Net Zero Buildings: The Role of Insulated Metal Panels

When it comes to buildings, there are two types of carbon emissions: operational carbon and embodied carbon. Operational carbon refers to emissions associated with the heating, cooling, and energy use of buildings while embodied carbon refers to total greenhouse gas emissions generated by raw material extraction, manufacturing, transportation, and end of life disposal or recycling of building materials.

According to the World Green Building Council (WGBC), buildings are currently responsible for 39% of global emissions; 28% from operational emissions and 11% from embodied carbon emissions. These carbon emission percentages need to be significantly reduced to respond to the urgent challenge of tackling climate change. In an effort to accelerate the decarbonization of buildings, the WGBC has called on the building and construction sector to achieve total decarbonization of the built environment by 2050. This is an effort Kingspan has backed since 2020.

From sustainable design to sustainable building materials, all aspects of the construction process have a role to play in decarbonizing buildings. Building materials like insulated metal panels can play a part in reducing operational carbon and embodied carbon, helping deliver more sustainable buildings in the drive toward net zero buildings.

Operational carbon

Buildings use nearly 40% of America's overall annual energy consumption, and 75% of the electricity demand. Efforts to reduce this consumption and demand have significant potential to help achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

High performance building envelopes provide superior thermal performance that reduce energy consumption and lowers greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to net zero success.

Airtight insulated metal panels with maximum thermal resistance (R-value) seal building enclosures while delivering insulation properties that inhibit energy loss. These properties make insulated metal panels increasingly important in the construction industry’s drive to meet specific energy targets.

Insulated metal panels work in concert with LED lights, solar panels, smart thermostats and a host of other energy-saving solutions to reduce operational carbon and improve a building’s energy performance.

Embodied carbon

Unlike operational carbon emissions, which can be reduced over time with efficiency renovations and the use of renewable energy, embodied carbon emissions are fixed in place as soon as a building is complete and can’t be improved upon once the building is finished.

The embodied carbon in new construction is expected to rise to almost 50% of a building's overall carbon footprint during the next three decades.

Building Envelopes, a high-volume building material, are among the systems that can have the largest embodied carbon impact on a building. A Kieran Timberlake study of different commercial and industrial building wall assemblies recently quantified this impact. The study found that Kingspan’s QuadCore® insulated metal panels can reduce embodied carbon by up to 28%, compared to tilt-up concrete wall assemblies.

Construction materials which are manufactured using lower-impact processes can also reduce embodied carbon. One example of this is Kingspan’s partnership with Sweden based H2 Green Steel to produce steel using green hydrogen. This steel, used in the manufacture of Kingspan’s insulated metal panel products, is projected to help reduce the embodied carbon in these products by over 45%.

All stakeholders in the building and construction sector have a role to play in reducing operational and embodied carbon to achieve net zero buildings. Manufacturers like Kingspan are working to provide a path to net-zero energy buildings through sustainably manufactured insulated metal panels designed to deliver energy efficiency and improved energy performance.

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Term of the Day

Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (CO2e) is a method to compare various greenhouse gases based on their global warming potential. One metric ton of a greenhouse gas is converted to the equivalent number of metric tons of CO2 emissions with the same global warming potential.

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