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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 done 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).

SA buildings need to be more sustainable

According to Atisha Gopichand-Lutchman, Director of Techno Marketing at Saint-Gobain, South African construction needs a mind-set shift in how it approaches building and development. 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, she says.

Sustainability extends to efficiency and comfort levels, she adds. “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.”

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. 

“Sustainability and efficiency drive Multi Comfort. 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,” she says.

“The prioritisation of environmental concerns and sustainability is beginning to take on an unprecedented urgency and importance. Saint-Gobain has always strongly positioned these criteria within its operations, and we are gratified that thanks, in part, to a Swedish teenager, the rest of the world is taking more notice,” Gopichand-Lutchman says, referring to Greta Thunberg, the Swedish schoolgirl who has inspired an international movement to fight climate change called Fridays for the Future (#FridaysForFuture).

“Climate change is possibly one of the most serious concerns facing our future, and we applaud Greta Thunberg for catapulting this issue across the world, including South Africa.”

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