As building designers aim to improve their mitigation of climate impacts, many are focusing on the creation of energy efficiencies, the utilization of vehicles, and building use patterns. Yet a key consideration that is often relegated to simple rule of thumb or aesthetic value is the choice of material.
Different materials can respond significantly differently to distinctive climates, saving heating, cooling, ventilation and artificial lighting when chosen appropriately. The placement, shading, and overall design of specific materials can add a strategic difference to building design when aiming for climate change reduction.
The specific use of a building will provide guidance on the required material, though most existing design processes look too simply at which option should be utilized.
Traditional methods of choice do not adequately reflect the nuanced differences between similar materials, such as recycled crushed concrete and new concrete. Complex, high-performing, carbon neutral buildings will require innovative engineering to achieve its goals.
The problem is exposed in the mixture of materials and the methodologies used to prove carbon neutrality. For example, steel may pretend to beat concrete by counting the benefits from thousands of years of future recycling as though it was already happening. This presents a risk to the real evaluations on climate impact of building, and therefore must be closely examined to be fully understood.