Reducing energy used by buildings
Globally buildings are responsible for 40% of energy use and 33% of greenhouse emissions, and as the World Economic Forum points out, “ensuring new buildings are sustainable and energy-efficient will be key to our efforts to tackle climate change”.
“Most of the technologies we need to make buildings more efficient already exist,” says Marc. “But current renovation rates are too low at just 1% per year in Europe. They need to increase to 3% annually if we are to hit Paris Agreement targets.
“Renovations are also not deep enough, due to a number of factors: no easy process, not enough clarity on performance post-renovation and a lack of a trained workforce.”
We are tackling these renovation challenges in a range of different ways.
For example, we have campaigned for years for more renovation across Europe. Now we’re stepping up our work to maximise every opportunity offered by the European Commission proposals to supercharge renovation.
We are also innovating a range of new products and solutions that put energy efficiency at the heart of buildings.
Additionally, we have joined a pioneering project to find new ways to upscale the deep renovation of single-family homes.
And our colleagues at Knauf Energy Solutions are seeking to provide that much-needed clarity on post-renovation performance. Their technology can measure the impact of both retrofits and new builds.
Driving the circular economy
In 2020 Knauf Insulation launched its For A Better World sustainability strategy with a focus on driving the circular economy and achieving zero carbon.
To deliver these targets and transition to a circular economy we need to innovate.
“We’ve already introduced some changes to our ways of working,” says Marc. “For example, in the past, Knauf Insulation had a lifecycle assessment team, measuring the environmental impact of its products, and a separate innovation team creating the products of tomorrow.
“Today, these work in close collaboration so that the environmental impact of a new product can be assessed from the start – including design, change of use and eventual deconstruction.”
A recycling revolution
Other key innovations are also defining the sustainable future of the company. 2022 saw the launch of our new RESULATION plant in Belgium which is designed to recycle scrap Glass Mineral Wool into the glass cullet required to manufacture new Knauf Insulation products.
Using material that can be recycled is less carbon intensive than using processes that require the manufacturing of products from virgin raw materials.
The new Belgian site processes production off-cuts of Glass Mineral Wool from the company’s plants, scrap from construction sites and will be able to process deconstruction waste from buildings that are being demolished.
Working towards decarbonisation
“Another key element in overcoming the challenges of decarbonisation and meeting our ambitious targets is increasing the speed at which we deliver results,” says Marc.
“We went through long innovation cycles in our own processes. Something was tested in one plant and then replicated when maturity had been gained. Today we need to launch a number of parallel developments which have to be supported by rapidly available and reliable data.
“When it comes to innovating in hard-to-abate sectors, a large number of the technologies needed are probably already available. However, companies need to adapt them to fit their own processes and product requirements.”
We will be tailoring and adapting technology to ensure it suits our own unique processes and meets the technical requirements we have set for our products.
Balancing operations with responsibility
For example, by 2025, our plant at Visé in Belgium will have reduced its embodied emissions from electricity by 95% as a result of the installation of a new windmill and thousands of photovoltaic panels as well as sourcing power from ‘cleaner’ energy companies.
Plans are also underway to replace carbon-intense coke that is used to fuel the manufacture of Rock Mineral Wool with electric systems that can use renewable sources.
A holistic approach
There is no magic ingredient or quick-fix solution when it comes to decarbonisation. As we’ve seen, there are so many factors to consider.
“This transition is unprecedented,” says Marc. “To deliver on it requires a holistic approach that covers everything from awareness-raising to Research & Development, industrial performance, engineering and financing.
“Creating and maintaining momentum throughout this process is a key role for our sustainability team.”
By working together, both internally and with key players in the industry, we can tackle the challenges ahead.