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Sustainability is no longer sustainable

OSLO / A study of the conservation potential of Oslo's non-protected buildings shows that 13 million tonnes of CO2 is tied up in Oslo's non-protected buildings. What about pragmatic protection, where, for example, a farm owner must be able to prove that the demolition of such existing buildings is the right decision – also from a climate perspective?

With the author Daniel Larsen

The field of architecture is faced with a historic problem: How can we design new buildings when we know that the construction industry has become one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions? Due to high emissions in the production phase, each "sustainable" new building brings us further and further away from the politically adopted climate targets.

With today's technology for the extraction, processing and transport of building materials, conservation of existing building stock is the most effective measure the construction industry can introduce to reduce its own CO2- emissions. It requires that we have to look carefully and with new glasses at the architecture that ends up under the radar of current conservation practices. This article is a summary of a master's thesis at the School of Architecture and Design in Oslo, where we have investigated the conservation potential of Oslo's non-protected buildings through three different levels of scale – from Oslo via the Bryn neighborhood to a concrete building that is planned to be demolished.

Green list

The problem is eventually known, but deserves a brief summary. The construction industry is responsible for 16 percent of Norwegian greenhouse gas emissions.[1] 70 per cent of these are indirect emissions linked to the production of new buildings, although the supply of new buildings is only 1–2 per cent per year.[2] What is presented in many contexts as sustainable architecture often involves demolishing existing buildings and replacing them with new, high-tech and well-insulated constructions, which will have a low net energy consumption in operation, even if this increases emissions in the short and medium term.[3] Sustainability is no longer sustainable. Every year we demolish 22 buildings in Norway, that is approximately 000 every day.[4]

Buildings that have such good and flexible structures that it would not be prudent to demolish them.

That conservation is an effective climate measure is constantly articulated by . . .

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