Moving Forward –
Sustainable Construction with BEYOND.High Performance®
The construction industry is facing some harsh realities. The housing market is becoming increasingly expensive, skilled labor is scarce, and the cost of materials continues to rise. Yet there is more to be concerned about. In 2016 the residential and commercial sector accounted for 11 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Emissions from homes and buildings also increase substantially when emissions from electricity are included, due to their relatively large share of electricity consumption, such as for lighting, heating, and cooling. So how do we address these challenges? By embracing building methods with a strong emphasis on improving the building process and energy-efficient results.
This is also relevant for purchasers and residents. In 2015 the average U.S. household spent $1,856 on home energy bills. The forecast rise in energy prices until 2030 will make energy-efficiency a compelling factor. Yet we in the construction industry will have to lead the way to sharpen the awareness of sustainability. In doing so, we can learn from the automotive industry – and more precisely from the evolution of the electric vehicle.
Evolution of an idea
Electric vehicles were long considered unreliable. But current technology has evolved and what was once a skeptically viewed novelty has now gone into mass production. The process has been driven by general consumer acceptance, along with the desire to reduce the environmental impact. Progress is also being made in the construction industry. New methods have made living indoors healthier, more sustainable and energy efficient. Yet we as an industry are not proactively educating the public about these new methods and are slow to adopt them.
Meeting minimum standards isn’t the same as building sustainably
Building codes are a minimum standard. It is up to us to explain to homebuyers that there is room to improve when it comes to efficiency and sustainability. Because the average home buyer isn’t asking explicitly for an energy-efficient home – homeowners simply expect new homes to be more energy-efficient than older homes – many builders do not exceed these codes. Most buyers don’t understand what can affect energy efficiency and in what way. For example, a smart thermostat will achieve little compared to an airtight building envelope. It is also important to communicate the long-term value of an energy-efficient house – on the basis of a low energy bill over many years, for instance.
Step by step toward the goal
Not everything has to happen from one day to the next. Before electric cars were practical, the automotive industry first concentrated on fuel economy – by building better engines and using extra-light materials. We can take the same approach. For this, BASF resorts to multifunctional building materials such as sprayfoam. By insulating with sprayfoam, we create an airtight, thermally-efficient building envelope that adds overall strength to the structure and allows us to optimize framing and other structural members. It’s about looking at the whole house rather than its individual parts. Working with multi-functional materials also means generating less waste - according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), construction and demolition generated over 500 million tons of waste in 2015. This level of waste generation is not sustainable. Pre-fabricated building is a good example of a building method that is helping to reduce on-site waste.
Taking a holistic approach and looking at the house as a whole system needs to become common practice in the industry. This is why BASF tasked its dedicated team of construction experts and building scientists to develop the BEYOND.High Performance® approach. By looking at a house as a cohesive system instead of its individual components, BASF and its partners have developed new building methods that make homes stronger and more efficient, all the while working with less material that can be translated into real, long-term sustainability.
Find out more about the BEYOND.High Performance® approach.