built environment
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Buildings have a massive impact on the environment, with both their construction and use contributing significantly to environmental issues faced today. 

According to research by Saint-Gobain, the built environment globally is responsible for 33% of energy consumption, 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, 40% of solid waste streams (in developed countries) and 40% of raw material consumption.

In Africa, 56% of all energy use is attributed to the built environment, which is responsible for between 25-40% of all waste generation, 5% of all water consumption and 3,9 tons of CO2E (greenhouse gas emissions).

For this reason, sustainable construction methods are becoming increasingly important.

Atisha Gopichand- Lutchman, director of TechnoMarketing at Saint-Gobain, says the company has taken action within the product life cycle from raw materials, manufacturing, logistics, installation, building lifetime, to end-of-life and recycling, locating manufacturing facilities close to local construction sites, undertaking land restoration of gypsum quarries, minimising energy consumption, CO2 emissions, and water discharge.

Shift in mind-set

South African construction needs to address a mind-set shift in how building and development are approached, says Gopichand-Lutchman. By swapping out traditional building methods with more sustainable materials that support interior drywall construction, expenses will remain relatively the same, building time will be reduced and, most importantly, the end-user will benefit.

Sustainability extends to efficiency and comfort levels. “There is a growing trend within the construction and building industry, across commercial and residential developments, to ensure a building’s structure specifically enhances the comfort of those living or working in it,” she noted.

Gopichand-Lutchman says that most people spend the majority of their time inside buildings, so the way a building is designed and constructed, and how it functions, is crucial when it comes to health and general comfort. She explains that the Multi Comfort concept relates the design of living or working environments to human senses, incorporating feeling, seeing, hearing and breathing with focus on thermal sensation, aesthetics and colours, acoustics and the quality of the air we breathe. 

With ever-increasing energy costs, effective, sustainable construction materials are one way of addressing environmental concerns while easing the financial strain of rising electricity costs with the added plus of enhancing comfort levels. The thermal qualities found in most plasterboard products contribute directly to energy efficiency (warmth in winter and a cooler home in summer) leading to a financial benefit in the face of ever-increasing power prices.

“The prioritisation of environmental concerns and sustainability is beginning to take on an unprecedented urgency and importance,” concludes Gopichand-Lutchman.