Slowing the pace of global warming will require innovation

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Slowing the pace of global warming will require innovation

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Published: August 19, 2021

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With the recent publication of the U.N.’s climate panel’s report on global warming, any remaining doubts that “immediate, rapid, and large-scale ” action is required to reduce emissions and slow the pace of global warming to avoid “widespread economic and social upheaval”, have been dismissed.

With Governments throughout the world appearing more focussed than ever on the challenge of reducing emissions, and the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26) taking place in Glasgow, Scotland, later this year, we are likely to see a surge in policy changes and government initiatives to address this crucial matter. However, regardless of the policies and pledges governments make, the actual practicalities of reducing greenhouse emissions are by no means straight forward, and their scale, cost and complexity cannot be underestimated.
Take, for example, buildings. The heating, cooling, and lighting of homes, schools, shops, offices, and factories contributes around 28% of global emissions each year. Whilst it is possible for governments to legislate to ensure that new constructions are designed and built to a higher specification, with a carbon zero profile the obvious aim, existing buildings pose a considerable challenge.

Making existing buildings carbon zero is a huge task

In the UK alone, it is estimated that approximately 28 million homes will need to be retrofitted with better insolation and alternative heating and cooling technology to reduce their impact on the environment by becoming carbon zero. However, retrofitting can be costly, intrusive and time consuming. There is also no “one size fits all” solution. Even with the best will in the world, the UK Green Building Council estimates that retrofitting the UK’s entire housing stock to make it carbon zero by 2050 would require 1.6 homes to be dealt with every minute , if all possible improvements were done at the same time. This is likely to prove impossible, even if the many tens of billions of pounds required to fund such a mission can be found.

A more strategic approach is therefore required and addressing the areas of the built environment which can have the greatest impact in reducing carbon emissions, seems a sensible approach.

The insulation of buildings is key

With an estimated 69% of operational emissions from the built environment relating to the heating of buildings , a logical place to start would be to ensure buildings are effectively insulated. This would mean that less energy is required to heat buildings and less energy wasted, resulting in lower emissions. It would also have the added benefit of making buildings easier to cool if, or rather when, temperatures rise.

Conventional insulation creates challenges

Whilst, in principle, making a building thermally efficient is simple; you insulate the walls and roof to create an insulated shell which stops heat entering or escaping from a building, the practicalities are not quite so straight forward. Adding insulation to the inside of a building is hugely disruptive and can reduce usable floor space. Adding insulated cladding to the outside of a building is a considerable task and is time consuming. It also changes the look of a building which is not necessarily suitable or particularly appealing when a building has historic or aesthetic significance. External cladding is also expensive, with some pilot schemes that are currently underway quoting many tens of thousands of pounds to make a single property carbon zero . Even if economies of scale reduce that cost and building owners are incentivised to insulate their buildings properly and reach carbon zero, it is likely to remain unaffordable to many. This includes local authorities and housing associations, who account for around 17% (3.9 million) of homes in the UK, and have key obligations to meet carbon reduction targets and, ultimately, make their buildings carbon zero.

Insulation innovation is key

A quick, affordable, and ecologically sound insulation solution is therefore needed. Something which is undisruptive to install and can be used to make almost any building thermally efficient and work towards the aim of it becoming carbon zero.
Step forward Zenova, and its insulation paint (Zenova IP) and render (Zenova IR).

Zenova IP paint has thermal insulation, thermal reflection, anti-condensation and antimould properties and can be used on exterior and interior surfaces to provide insulation against cool and hot environments, as well as protection against thermal and infrared radiation. Zenova IR render is a ready mixed lightweight render for interior and exterior walls which creates a heat shield and effective insulation by filling all cavities and gaps regardless of geometric shape, creating a thermal barrier and insulated shell.

Zenova insulation pilot to help housing charity

To demonstrate the powerful effectiveness of Zenova’s insulation products under real world circumstances, Zenova has recently announced that it has started a pilot project with its Zenova IP paint and Zenova IR render, in partnership with Ohm Energy, a specialist in the integration of conventional heating and energy systems, with cutting edge, proven renewable energy solutions.

Under the pilot, a property owned by the Southdown Housing Association will be rendered externally with Zenova IR render and Zenova IP paint will be sprayed on the internal roof void. This will create the thermal barrier needed to make the building thermally efficient and will prove the effectiveness of Zenova’s products to reduce energy costs and carbon emissions. The Southdown Housing Association is a specialist charity housing provider, and social landlords for vulnerable people, with 580 properties and provides care and support to more than 9,000 people .

The nature of Zenova’s innovative and environmentally sound products means that their application can take place without disruption to the property’s residents, completed in a matter of days and, importantly, can be done at a fraction of the cost of more traditional insulation methods. When the pilot programme is completed, it could see Zenova’s IR render and IP paint used across the Southdown Housing Association’s wider estate of properties and, importantly, demonstrates an attractive, alternative solution to insulation which is applicable to many different sectors and building types.

Whilst urgent and drastic action is undoubtedly needed to help avert a global climate catastrophe, by finding new, innovative ways to solve the big problems, as is the case with Zenova, we can hopefully avoid the implications that global warming will bring.

Ohm Energy - Global Warming