The increasing rate of development of urban agglomerations requires rational thinking and planning on the part of the authorities. By 2050, 7 out of 10 people will live and work in cities. For today’s decision makers, planning for their expansion is critical because the effects of climate change will cause extreme weather events and put urban communities at greater risk.
City and municipal governments understand that they are on the front lines when it comes to dealing with climate change. Many local governments are taking steps to build more resilient cities that can withstand the effects of these changes and will enable them to respond quickly to the challenges the future will bring. Is a sustainable city a recipe for climate change gaining momentum?
The future belongs to sustainable building
Although urban areas occupy only about two percent of the world’s land surface, their carbon footprint is enormous. Cities account for more than two-thirds of global energy consumption and more than 70 percent of its CO2 emissions. In buildings around the world, heating and cooling consume 35 to 60 percent of total energy demand, on average producing nearly 40 percent of emissions. Therefore, reducing and decarbonizing energy use for heating in new and existing buildings is critical to meeting the climate challenge.
Efficient management of built-up areas is becoming increasingly important in reducing carbon emissions. This presents a tremendous opportunity for cities to support a rapid transition to more energy and climate efficient buildings, and thereby make an important contribution to achieving the climate goals of the Paris Agreement.
Importantly, there are readily available solutions – the most important of which is comprehensive thermal retrofitting of existing buildings, i.e. simply insulating and replacing windows and then using renewable energy sources. In fact, optimizing the energy efficiency of buildings could provide up to 55% of the greenhouse gas reductions needed to put cities on a 1.5° C path by 2030. Renovating existing buildings to become more energy efficient is particularly important in cities that have already experienced high rates of population growth and economic development.
There is no single definition of what constitutes a sustainable building or system. Reducing long-term environmental impacts, designing for reusability and fire resistance, and considering the resources required over the lifetime of a structure remain key considerations for green and sustainable architecture. Many cities around the world are already implementing appropriate strategies to ultimately make themselves resilient to climate change and, more importantly, to help stop it.
It is worth taking a closer look at them.
Amsterdam and the City Donut strategy
Amsterdam is the first city to use City Donut in an attempt to transition to a closed-loop economy to become a climate-neutral capital by 2050. Creating a resilient, sustainable and carbon-neutral urban ecosystem that serves all citizens can be a laudable goal. It is possible through modern technology, social inclusion, and economic support from local governments.
The City Donut model is a new way of looking at sustainability. It is about creating a boundary between the city’s ability to provide a social foundation (hole) for the population, while not exceeding the ecological (outer) ceiling. The balancing between these parameters is represented by the donut. It is a set of strategies and actions to help create a circular economy.
“Urban doughnut” refers to the way resources are produced, consumed and recycled on a daily basis. In Amsterdam, the idea of a thriving city is becoming synonymous with sustainable supply, responsible use of natural materials and maximizing the useful life of products to reduce waste wherever possible. The goal is to use City Donut to create the ideal economic conditions necessary for innovation from companies in every business sector.
Applying a new look to its economy, Amsterdam aims to reduce food waste by 50% over the next ten years. Stricter building codes will also force sustainability by requiring a “materials passport,” helping demolition and construction companies determine if their building materials are reusable and more valuable. By 2030, the city wants to reduce its use of raw materials by 20 percent.
Italy – Superbonus a cure for climate change and economic crisis
The energy efficiency of buildings in Italy is lower than the European average, with 82% of buildings built before the first energy efficiency law was passed. This means that most Italian buildings are in class G according to the latest energy performance certification system, which means the worst possible efficiency rating.
To accelerate the pace of renovations, the Superbonus program was created, which gives homeowners two options. The first allows owners to give a tax write-off to the company doing the work, a bank or an insurer. So the owner can do the work for free and the builder can recoup 110% of the cost.
Another option is that owners will pay up front for the renovation and then recoup their investment and an additional 10% in deductions over 5 years. To qualify for Superbonus, the renovation should improve the building’s efficiency by at least two energy ratings.
Importantly, the Superbonus program is believed to be an effective way to restore many of the 600,000 jobs lost since 2008 due to adverse economic conditions. Since Italy has more than 1.2 million multifamily homes and 12 million buildings, a well-designed long-term renovation strategy can have a huge impact on the country’s economy.
By renovating existing buildings with the help of the Superbonus program, Italy can restart economic activity while reducing carbon emissions and improving the health and well-being of its residents. Promoting a sustainable future with practical solutions and tax incentives is a major opportunity to accelerate the country’s economic recovery.