As the global community continues to endure through an altered way of life amid the on-going COVID-19 outbreak, it is only natural to ask ourselves what our lives, professional and otherwise, will look like when things start going back to normal again. This begs other questions, such as whatwill normal look like, or will there be a new normal?
Counteraction and control are key components when confronting significant general well-being crisis. To contain the virus, the zones for occupants’ activities are confined to communities and remaining inside.
This means that, as a social base for most individuals, buildings are currently taking on a vital role in forestalling and controlling the COVID-19 virus. Social distancing and stay-at-home control measures have become one of the most significant techniques for battling the pandemic.
If there is something positive that can be said to have originated from this worldwide pandemic, it can be said to be the way Earth was given a chance to somewhat recover. Scientists have already observed how rapidly the atmosphere, and nature in general, has already recuperated from the damage associated with human beings, ensuing in drastic climate change and hence global warming.
The Guardian suggested that it is the biggest annual drop in CO2 emissions, greater than those recorded in all the economic recessions over the past 50 years.
The International Energy Agency suggested that Europe’s emissions have fallen by more than 50 per cent since the outbreak, however, the fall isexpected to start being reversed if no measures are implemented. The local levels of air pollution have significantly decreased in the last two months, with experts highlighting less GHG emissions due to a reduction in transportation use and business operations, as we reverted to remote homeworking. On average, the Air Quality Index is now rated at 60.
“Building sustainable homes should be the foundation towards a stronger sustainable economy”, said Reuben Xuereb, Chairman and CEO, QP.
In order to retain these statistical figures, it is detrimental to set out a plan to deploy and support the implementation of soft measures such as road space rationing, teleworking, and shared mobility and move to more stringent measures implemented at a national level.
One cannot help but acknowledge that COVID-19 will have a significant negative impact on our economy. Having said this, the construction industry can be of great importance when it comes to rebuilding our national economy, as it may create vast job opportunities and includes extensive value chains for both small and large businesses.
This will be of long-term benefit only if we follow the correct regulations and adopt new measures of how we can use our homes to improve the way we live.
The housing market, in particular, plays a crucial role in boosting the economy. The concept of homeworking, e-commerce and homeschooling altogether emphasise the importance of designing sustainable homes to assess three very important factors; the environmental, social and economic sustainability.
Environmental sustainability seeks to minimise resource utilityand increases durability by opting for alternative modes of design such as passive solutions, carbon neutrality and cradle-tocradle, which as a result can reduce the overall GHG emissions and reduce waste.
On the other hand, challenging social sustainability gives rise to the importance of designing for healthy homes while introducing flexibility and comfort to ensure the well-being of the occupant is safeguarded.
The concept of biophilic and holistic design is essential and should be considered at the very initial stages of design.
Building sustainable homes should be the foundation towards a stronger sustainable economy. The local financial system should be at the forefrontof this transition by continuing to introduce measures to promote sustainable development through favourable loan terms.
It is crucial to shift from our usual way of operation and start adopting measures which allow a shift to sustainable and green construction while enhancing a more circular economy.
The importance of developing or optimising buildings according to standards and certification to ensure Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) has become ever so important.
Indeed, the building sector has an opportunity to use this crisis to respond to a different global crisis, that is climate change. This industry presently accounts for around 40 per cent of total primary energy consumption. The European Union has set ambitious targets to reduce the GHG emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050 compared to 1990 levels, thus calling for accelerated actions.
One important factor addressing this change is challenging the way we are utilising our natural resources. Presently, only 12 per cent of secondary materials are being reutilised.
Moving towards a more circular economy should be the new vision if we truly want to look after our well-being without compromising our environment. Up to 80 per cent of products’ environmental impacts are determined at the design phase.
Considering new optimised design and build methodologies at the early design phases of development is crucial for long lasting homes and buildings.
Society’s behaviour will ultimately drive the change we desperately need to safeguard our lives and lives of generations to come. Will there be a new normal?