start-ups scales the offering of climate adaptation solutions in African and South Asian countries
In The News
Irish Aid extends support for innovation and development from the ground up

The Government of Ireland’s development assistance programme, Irish Aid,...

Irish Aid extends support for innovation and development from the ground up
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC showcases climate innovation at R&I Days

EIT Climate-KIC participated in the European Commission’s Research and...

EIT Climate-KIC showcases climate innovation at R&I Days
In The News
Branch Magazine wins Ars Electronica Award for Digital Humanity

Branch Magazine, a collaboration between EIT Climate-KIC, Mozilla Foundation...

Branch Magazine wins Ars Electronica Award for Digital Humanity
In The News
Cross-KIC project to boost circular economy in Western Balkans

The circular economy concept is of crucial importance to...

Cross-KIC project to boost circular economy in Western Balkans
In The News
Exploring new horizons with Pioneers into Practice

Enrolment is now open for placement hosts and participants...

Exploring new horizons with Pioneers into Practice
In The News
Circular bioeconomy start-up receives €2 million from European Innovation Co...

EIT Climate-KIC supported Lixea (formerly Chrysalix Technologies) has received...

Circular bioeconomy start-up receives €2 million from European Innovation Council Fund