Stefan Fries (e3consult): Squaring the Sustainability Circle
While the circular economy can help address the problems of climate change and resource scarcity, Stefan Fries. Managing Director of e3consult, says there is more to sustainability than circularity. But he argues, sustainability needs to be more clearly defined with standards applied to make the sustainability of building projects measurable.
Has the circular economy replaced sustainability as the main trend in the construction industry?
Circularity is one aspect of sustainability and cannot replace the concept of sustainability. Circularity means disassembling, repurposing or returning components to natural or technical cycles at the end of a building’s life. The circular economy can help us to solve the pressing problems of climate change and resource scarcity by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and raw material consumption. But reducing the future viability of buildings to their recyclability is too short-sighted. Buildings are not utilitarian objects; they only have a high level of acceptance if they provide their users with a healthy, safe and functional living or working environment. At the same time all these social, ecological and economic characteristics of a building or an urban district need to be applied within the term sustainability.
“Buildings are not utilitarian objects; they only have a high level of acceptance if they provide their users with a healthy, safe and functional living or working environment.”
How are construction projects planned and implemented sustainably?
For building projects to be planned and implemented as sustainable, we need to have a clear understanding of what is often, the vaguely defined concept of sustainability. Sustainability includes all social, ecological and economic aspects. These in turn include criteria, such as indoor air quality, thermal comfort, environmental footprint or life cycle costs. These must be measurable and optimizable through sustainable evaluation and certification systems such as DGNB, LENOZ and others. With the help of the certification systems, precise targets of the sustainability standards that planners and construction companies need to achieve can be set at the beginning of the planning process.
What are your recommendations for the future of construction in Luxembourg?
It is commendable that Luxembourg is making its building industry circular and sustainable. However, its multitude of definitions complicates the implementation of sustainability enormously. The Luxembourg government has created the LENOZ certification for residential buildings, which is also used to award targeted subsidies. The sustainability certification systems DGNB, HQE and BREEAM are applied to functional buildings. The WELL certification only focuses on user comfort and omits ecological and economic sustainability. Countries like Denmark and Austria have implemented a national sustainability certification. For Luxembourg to achieve national sustainability goals, it would be very helpful if its sustainability standards were clearly defined and available to all actors.